Misconceptions About Family Court

Whether it be adoption, a custody dispute, property settlement, or a divorce, family court is normally a headache for anyone involved. I believe a big part of this headache is due to the unrealistic expectations people have going into it.

Here are some of those unrealistic expectations that can be easily cleared up.

It’s nothing like movies and tv portray it.

Contrary to how Hollywood portrays it, you typically don’t get a climactic moment in court to tell your side of the story. In addition to this, family law cases rarely go to trial, so you’re not convincing a jury of anything. In fact, chances are, you likely won’t get to tell your story to anyone other than your lawyer.

Family court dates are fast. You will likely take off an entire day of work just to sit in a courtroom full of other people there for the same reasons for a morning. Then, your name will be called and your lawyer will speak for you. The whole thing will likely last five minutes and then you move out the way for the next person. It’s all very anticlimactic.

The way your friend’s case (or friend of a friend’s case) went has little bearing on how your case will go.

People who have been in family court, or even just know someone who has been, feel they know the system through and through. They feel they can tell you if your lawyer is doing a good enough job and what you should be watching out for. The truth is, every case is different. Every parish is different. Every judge is different.

The stories people tell other people to scare them about what is to come reminds me of when a mom-to-be shares she is pregnant, and then another mom immediately launches into a story about how she almost died during birth.

Your case can drag out for a long time… like a really long time.

Many things can make a family law case drag on for a while: attorneys having a conflict with the court date, how packed the court calendar is, how lenient the judge is on granting continuances, how difficult the opposing party is being, etc.

Who your attorney, judge, and spouse are plays a huge part in how long it will drag out. It’s important to not count on your case ending at a certain time to avoid massive disappointment.

Most people involved in family court do not want to be there.

From the judge to the attorneys, to the other people with cases, no one really wants to be there. There are very few lawyers who strictly practice family law these days. Many attorneys in a family law courtroom do not solely practice family law and dread family law court dates. Most judges feel they see the same thing every day when it comes to divorce and custody disputes.

All of this to say, it’s important to do your best not to get wrapped up in all the negativity and simply focus on why you’re there.

It has little to do with who was more at fault in the relationship.

The only facts that matter are the ones that have to do with the law that’s being applied to your case. Generally speaking, it doesn’t matter how shitty of a spouse the other person was. Unless it’s very extreme, it doesn’t usually even matter what they may be saying about you to others or on social media throughout the case.

You have to keep in mind that your case is only to resolve the legal aspect of the issue. You will not get emotional closure (or any desired “justice”) in family court.

Your lawyer isn’t your counselor.

Once again, your case is only wrapping up the legalities of your issue. Don’t bog your lawyer down with all the personal and emotional details of your case. If you have a decent lawyer, they’re already aware that they’re handling a very fragile part of your life in their work.

Lawyers’ hourly rates are typically far higher than those of a therapist. Compartmentalize who needs to know what about what’s going on in your life when you’re in the midst of a family court case.

Deon Sumer
Hi, I’m Deon! I grew up in Zachary, Louisiana. I am currently attending Southern University Law Center part-time, where I am also a teaching assistant, with the intention of practicing family law. I work full-time at the East Baton Rouge Law Office of the Public Defender as a secretary. I had my daughter, Evelyn, in the fall of 2018 and am engaged to an amazing, supportive man named Ryan. I love traveling and exploring new places. A plane ticket to anywhere with a rental car waiting for me is a solid vacation. I have a degree in mass communications with a concentration in public relations and a minor in political science from LSU. I have a rescue dog at home and love helping with animal welfare efforts. My daughter’s first word was dog (or ‘gog’). I'm also always looking for ways to join the fight against Louisiana's domestic violence epidemic. I spend the majority of my free time gardening or wandering around our neighborhood with my family.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here