When I first meet my clients, most of them have no experience with the legal system. If they do, it was for a speeding ticket which they either immediately paid, or had an attorney handle quickly. Moreover, on many occasions, I have represented clients whose only experience with the court system is from what they have seen on television. I often find myself explaining that family law is not like your favorite legal show, wherein the cause of action, trial, and outcome all unfold within one drama-filled hour (or across a two or three episode arc).
In fact, one of the hardest things for my clients to hear is that it may take a while for their issues to be fully resolved. The process can be elaborate and may take several months to complete. So why does your case take longer to resolve than those on television? One reason could be that there are virtually no Matlock moments in family law; i.e. those moments where Mr. Ben Matlock would reveal a key piece of evidence at trial that conclusively proved one person’s guilt while completely exonerating another. We lawyers don’t like Matlock moments and have tried to eliminate them using the discovery process. Then there is mediation, negotiation, and sometimes other smaller motion hearings that can stall your case before it goes to trial or settles. These necessary steps are often omitted from television legal dramas altogether.
The truth is, we live in the information age, and we are accustomed to getting what we want now. The internet provides immediate access to information. Vehicle GPS updates traffic in real time. And favorite television dramas teach us that complex legal matters can be litigated in under an hour. We are used to getting everything fast, and we want the same from our lawyers. Unfortunately, resolving a family law case takes time. Custody, support, and property distribution are complex issues that cannot be determined with haste. If you have a family law issue, I urge you to hire a qualified family law attorney who will work with you to secure your best outcome, and provide you with updates along the way. Staying current on the status of your case may help you ease some of your frustration. Try to prepare yourself emotionally and mentally for the wait. It’s just a part of the process.