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Divorced Dads Tips: Learning the Ropes in Family Court

Mar 1, 2008
We often get asked this question: "Gee, can you just walk into a family court and watch?" You can. Some procedures, you can. There are other procedures that you cannot. Anything that involves any kind of child services, where there is some sort of abuse or things of that nature, those types of hearings are closed to the public. It would only be the parties involved, but if anything, there are motions and other types of procedures that the public is welcome to attend.

It is an excellent place, first of all, to get to know the judges in the area that you live. One day you may be in front of one of those judges. If you are not involved in the case and you are just watching it as a participant, it is not like watching Judge Judy on television. You are able to at some point be able to predict how Judge Judy will rule on a particular case because she becomes quite predictable.

Judges that you would be watching in the courtroom are much the same. Imagine if you already knew ahead of time when you are going into court and you are in front of a judge that you have been watching and all of a sudden you start to see something happening and you can predict now, "Oh, my God. He did the following when somebody reacted a certain way, so I'm not going to react that way because it was a negative outcome."

It is an excellent place to start training yourself and get a clearer picture of who you are up against. It is also a great place to find a good lawyer because you are actually seeing them in action. You can also whittle away the ones that are not working too well for the people that they are representing.

I think too is that you are going to see fathers who lose, and you are going to see fathers who win. If you see some fathers who are winning, you should be buying them a cup of coffee and pick their brain for their successful strategies.

Most fathers do not talk to one another, they are going through the Family Court / Divorce process in isolation. Most people who are successful, as soon as they got out of the court system, they are done. They just want to forget about it and they do not share that knowledge and because they do not share that knowledge, that knowledge is not necessarily widely available or is not widely available as it should be, but the thing that you have got to keep in mind here is you got to ask yourself the right questions, sort of saying, "Geez, I don't believe anything could be done about this situation."

You have got to ask yourself the question, "What can I do about this situation?" Then you got to get busy starting with going into family court, getting on the internet, going to a site such as ours and looking for resources. If you're not in Ontario, Canada, you certainly can be going on to the web in your local state or your province or the jurisdiction, the district that you are living in. You'll likely find information about family court, family court procedures, the law, and you can begin learning this piece by piece. The things we teach are very common sense ideas that don't require you to understand the law, but how to best position yourself within your facts; how best to persuade others in position of power be it a Judge or a Custody & Access Assessor.

It is not that you will learn it all instantly or that you will become a lawyer as a result, but you will have more knowledge than 95% of the people who walked into court with a lawyer.

Very often, one of the things, clients say to us about their former lawyers: "You know that lawyer was absolutely useless for us. He didn't say this and he didn't say that." Well, that comes down to, if you got 50 clients on the go you cannot possibly remember every fact that you are going to argue about for your client. It's important to work as a team together to reduce overall legal costs.

The vast majority of clients cannot pay for days of studying and researching a case. Most cases do not require that depth, because they resolve in predictable ways that lawyers and legal professionals see every day. This is known as case law or precedent. These are previously decided cases that illustrate legal principles, usually that have made their way up to the appeal courts. And the lower courts, including Family Court are bound by such decisions to an extent

A good advocate is going to be educating his client before Court. They will also include the client in at certain points the discussion with the judge in order to speed the process up. If you got an ineffective advocate, he is not going to be doing very much, just sitting there and essentially letting it all happen. This is another big complaint that we get from a lot fathers is "my lawyer did not do anything."

So, this is why we say you have got to become an active participant in the process. You have got to become educated about family court, learn that court inside out, learn your judges, learn the law, learn the procedure, learn where the photocopier is, learn who the good clerks when you file are and learn who the bad ones are, just stay away from them because you cannot even have problems filing your paperwork.

When you learn the ropes in Family Court, you improve the odds immeasurably for yourself. Especially if you've exhausted your finances and you find yourself without any legal representation.

In the many years I've helped fathers, the ones who have the most success are prepared through self-education. And its very satisfying when I hear that a Divorced Dad wins in Family Court without a lawyer, against his ex-wife's lawyer who thought the divorced dad was a "know nothing".

The truth is this: When you're up against a know it all lawyer who sees you there without a lawyer, they let their guard down and get sloppy.

And that is where a HUGE advantage lies for you, if you do the work we suggest above.
About the Author
Danny Guspie - Executive Director of Fathers Resources International can help you learn the successful strategies of fathers who have won in Family Court. Join us on our weekly calls at

where we will share with you what works for successful divorced dads.
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