I do not remember a time I did not want to be a lawyer. Practicing law is all I ever wanted to do, and feel privileged that I am able to do it and to write articles like this. Please understand I do not consider myself an expert by any means; that is why they call it “practicing law”. But, after doing this for 25 years, I think I have gained some insight as to what works, and better insight into what does not work. I think that I learn something every day, and for me the purpose of this blog is twofold:
- I would like to pass on some of the insights I have learned over the years to hopefully help people who are going through a difficult time; and
- I firmly believe this is a process, and by explaining that process and thinking it through, perhaps I can gain some insight on the insights.
There is no one right way to deal with a family law case. Every case is different because the people involved are different. So, while advice from a friend or family member about what they dealt with in their case can be helpful, it is important to remember their family is not your family. Their facts are not your facts, and perhaps even the law at the time they went through their case is not the law at the time you are dealing with your case. That said, I believe there are a number of wrong ways to deal with a family law case. It could be argued the right way to address issues that come up is to simply try and avoid doing the wrong things. The problem with that theory is sometimes it is difficult, particularly in the moment, to know which is right and which is wrong, particularly when the difference between the choices is very, very close.
I think the best way is to start with a good foundation, to ask questions and gather information so you can understand the process, and understand that life as you know it will change. That last part is easy to write but sometimes difficult to accept. But, if you are involved in a family law case, either from the beginning or addressing a continuing issue or modification, chances are you will experience some changes, and it may seem especially at the beginning, that those changes are not positive. The key is to determine what is best to address those changes.
My intention is to break down the process and provide some guidance on how to begin, what to expect, and what works and does not work in a family law case. But hopefully this will not become a primer of how to practice law. My guess is readers of this blog do not want to learn to try a family law case. Rather, you want to know what to expect if you find yourself in a situation where you need a lawyer to help you understand how the system works, and what could happen to you and your family. I think that oftentimes the fear that comes from not knowing what to expect is worse than the actual event itself. The law can be confusing, and sometimes seemingly contrary to logic. When we add in the stress of a dissolving relationship, or a continued struggle over what is best for the children, the situation can be overwhelming at times. My goal is to pass on some information to help with those times and maybe make them more tolerable.
As a means of or an outline, or maybe a warning, my idea for future articles is expected to be:
- Selecting an Attorney: Deciding what attorney to hire, and whether that person is the best fit for your case, can be difficult. Just knowing where to start based upon recommendations from family or friends, or reviews on the internet, is only the first step. Hopefully, I will be able to provide some information that will ease the selection process and give you confidence that you chose the right person to help you.
- How a Divorce Works: Again, fear of the unknown can be avoided by understanding the process, and how best to use that process in your situation. In short, making the unknown known. There is no magic or secret, but how a case is started and what to expect after filing can be confusing. But, we can discuss the how a case begins, is prepared, and ends so that ultimately the fear of the unknown can be removed.
- How a Trial Works: What you saw on television is probably not a good example of what to expect if the case goes to trial. A trial is a combination of procedure, evidence, and performance. Preparing for a trial, and events leading up to a trial, when done correctly, are complex and costly. But, in some cases a trial is the only way to resolve an issue, and understanding how you get to that point is critical.
- Alternatives to Trial: In most instances your case will not proceed to a trial, and will likely settle by an agreement reached while the case is proceeding through the Court system. We will discuss alternative dispute resolution, most commonly referred to as mediation, and how you can use this option to save yourself time, money, and stress.
- How a Custody Modification Case Works: When it comes to children, nothing is really ever final. Parents change, children change, situations change, and modifications happen. At the same time, we know children usually do best with structure and stability. Finding that balance, and making sure what is happening in the children’s lives now is the same or better than it was at the time orders were issued, is the goal. If that is not happening, we will discuss ways to address how best to modify those orders.
I am looking forward to writing these articles not just because I think that I have some information to offer that will at least start a conversation, but mostly because I am always looking for ways to be a better lawyer. If after reading this you feel like contacting me, even to tell me how wrong I am, please do. I promise not to be offended or respond harshly (at least not out loud or in writing).
Tony A. Potter is a Member of Ward Potter LLC, where he uses his experiences in general civil, trial, and appellate practice to represent clients. Tony received his Juris Doctorate from Washburn School of Law in 1994 and has been continually licensed to practice law in Kansas since 1995. Tony is a member of the Kansas Bar Association, the Wichita Bar Association, the Northwest Kansas Bar Association, and Chair of the Wichita Bar Association Family Law Committee. His commitment to his clients was also recognized in 2018 when he was acknowledged as a “AV” attorney, peer rated for high professional achievement by Martindale-Hubbell, and he enjoys a 10.0 rating from the Avvo attorney website. Contact Tony
Ward Potter LLC is a family law firm located in Wichita, Kansas. Ward Potter handles divorce, child custody, parenting time, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, visitation by grandparents, and paternity cases. The firm also provides litigation alternatives such as collaborative family law, mediation and arbitration. The mission of Ward Potter LLC is to guide clients through changes in their families with empathy, excellence and expertise. We strive to calm chaos and focus on the resolution, not the battle.