Sometimes Clients Get Confused

It’s summer. It’s hot. If you’re not soon leaving on vacation, then you deserve at least a little break from the daily grind. You might find a little diversion in reviewing some of the client misconceptions about their cases that other lawyers have reported. If you are a new lawyer, perhaps this information can help you head off some misunderstandings in the future.

First, some misconceptions about domestic relations matters:

  1. I don’t need to negotiate with my spouse. The Domestic Relations Court will resolve my case and my problems.
  2. Joint custody or shared parenting automatically means we will split time with the children on a 50/50 basis.
  3. Since the divorce wasn’t my idea, I shouldn’t have to endure changes to my lifestyle, like selling the house, getting a job or experiencing a lower standard of living.
  4. Wives don’t have to pay spousal support to husbands.
  5. The divorce won’t happen if I refuse to sign any papers.
  6. Although we’re not married, I have all the rights of a spouse because we live together (even though our state doesn’t recognize common law marriage).
  7. Neither one of us wants to go to trial, so it’s an uncontested divorce and shouldn’t cost much (despite the fact that we have not agreed on the property division).
  8. He’s behind on the child support, so he forfeits his visitation rights.
  9. A cheating spouse is not entitled to spousal support in a divorce.
  10. The things I “just know” about my spouse or that others have told me about my spouse will be admissible in court and persuasive to the judge, without further evidence.
  11. If the outcome doesn’t go my way, my lawyer must have colluded with opposing counsel or the judge must have been bribed.

Now, for a little comic relief:

Here are some vocabulary misunderstandings by clients and by dictation transcribers that lawyers have reported.

  1. A typist transcribed an estate planning attorney’s dictated letter to the client: “Under the provisions of Section 5, your wife will execute tricks for your estate.”
  2. A criminal law client was worried that she would get a “Mister Meaner.”
  3. Quite a few have asked “Can you get me some of that preferred adjudification”?
  4. One client wanted a divorce on grounds of “disillusion,” while another wanted the lawyer to file a “petition for disillusion.”
  5. Other clients have requested a marriage “disillusionment.” (I figured they already had that!)
  6. A real estate client wanted the closing proceeds held in “escarole.”
  7. A client wrote requesting “soul custody” of his son. (A lot of parents of teenagers would like to have that for a little while.)
  8. A client peeking into the courtroom asked which one was the “bay leaf.” (That big green fella with the gun.)
  9. After the attorney took pains to explain the Statute of Frauds, the client said, “I think I understand, but what does that have to do with a statue of frogs?”
  10. As part of the property division, the divorcing parties fought over the “arm wall” (armoire).
  11. A client said his child support payments were “in the rear.” (He meant in arrears, but some clients may feel his description was more fitting.)
  12. Another client told his lawyer that he didn’t want to go to jail because he was “in the rears.”
  13. A client said he had to leave home in an intoxicated condition to get some “minstrel goods” for his wife. (“I always wondered if he was out getting picks and strings or sheet music….” said the lawyer, tongue firmly in cheek.)
  14. The attorney said “Excuse me, Your Honor,” but the transcript read “Squeeze me, Your Honor.”
  15. Many clients ask their lawyers to “squash the subpoena” and they disagree with the Court’s “degree.”
  16. One party in a divorce case wrote that the judge should order a “groj sale.”
  17. As a pro se did the prove-up for a divorce, the judge was provoked to inquire, “”Ma’am, how can you tell me you don’t know who the father is? You named your son ‘Junior!’”
  18. A client looked at an attorney’s law license on the wall and asked the attorney when she was on the Supreme Court.
  19. A pro se defendant told the Court that he wanted to plead the Fifth Commandment. (Was he trying to say that his father and mother made him do it?)

I hope this lightens your day a little and helps you keep your “cool.” You might have a few anecdotes of your own to add. Please share them in the comments.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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