How Should A Client Prepare For A Temporary Order Hearing?

The simple answer to that question is: “be completely honest and forthright” with your attorney. There. I said it. Playing hide –the-ball or word games with your attorney will come back to haunt you severely.

Most attorneys believe as I do that the Temporary Order Hearing is the most important hearing that you will ever have. It is a chance to find out what the other side has and wants and to compare their “story” to your client’s version. Therefore, most attorneys usually meet with the client for perhaps an hour or two to learn as much about the client, the issues and the temperament of the client. It is also the opportunity to ask the client the paramount question: What is the worst thing that the other party will say about you? This gives you knowledge and the use of knowledge is power.

To explain even further the concept of being completely honest with your attorney, it is best be done by sharing a recent horror/war story. It is true and it ended up in a train wreck for the client.

The Case of One Joint Too Many, A Horror/War Story:

My young client and I met for over an hour to gather all the information that I needed for the hearing on what was really an access and child support case. I asked the Paramount Question and he told me that he’d smoked pot during college but that was over 2 and half years ago. “Anything since then,” I asked? “No,” was his response. The question was vital because the court in which we had been assigned has a zero tolerance when it involves children and adult drug use. Clients who either admit to use of or test positive for any illegal substance will have their access to their child visitation supervised at the Courthouse for 6 months. All that my client wanted was the same liberal and unsupervised access to his infant child as he had enjoyed before. While I was able to negotiate a reasonably acceptable temporary access plan for him, opposing counsel, at the end of the second negotiating session, told me that a drug test was going to be requested because my client had recently smoked pot according to her client. While being incensed at the ambush tactic of opposing counsel, I was far more furious with my client. His recent pot usage was a critical piece of information that might have been important to know. When I went back to our caucus room, I told him that he had just severely damaged his own case by not telling me the truth, especially since I had previously asked that very same question. I went on to say that I furious with him for lying to me and that doing so, it seriously jeopardized my trust in him. He told me that he didn’t think that it mattered since he’d done pot only once and that was just two months prior to the hearing after he and the opposing party had broken up. When the Associate Judge heard the request for a drug test, she asked my client dire ctly if he had smoked pot within the last 60 days. Honest then to a fault, he answered in the affirmative. The predicable reaction of the Judge was as I had explained to my client: supervised visitation for 6months at Family Court Services to be paid for and arranged by my client. She refused to hear any mitigating testimony; she just ordered the supervised access and was done with it. Not being truthful with me ended up with him being severely bitten.

The Moral of The Story:

Knowledge is not power; the USE of knowledge is power. Without the truth, an attorney can’t be effective in his representation of the client. If a client cannot or will not be totally honest and transparent with the attorney, the client is denying the attorney the use of his best tool: Knowledge.