How many times have lawyers heard their clients say, “A friend of a friend told me that in his divorce…” or “My neighbor’s cousin said that she got more in child support because…” I’ve also heard clients say numerous times, “I saw this article online that says that I need to get [such and such] as part of my divorce settlement.”
Divorce is becoming more and more common and so chances are that at a minimum a client will have a friend who knows someone who is divorced, but now it is even likely that a client will personally know someone who is divorced. However, chances also are that these people who the client is talking to are not themselves lawyers. Sometimes these folks who have already gotten divorced or are in the middle of getting divorced do not even have a case in Massachusetts.
Do not get me wrong – I am not saying that friends, family, and posts on the internet are always wrong. In fact, there can be a lot of good information gained from these sources. I am also not saying that it is a bad thing for someone who is going through a divorce to do independent research and talk about their thoughts and concerns with a third party. In fact, to the extent that it actually helps an individual cope as he or she goes through the process of a divorce, I am all for it. (By the way, I do recommend seeing a therapist or licensed social worker while you are going through a divorce.) However, the “advice” a client receives from his or her friends and family or from the internet needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Just because it is on the internet does not make it true.
For one thing, each state’s domestic relations law is different. If a client is getting advice or input based upon law from a state other than the state in which the client lives, it quite literally is of no value during negotiations or once the client enters the courtroom. Unless there is absolutely no state law directly on point, you cannot use another state’s law to argue your point. Arguing a Massachusetts case based upon Indiana law will get you nowhere.
For another thing, even within a state, each case is different. The application of the same law to one set of facts may result in a completely different outcome when the law is applied to another set of facts. As lawyers, we learned this lesson from day one of law school. In fact, we get paid to point out the tiniest little distinction between the fact patterns of cases, which may completely change the result of a case.
I am in no way discouraging clients from discussing their case with their friends or family or from doing their own independent research online. That’s what friends are for! However, clients need to understand the weight to give the feedback and input from their friends and family and the information they obtain from online sources.
If you have questions about your rights in your particular case, you should consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about your state’s family law. Contact us online or call (978) 256-1456
to schedule an appointment with a divorce attorney to discuss your specific family law needs. We can give you an assessment about your family legal issue.