An Open Letter to Non-Family Law Attorneys

Article reposted from The Commentator

By The Honorable John I. Guy, Fourth Judicial Circuit-Family Division, Jacksonville, Florida


The following remarks were made at the Ninth Annual Joint Meeting of the Northeast Florida American Inns of Court held February 20, 2020. Judge Guy’s remarks were directed to attorneys in attendance that do not practice family law.

Honorable John I. Guy, Fourth Judicial Circuit-Family Division

If you will indulge me for a few minutes, I want to give those of you who do not practice family law a glimpse into some of the daily challenges faced by family law attorneys. That is to say: what really goes on in the offices, on the phones, and in those relatively small hearing rooms in the family division of courthouses that some do not know exist and those of you from other practice areas might not enter for triple your hourly rate.

First, you should know that in family law there are rules for everything, but measuring devices for very little. Family law attorneys are routinely asked to quantify and weigh their client’s interests in one hand, and the best interests of a child in the other.

Further, family law attorneys often begin their work by being asked to untangle the complicated wreckage of a union their client once solemnly swore never to undo.

Family law attorneys must go about their work knowing that only in the rarest of cases is the Court going to hear from the persons who matter most – the children.

Consider further, that after months or even years of hard work, when family law attorneys bring their case to a close, rarely is it truly over. A few months later, their phone will ring, and the “Final Judgment” will begin life anew.

Family law attorneys are tasked with conveying to their clients that while the divorce is the end of the marriage, it is not the end of the family, an often difficult and tricky conversation. A family law attorney must help their client’s perception of “family” evolve.

Family law attorneys will spend hours, if not days, with their clients and opposing counsel dividing and distributing everything from the marital home to 401Ks, to the box of 45-rpm records in the attic. Then comes the hard part; the distribution of the children, which even sounds unseemly, doesn’t it?

Family law attorneys measure a year-not like you and I, or at least as we should– in moments – but rather, family law attorneys measure a year in “overnights.”

And the challenges described here are only the tip of the proverbial family law iceberg. If you want to feel better about your current, nonfamily law practice, grab a family law attorney this evening and ask them to tell you about “TPR’s,” “DV” Court, Dependency Court, Hague Convention cases, or Relocations.

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