The one question everyone asks, or wants to ask, when starting out in almost any kind of litigation, is “What are my chances of winning?”. Maybe in the movies or on TV, an attorney will answer with a percentage chance of success. If you hear an answer in real life in a family law case where the attorney actually gives the odds of winning, you should be concerned about the quality and experience of the attorney. I can understand that it is a rational question to ask. Many people don't want to waste their time or money, don't want to unnecessarily alienate other family members and most of all, don't want to lose. Why, you may ask, can an experienced attorney not give the odds of success? The answer is simple: each case is different. There may be two custody cases where both parents want primary custody. What are the odds of the father winning in either one? There's really no way to answer because the outcome depends on all the facts of the case, who the judge is, how the facts are presented, the quality of the witnesses is for each side, how well the attorneys do and many other factors. The same is true for every other type of case. No two cases are alike and there's no set formula to determine who the winner is. It's all up to the judge or maybe a jury. There are no objective standards to rely on. Instead of pressing the attorney to give a prediction of success, a more productive conversation would be about these issues:
- What is my real goal? Sometimes the real goal is to get a better visitation schedule or reduction in child support even though someone starts off asking for custody. Some reflection by you and the attorney about this issue can lead to the development of a plan that really relates to what's important to you.
- Is it possible to achieve? If the goal is paying no child support, it may not be possible in one set of facts while it may be likely under a different scenario. Likewise a 50-50 arrangement of time with the children may be feasible if the parties work together well and live pretty close together. On the other hand, if the parents constantly fight (even post divorce) or if they live a considerable distance apart, for example, it is unlikely that the parents can share equal time with the children.
- What can I do to improve my chances of attaining my goal? Doing some brainstorming for steps to take and then implementing the ideas can really improve your chances of success. If you are really committed to success and work in constructive ways, you will have a better chance of prevailing. (Of course, I can't tell you how likely it is that you will succeed.)
What should remember from all this? First, forget about calculating the odds of success for you case. Second, help yourself by following the above three steps. Good luck!