Think, Know, and Prove
Someone once told me that if you want to win a legal case you must consider three things: what you think, what you know, and what you can prove.
In family law, many cases are built on what we think, but winning is about what you can prove. Without proving it, the Courts don't consider it, and what you think and know is true will never be heard.
Here is a common issue; many times, clients think the other party is abusing alcohol or drugs. They think this because of past behavior while the parties were together, a recent Facebook post, or they hear it from a third party. Although this is a good start, it does not help your case without confirmation or proving it to a Judge.
The client then comes to me and tells me that the other parent is drinking. Once I confirm why they think that, then I begin the process of confirming this suspicion; or making sure I know it to be true. This is where discovery plays a major role, we can send Special and Form Interrogatories, Request for Admissions, or conduct a Deposition. These are all tools to verify the facts.
Once we have gathered this information we can easily confirm whether or not the other party is actually abusing drugs or alcohol. Once we know the other party is guilty of the allegations, we must consider how do we prove it to a Judge.
This is the most important step. What evidence can we give the Court so that they can reasonably conclude that the other party was abusing drugs or alcohol. There are many objections and practical obstacles that prohibit evidence from being considered by the court. Therefore, it is necessary to review all possible objections and consider how to get the key information to the court.
A client's testimony is good as long as it is based on personal knowledge. Photographs are good so long as it can be authenticated. A drug test result can be material so long as it can overcome a hearsay objection.
As you can see, it is a process that takes time and effort to build, but it can make or break your case. We work with our clients to inform them of what documents and evidence are needed in order to prove what they think and know is true so that they can prove it to the Judge and win their case.
By Khoa Q. Nguyen, Esq.