Episode 17 - The Trial (Stages of Divorce Series, Part 5/5)

Welcome to the top Texas Lawyers podcast. This podcast is brought to you by the law firm Abercrombie and Sanchez PLLC.

Your hosts are Bryan Abercrombie and Samuel Sanchez. Bryan has been practicing law for 18 years and his board certified that sort of legal specialization in the area of family law. Sam has been practicing for 13 years, is licensed in both Texas and Florida, and is a certified mediator. This podcast is for informational purposes only and all views are the opinion of the hosts. It’s not designed to provide legal advice for your particular legal matter, and it should not replace the advice of competent counsel. Welcome. And we hope you enjoy the top Texas Lawyers podcast..

Hello, good day and welcome to the top Texas Lawyers podcast. I’m your host, Bryan, ever coming with me, as always, is my co-host, Samuel Sanchez. Sam, are you doing. Not too bad. Man, I’m the butter to your bread.

Yes. Yes, you are. So we have our number five in our five part series on the divorce process.

And today we are going to talk about the big red one, the big enchilada, the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, before the trial phase of your needs, the money pool and exactly, you know, before we do that. Do you have any celebrities you want to talk to us about?

Well, you know, there’s a lot of stuff happening in the news. First and foremost, obviously, we know you know, it’s such a turbulent time in the country. There’s so much going on. And so obviously, our thoughts and prayers go out to all the individuals who are out there putting themselves at risk in harm’s way. We hope that everybody has cooler, you know, cooler tendencies prevail and so that we can kind of move on to the better angels of our nature, so to speak.

There you go, my friend. But in that, I would tell you that there’s a couple of things. Obviously, we’re still closely tracking the Cavallari disaster and that’s, you know, that epic that continues to go on. You know, clearly, Jay Cutler decided that, you know what? He needs a break. Last I heard, he was in Montana saying, like, I want to spend some time with the cows in the mountains.

But they you know, they are kind of along the process that we’re using as a prototype of this celebrity divorces, high profile divorces, high asset divorce. They were able to settle the kid issue.

Do you think a trial or so do you think, Sam, that the quote of let me see, whereas here it is. We have nothing but love and respect for one another and are deeply grateful for the years shared memories made of the children we are so proud of. This is just the situation to people growing apart. We ask where everyone to respect their privacy, blah, blah, blah.

Well, I’m going to put to the learning loving conclusion to get a divorce. I just got a call that like, bullshit. Now, this is all one call that that’s just a bunch of bullshit. You know, that’s Texas bullshit, because I say that right now, as it stands, they’re clearly communicating to counsel. They’re all kind of marshaling their cases in relation to the property portions. That’s great that they’re able to reach some conclusion as to the children. It’s always a good place to be. If you can narrow these illusions about that.

Did they reach conclusions or Jay’s lawyers just kind of say, you know what?

It doesn’t look too good for you, pal. We’re gonna have an uphill climb.

I think they are trying to focus their energy on what he feels is going to be most important. I don’t think he thinks he’s a bad mom. I think he just looks at and says we’re going to spend most of our time fighting about the money.

And then there’s put our dollars and the decision that Kristin made not to continue with the show.

So we’re not going to see that gets any kind of drama played out on E TV over the next. They’re on it right now, on TV over the next day. I’m assuming. And when the reality cameras rolling and that makes sense, that’s probably a good legal decision for her not to not to have the cameras rolling during a divorce process.

Oh, agree wholeheartedly that. I mean, along those same lines, if you want to take it a step further. Something that’s currently in the news as well is Derrick Chauvin. Right. This is the officer accused of of, you know, be perpetrating the act against Mr. Floyd that led to his death. Right. So his wife immediately went out, filed for divorce. I mean, those are on those ready to move.

No, we’re lawyers and we have to say allegations and alleged. But obviously, there’s a videotape of the entire incident. So it’s not a it’s not going to be a difficult case for the prosecutor. I guess it’s just, you know, how much of the charge you. How how big of a charge is going to be?

Yeah, you know, I sure hope you and I have both seen, you know, mom, mammoth cases, mammoth trials go to a revolving around please. Police brutality, police activity. And we know that. You know what? Trials of despite news. Never know what tech is going to come out of that. So, yeah, that’s for sure. Leads us into our topic for today.

Trial. Yes. Then this is not obviously not a criminal trial. But I mean, let’s talk about the custody trial and let’s talk about the property trial. And they’re all in a custody case. They’re all rolled into one. So typically, a lot of judges will have, you know, Kate, the trial and talk about property at one part in custody and another part. So typically, they try to buy for Kate the issues. There is, you know, sometimes a little bit of overlap. I don’t know that there’s a lot just an overlap from the standpoint of maybe property division, depending on who’s going to have to care for the children and what those costs are going to look like, you know, stuff like that. But when you’re approaching the trial, you’re going to want to have counsel that they’re going to leave no stone unturned. And, you know, it’s it’s the data file fire. Every area you’ve got in the quiver. You’ve got a file file, every shot in a gun, and you’ve got to use all the ammunition you’ve got.

Everything should be locked and loaded by this point.

And it really does take a very in-depth, deep conversation, strategy sessions with your attorney to be prepared for that day. Because, you know, we’ve spent time talking about temporary orders, hearings. We spent time talking about discovery and subpoenas and depositions and all the things that we’re going to gather information. Well, all that should be structured, categorized, prepared, ready for exhibit purposes. By the time you get ready to enter into that courtroom, like you and I both know, the trial is about telling stories and the better storyteller is a person who’s going to win that trial. I mean, all the facts in the world, you can you can walk into a room overconfident, thinking, well, all the facts support me. But somebody tells a better story and people will overlook facts. Even judges at times to get to a ruling that they feel is, you know, justified.

Let’s talk a little bit about, you know, the jury trial. I mean, Texas is a place where they have a jury trial. Do you think bench trials are tough? A jury trial. You got 12 people who didn’t want to be on the jury. Anyway, most likely some people do. They’ll get me wrong. But for the most part, you have 12 people that don’t want to be there. They’re taking the day off of work, you know, several days to have a jury trial.

And, you know, the median income and most of these bigger counties in Texas is surprisingly lower than you might you might suspect. I mean, you’re talking thirty, thirty five thousand a year and maybe even less than that and say, Dallas County or Harris County.

So you’re your jury pool is coming from a wide swath of socioeconomic backgrounds. And, you know, you never know what you’re going to get in that pool the 12th. And so juries can’t decide property matters, but they can decide fault and they can decide custody.

Obviously, that’s different in Florida. Florida doesn’t afford anybody the opportunity. Go to a jury trial on the matter like that. But I would tell you, look, you know, when you’re preparing for these conversations, as you’re having these strategy sessions with your attorney, you better know what the hell you’re talking about. And he better he or she better know what it’s like to be in that room to walk into the box, to call the jury, to talk to a judge, to prepare these motions in advance. And as a client, you really have to understand your position. And if you can narrow it to your point, you want to try to narrow things before you walk into the courtroom, if at all possible. Because, Bryan, you and I both know, like, it would be great if trials went on like they do on TV. You get months and months and months and months to try something, to tell a story, to bury facts, to bring up facts.

That’s just not real life, not a chance in hell. What you get is you need a trial in a full day trial.

You need a full day. You get three hours. If you need, you know, half a day, you get one hour. If you need a week, you get two days. That’s the way trial works. You have to you have to be efficient with your time. And you have to tell a good story to the court, you know, that shows your evidence in a very credible way. Now, I think we could probably spend a whole podcast just talking about the jury trial alone. But let’s let’s not waste the time with that. I mean, most people are going to have a bench trials in a divorce case. So let’s talk. Let’s focus our our efforts on the bench trial. And I said a lot of times the trial is going to be bifurcated. I mean, if you’re a counsel is smart, I’m going to ask for the trial to be somewhat bifurcating into the property issues on the custody issues. So.

Yeah. Absolutely, I think that it’s always a wise decision to do that. But there are gonna be instances where you gonna want to talk that over with your counsel, because if you look at it, you say, you know, the property issues are absolutely, intimately wrapped around children issues. Do you have children a special needs? You’re talking about, you know, a residence or potentially being a potential, you know, set aside of assets based on their care or somebody in the relationship has special needs that you’re going to be talking about that maybe you know something about.

These are about the custody of the fact, about the custody side.

I mean, if you’re talking about a custody case, you know, you have you have everything from a he said, she said and you call your eye color my lovely witnesses, what you call your all your buddies and all your, you know, all the all the people you let. I love you, your family and everything like that, that the sacred things about you. And then the opposing party will do the same thing. He or she will call out all their I love you witnesses.

And then the judge has a decision to make. But I’m not. But in a lot of custody cases, there’s some kind of either an amicable attorney or a custody evaluator that’s taking a look at this stuff. Let’s let’s talk a little bit about the custody evaluator.

Yeah, look, I mean, by this point, if they’d prepared a report, you know, you’re going to you and your attorney are going to drill down into that report. You’re going to have an opportunity, if you need to, to attack that report collaterally in advance and trial and then during trial, meaning that you’ve got to know everything that’s in it. The mechanics of the report. What that report. That reporter actually prepared in their report. Did they do their due diligence? Did they satisfy the requirements of the statute? You know, all these kinds of things are going to be evaluations that you’re going to want to know and discuss and be prepared to attack because it’s a fistfight. You know, like by the time you get in there, when you’re talking about the two most important things in your life. Right. Your children, if you have any, and then everything you’ve worked your entire life, or at least for the previous years to build up, and now somebody is wanting to take both of those away from you. And so you have to be prepared, you and your counsel, to walk in there, go to war. I mean, King, you know, like those some punches, haymakers even.

And the only way I’m gonna be prepared to do that is really understanding what you know, if you have a custody evaluation that’s negative towards you, you better you better have a backup plan and have somebody to refute that evidence, whether it’s, you know, an army of fact witnesses or another custody evaluator that’s coming in comes and gives a differing opinion.

But you better throw something into the mix that is going to call into question that custody evaluation, because the courts, you know, put a lot of stock in a neutral custody evaluator. And that is a good way to, you know, set a whole bunch of trial retainer money on fire. If you don’t if you don’t have that, if you’re not able to attack that custody evaluation, whether the custody to evaluate it and do their homework or whether they just came to a wrong conclusion or whether they didn’t take into account certain things you wanted them to discuss. I mean, I’ve heard it all over the years, so you’ve got to figure out a way if it’s not in your favor. You have got to figure out a way to get that disregarded, whether you attack the expert witness, whether you know, because if you don’t and the judge has an easy decision to just rely on the custody evaluator because, hey, heck, the custody evaluator went out to the house, the cuts, the evaluator talked to the kids custody evaluator talked to both parties.

So why shouldn’t I rely on the custody evaluator?

Yeah, I mean, that’s what you’re going to spend your time really kind of, you know, putting quills in your arrow, right? I mean, putting arrows in your quill box so that you can pull your bow back and shoot people. And what I mean by that is this as an example, you know, a lot of times child custody evaluations will happen very early on or midstream in a case. It could be months, if not sometimes years after that initial child custody evaluation report is prepared before you actually see the courtroom, the light of day. And so what’s transpired since then? And so your story really has to focus. And if you have a negative report point, Bryan, you have to focus your story on explaining why the hell that’s bullshit. Why have you looked at it and you said, you know what, that’s just a pile of crap, judge. You do want to pay attention to it.

She didn’t do a due diligence or he didn’t write the report or that he did so much crap. And my answer is not to sentence. Because the evaluator hasn’t been in my house in six months. So what do you expect? Yeah. My house is completely different. I live in a different place now. I you know, there’s totally different people in my life because she kicked me out of the house. You know, Judge, you shouldn’t believe this custody evaluator because it’s too it’s. Yeah. And that happens a lot. You get a custody evaluation early on in the case and they think it’s open and shut. Then you go to trial a year later and nobody bothers to call the custody evaluator and say, hey, you need to update this report because a lot of crafts changed. We know kids going to different schools. They have different, you know, different. Somebody lives in a different place. They have different opinions. You know, all kinds of things can happen. And so you need to make sure that that custody evaluation is up to date. And to be honest with you, at that custody evaluation comes back negative. The best way that I’ve ever seen to try to attack it is to get another custody evaluator to do basically a rebuttal report on it and highlight your good sides, because at least you throw that into evidence and you throw the you know, you throw the jello around and then some something’s going to stick against the wall that’s in your favor because you’re fighting a bad custody evaluation is a total uphill fight.

Yeah, it’s a gang fight at that point, man, you to bring your own buddy. You want to get your own baseball bat. Exactly. And so if. Yeah. You have to bring your own sharpshooter in to try to take him out. You definitely want to do that. But these are all strategy things that you better have in your game plan. Well, in advance of, hey, you know what? It’s the week before trial. And should we think about that too late. You know, if you haven’t had those conversations in months in advance, you’re screwed. So let’s talk a little bit of strategy about. OK. So obviously, child custody evaluations are also think. As you know, when we talk about a theme for your story, right? You know, it’s the central theme behind your case and every attorney should have one in every client should keep that in mind as they’re answering questions. Just go into the trial room. You should always been a tremendous amount of quality time, and that’s expensive.

Trials are expensive. Spend time with your attorney, having them prepare you so that you can answer chorused questions on direct questions on cross, because they’re him and I them.

And I try to case a number of years back and our client, we we felt our client was prepared for trial. We went over testimony with him for at least five hours to prepare for trial. And it turned on one not even not even words that he spoke at a trial.

But he kind of did a thing where he threw an exhibit back at a at an opposing at an opposing counsel. And it looked it looked like he had an anger problem and which was the central theme of their damn story and that it killed us. I mean, that was that that was the.

So how you act in the trial. You know, the way that you come across because they’re gonna be attacking you. The opposing counsel’s job is to make you look like an asshole and they’re going to do everything that they possibly can to make that happen. So you have to stay calm.

You have to stay disciplined. And you have to answer the questions and the way that most most advantageous to you and and work with your attorney, because it is when you’re when all of your stuff and your children and your most valuable things in your life are on the table, it is very, very difficult to stay calm and the opposing counsel is going to do everything they can. Like I said, to make it look like an asshole.

My grandfather used to always tell me, you know, the work you put in is a result that you get out. And I tell you right now that absolutely holds true a trial because you might think you’re the baddest motherfucker on the planet. Right. You sit down and break in, bullets come out your ass. But I tell you, you get into that stand and a judge is staring down at you in a world trying to opposing counsel is peppering you with questions that are just pissing you off. All of a sudden, you’re getting mad. And when you’re mad or you’re emotionally you’re sad, you’re crying. The last thing you do is think straight. And when you can’t think straight, I promise you will make a mistake on the stand. And the only way that you can prepare yourself in your case for that not to happen is to practice in advance. Spend time and energy work with your attorney. Have them train you on the methodology of what testimony looks like at trial because it becomes rhythmic. Right. There’s a lot of strategy behind good trial counsel at how, you know, when things aren’t going your way. It’s kind of like Beth. Picking momentum is swinging the other way or soccer game. We call time out. You bring your players set aside just to break momentum. Well, that doesn’t be objections. That’s going to be kind of how you shift the way you call witnesses, all the sorts of things that you anticipate try to plan for as you game trial.

I mean, sometimes you have your you know, I do it and Sam does it at trial.

Sometimes you just object just to break up the rhythm of what’s going on on the other side.

And the other thing you’ve got to be conscious of is you’ve got to be really, really conscious of listening to the other side sit up on the witness stand and say, I’ll tell lies about you because you had to.

You got to sit there with a straight face and listen to other people tell lies about you. And, you know, I can tell you that that is emotional. I can tell you that that’s upsetting. And I can tell you that, you know, you want you want everything in your in your body, wants you to stand up and say, that’s bullshit. That’s not true.

And but you can’t. You have to have a certain level of decorum. You have to listen to them calling you every name in the book. You have to listen to think things you maybe never even did.

And you have to. But you have to pick your points on when to respond to.

Well, when we talk about this process and why, I tell you, like, it’s it’s it’s the Reader’s Digest version of what you want to say. I tell clients that all the time because the story that you want to tell is probably Dances with Wolves, right. Tricky. Three and a half hours long. Out of Africa, Africa, African. Some are like Gone with the Wind. It’s on too damn real’s whatever it is. It’s a long story, but what you actually get to do is the cartoon version of that. And so if you’ve ever seen the cartoon version of Gone with the Wind, if there was a damn version of that, I’m just going to tell you, it’s real fast. They’re going through crap and they’re just kind of make like, you know, these little side statements about things that you wish you could explain a whole bunch. But you don’t have time because a judge is sitting there looking at you in the face saying your trial. Has this square amount of time, whether it be half a day, a full day, a week. It’s not going to be enough.

It’s not Colombo. And so let’s talk a little bit. Let’s talk real for a second. If you are sitting in front of a judge, a judge who only hears family law cases day in and day out for 52 weeks a year. And, you know, here is the same kind of stories coming in front of them every day. You know, every day that they go to work. How much of an attention span for your particular case do you think a judge is going to have? So you have to hit that high Reader’s Digest points. Absolutely. Crucially, in your presentation of the trial. And end a quick and an efficient manner.

Right. Absolutely, Brennan. And in that. That’s what. That’s why it’s so hyper, critically important that you have a trial outline that you and your attorney haven’t walked through and prepared a trial outline so that you know these high spots because you may get distracted. You may go down rabbit holes. But your attorney and you both have to be able to look at a document and say, did we get what we wanted to say across to the judge? Because I’ll give you a perfect example of a colossal mistake in relation to chill. So we did a trial. We go in. Clients are sitting there. They get up there and they talk about how wonderful they are, how crappy the other person is, how would be a colossal error if the judge were ever to look at that other person and say, you know, they’re not terrible. They were there were problems on both sides of the fence. We had drugs. We had violence. We had all kinds of issues. But they didn’t prepare any type of alternative other than other than their story. Right. So that’s normal, right? It’s option it’s option A or nothing else. What that does is it pins the judge into a box.

They didn’t give the judge any opportunity to go in a different direction. And so what you do then, if you don’t give judges options, pre-planned options for them to think about? Think guess what? They get creative. And I promise you, a creative judge is never going to give you a result typically at trial that you’re going to like.

No. And in some better and you better have a plan for what you want, what’s going to be thrown at you, whether it’s all lines or not.

Yeah. How to address it. How to rebut it. How do you know if you don’t see it my way, Judge. Maybe there’s a middle ground. Consider this before you go to the alternative, which is their version. I mean, there’s just one hundred different things that you really need to plan for and to be able to adjust, especially when you talk about children. Because the other piece of trial that I’m going to tell you about, let’s just talk about witness prep a little bit. By God, if you think if you’re a lawyer, like, hey, give me your witness list. Give me your 15. I love you people. They’re gonna get up there and you call, hey, you know what, Mom? My poker club on Saturday night, they’re the coolest bros you’ve ever seen. And so I know they’ll get up there and say she’s a bros before hos. You know, they’re gonna totally back me up. You call them up and I’ll send the other side’s like, hey. Haven’t you been convicted of domestic violence? Oh, by the way, don’t you have to DWI. Oh by.

You know, I’m saying like if you don’t know who the hell you’re putting up there to support, you’ve just tanked. He was given the other side. Yeah. You give me inside all the ammunition they need. Just put their foot on your neck. You want to blame what’s going on.

You want to look like you sit on the first row of the First Baptist Church on the first Sunday of every month. That’s the way you want to look when you walk into that courtroom and you want people up there that are going to. That are going to look.

As much as everybody loves their mama, mama, mama’s always going to say something good about their kid. You know, nobody loves you like your mama does, right? But I think Dormers mom loves, you know. Exactly.

So my point is that judges discount mama’s testimony because they know Mama’s is biased and they know Mama loves her kid.

Now, what about your best friend, though? But, Bryan, I know I’m sure your best friend, they’re gonna believe that person.

Well, not necessarily. They they they’re gonna discount it. They’re gonna put some discounting on it. They might believe something. But they’re gonna put heavy discount on it. So you want people that, you know, have been around the subjects that don’t necessarily have a dog in the fight. Those are gonna be good witnesses, teachers that have CDC, you with the kids.

You know, Dr. Stent’s counselors, coaches, all these people that see you interact as a parent, they get to offer evidence to the court that don’t care who wins. They just really look at the kid and go, hey, this is the encounter that I had and that I saw. And that’s what you should believe.

And that’s real. That’s how it works. Because, yeah. I mean, yeah, I love you. Witnesses are great pictures of the family, you know.

You know, at the mall or at the Christmas lights are on the on the Hawaiian cruise or are super great. And they help and they make they present a pretty picture. But, you know, it sometimes turns on little things. These trials are about proving, you know, why you’re better. You don’t just have to say that the other person is bad. You have to show why you’re better.

And that’s sometimes a hard thing to do. One half the time, that strategy, too, right? Problem. Because like you, sometimes you just want to go in it. You want to pound sand about how crappy that other parent is. You want to highlight that real and then give a little bit of. But look how good I. Other times you want to go in because let’s say you have two good parents, two good parents, love their kids, hate each other. Right. At one point in time, they were the cat’s meow, you know, their Oreo cookies. Hell no, man. They’re split apart. They don’t like each other. They hate each other. They don’t want to see anybody win. How do you do that? Well, then you have to be prepared for two good parents to be able to walk in the courtroom and fight about conservatorship. It’s going to be in the nuances of the story. It’s going to be in the details. And it’s going to be those neutral and independent third parties that are going to come in and make the difference. And so you have that strategy with your attorney about how to make that happen, how to be prepared and how to win.

That’s pretty good. That’s a pretty good. Keeping it real on the trial.

Let’s talk a little bit about the property. So first and foremost, the first thing that that that you need, you and your attorney need to discuss and you to walk in there with is a proposed property division that aligns very closely with what the values that you put in your sworn inventory and arrangement that you’d have to file with the court. So you’re going to have this proposed property division need to go in there, and then you’re going to have to explain why you want to have that proposed property division.

And in some instances, you’re going to have to have expert witnesses that come in there and say, no, no, no, this this account belongs to belongs to mom because she inherited it from a great grandmother. And this is how I know and this is where it comes from. So there’s there’s all kinds of nuance in the property part of the part of the trial. And if you don’t get that right, I can it can be a very expensive day for you.

Absolutely. Heck, you know, a lot of times people don’t even invest a lot of energy and getting the values correct before they walk into the courtroom. Right. Because a lot of things where it will break down is you’ll say, hey, you know what? Let’s say mama owns a business.

She opened a salon on your first got married and now you know you’re out of professional. But she’s got her little business on the side with all these clients. And she’s saying, look, it’s not worth five dollars. And you’re like, you’ve got 300 clients, six locations. I think it’s worth a little bit more than five hundred dollars. Right. If you don’t find some substantial proof and evidence to validate what you’re coming in and saying something’s worse, you might be to doubt that they sense. That’s exactly right, because the debt puts the judge in an incredibly difficult position, because what judges can’t do or typically won’t do, I might say they can’t do because they have done it. But if they can’t create things out of nothing. I don’t know how many times you’ll hear judges with rookie attorneys or poor attorneys and they say, well, you didn’t give me the evidence sufficient for beat me to be able to make a proper determination on that. And so based on what I have and the limited information or evidence that was presented, here’s what I’m going to do. This is the value in your life was way worth more than that. But you didn’t present any evidence and you don’t prepare anything to come in and justify your position. When you talk about property trials, you’re talking about all that discovery. All those statements, all those valuations, all those depositions. All that forensic accountant person that came in or CPA or, you know, business value ADAS or appraisers. All this is when the rubber hits the road in relation to what it’s going to be worth and what you’re going to get coming out of the other end of that trial.

And you have to you have to make sure that it’s as accurate as possible. And you have a range, because, look, if a judge doesn’t know how to divide something, they’re going to. A judge? Yes. You know, you want a judge to get filled in line line with your numbers as much as possible, and I’ll tell you a big time mistake that happens a lot. If you don’t value your separate property. Well, if your separate property is not valued accurately and not that. And then the proper evidence is not put into place.

And that means to us to get separate property excluded from the property division, you have to prove it by not only documents, but also testimony. And that that is a typically forensic expert.

Typically an accountant or a tracing expert of some kind. There are a lot of good ones out there. But there are a lot of theories on tracing. So you have to have a reliable expert. And here’s the deal. If you have a million dollars in separate property and only five hundred thousand dollars in community property. You don’t want to be dividing the million five. And you want to be divided five because you want to keep your million on your side of the side of the ledger.

And if you add. You’re able to do that if you don’t, then you’re up shit creek without a paddle.

Yeah, you got to start paddling really quick. You know the thing about that, too, Briny Luvvies Lee, you know, when we talk about situations that people walk into property trials and the work and the expense of having to prepare for this. This was when all that meant that money and those man hours will be valuable, be on work beyond measure. They’ll be worth the wait platinum because, you know, these are the pieces of the puzzle that afford to judge the opportunity to really see and relate to the story that you’re telling, because it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the best story in the world when it comes to property. If you don’t have the facts to back it up, you’re not going to win. It has to be a healthy balance. You have to have substantial facts to know. It’s to support and validate your position along with this story a lot. And it’s got to fit seamlessly. It’s got to be part of the narrative that you’re presenting to the court in that short, truncated amount of time. And in order to be able to do that, you have to be a wordsmith. You have to be a craftsman. You have to be a painter. You cannot be a plumber. And what I mean by that is you can’t go out and hire a lawyer who’s never been in the courtroom to come in and try to, like, lay some pipe together and go like, hey, look at you. Look at this. I promise it’s a Rembrandt. It’s not a Rembrandt. You get somebody on the other side who knows how to tell a story and present facts and articulate them all well in a seamless story.

You’re going to come out the other a very you know, in large estates, you know, three percent or two percent difference in the property division is a heck of a lot of money, and it’s worth probably everything you spend on the trial.

Now, in some instances, it’s not worth what you spend. But if you have you know, you’re trying to keep a million dollars separate the 15000 others that you spend on. It’s not a good tracing expert is well worth the money if you can save yourself a million bucks.

Well, hell, yeah. Not only that, Bryan, but you can a lot of times ferret that stuff out before you even start the trial. Right. Because a smart lawyer who looks at that and says, look, I’ve got a limited amount of time to talk. The last thing I want to do is waste energy on a point that I’m absolutely going to lose on. I’d rather spend time on money and energy on things that we can possibly walk away with. So maybe they’ll stipulate to that separate property claim. But this is all stuff that you have to be able to justify, right?

The burden is on you if you’re exactly right. And that’s where a good trial counsel is going to get that nipped in the bud before the trial ever even starts. Or have a separate legal argument before the trial even starts and may possibly get that stuff excluded. So that’s that’s a tricky issue. But it’s a it’s doable. And that’s where, like you said, you know, don’t get don’t get the paint by numbers. Got to come in and try to paint you a Rembrandt. You need you need you need an artiste.

Without a doubt, without a doubt, experience is something you should be talking to your counsel about, and that’s OK. Look, there are plenty of attorneys out there called paper lawyers, right? They’re great on paper. They’re great on settling cases. They’re great on everything up to the day that they walk in in that trial court. They don’t like it. Hell, not all of us like to be in a fist fight. I get it. But that’s OK if you’re going to get into a fist fight. By God, you need to have somebody who doesn’t mind getting dirty. Who doesn’t mind fighting for you in that way and has some experience doing it. Because if they get caught flat footed and they get knocked out, you get knocked out.

They’re your proxy fight, your all your gladiator against him, you know. You know, they’re going to give you good advice and tell you where and when to settle and when not to settle. But, you know, find yourself somebody you can rely on. Find yourself somebody you can trust. And, you know, you got to throw caution to the wind sometimes in the end and let it on. I mean, it’s not the time to you have to be strategic about it. You have to say the negative points about the other person without sounding like you’re just mad because you’re getting a divorce. It’s a very, very difficult and sad and it’s an exercise in discipline. Like I said, you you’ve got to point the negative stuff out without there being you know, it looks like you’re just. Well, he’s just so overcome with hate. He can’t get past it. He doesn’t really want custody or he doesn’t really want what he’s asking for. He’s just mad. You want to you’ve got to get away from that or she’s just mad or she just a scorned wife or whatever it is.

And whatever crap they’re they’re trying to say, you have to come in in a reasoned and methodical way.


Absolutely. And, you know. You know, as we’re talking through this, you know, and I would just encourage clients to understand this, you know, no one can tell your story like you tell your story. Even when it comes to the financial picture of it, because a lot of times I think clients will look at it. You know, we represent, you know, mothers or fathers who maybe are the stay at home version, not the business version. Don’t have the business acumen. They offer that testimony.

You are one of the two experts on your life, on your life and your marriage.

Exactly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard judges say that I want to hear from clients because clients should know their life, their state, their family, their children better than anybody else. You can give me people to help kind of guide or clarify their testimony. By God, they’d better be able to articulate. And so if you sit down and you look at your state, you look at the finances, you look at the property and you’re like, I don’t understand a damn bit of it, then you need experts to come in and sit down.

Better make sure that you understand before you get to D-Day or the day of the trial. That’s what I would say.

Yeah, and the other piece I would tell clients, you know, like I try to make them understand is, you know, it’s a very emotionally charged event, right? The only other time I think you’ll feel that kind of emotion is perhaps like, you know, maybe the death of a family member or a loved one is because your your body is going to tense up, your muscles are going to tense up, your job is going to clinch, your heart’s going to be company.

Your chest, you know, blood’s gonna be pumping in your head. It’s just gonna be throbbing. Your mouth is gonna get dry when you’re on the stand or when you’re sitting there listening to people lie about you.

You’re always gonna wish you said something different. A crisis. Really?

Absolutely. So I try to tell clients, look, try to do two things to help your lawyer. OK? Number one, don’t be in their ear all the damn trial. You’re paying them a lot of money to sit there and listen to the other side, pick apart their arguments. Prepare rebuttal or cross-examination. They cannot do that if you’re constantly chattered here. OK, number two is right, your crap down. What I mean by that is if you have a question, a concern, a point that you want to that your counsel to make or reiterate or address, put it on a notepad rather than sitting near and passing him notes or being in his ear, allow him or her to focus on that process. You paid them a lot of money to execute on that day. So don’t be the reason that they can’t.

I think that kind of wraps us up. Do you have anything you want to add?

The only thing I’d add, Bryan, is obviously I want you guys to stay safe. I want everybody out there to hopefully find a way through this as a country, as a state, you know, as a people. But on top of that, when you talk about trial, it really to me, this whole kind of process evolves and occurs when people really can’t figure out that it’s better to stay out of trial. Now, as trial attorneys, we love trial. I’ll tell you right now, like that’s where I feel at home. That’s where I feel like I was born to be. But by God, I’m doing it for somebody else’s life. I’m doing it for somebody else’s property.

And I promise you that you will never get the kind of result that a trial typically that you could, if you will, just have cooler heads prevail and come to some type of an agreement before or narrow the issues because nobody gets everything they want to trial.

It’s gonna always cost.

That’s very true. So that’s all I would say about trial. You know, it’s expensive emotionally, financially taxing. So, you know, make sure that that’s where you want to be or not.

And I thought that more. If that’s the case, I couldn’t go that way.

Sometimes you’re in a situation where you have to go to trial and there’s nothing you can do about it and you’ve got to go. But if you if you can avoid it, try to because, you know, especially with young children, because it’s all it’s always more difficult to get back on the same page with the CO parent after you’ve had to trash them in the courtroom. All right. Well, that wraps this up for Today Day. Whenever we come back, we’re going to have some of going to probably talk a little bit more about heck, we’ll find some. We’ll find some other exciting topics to talk about.

We’ll probably be talking a little bit more about Family Lawn and some estate planning potentially, and that we will be having some other guests here and some upcoming episodes. But, Sam, what’s the best place to get a hold of this?

Well, if you want to hit us up on our Web site, that’s www.aswlawoffice.com. You want to call me directly, you can hit me up on my cell at 817-914-5547 Or at 214-724-6107

And you can also reach me via the Web site that we have a contact information and we’re happy to talk with you about any number of legal issues. We’re a family law firm that’s designed to help the family and that includes family. That includes probate. That includes civil. That includes just about anything families can encounter. So with that, I thank you for your time today, Sam, and we will catch you next week.

Take care now. Stay safe.

Thank you for listening, and we hope you enjoyed the Top Texas Lawyers Podcast. If you’d like to schedule a consultation with either Bryan or Sam, please call 1-888-981-7509. Or visit us on the web at www.aswlawoffice.com. Once again, that’s www.aswlawoffice.com. Thank you very much.

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