Pro Se litigants are at a major disadvantage in Rhode Island Family Court because they are not familiar with the Judges and Magistrates. Rulings in RI Family Court may depend on making the right argument to the judge. As a seasoned Family Law Attorney, I have practiced before all the judges hundreds of times. As time goes by you start to realize what arguments work with certain judges and which arguments do not work. For example different judges often have different philosophies’ concerning restraining orders, child support, visitation and equitable division of assets.
Pro SE litigants often make the wrong arguments to the judge and may lose their case as a result.
Lawyers in Family Court also know when it is okay to challenge a judge and when you must back down. We also know which arguments anger judges and we stay far away from those arguments. Attorneys know how to navigate the system and how to interact with court personnel such as the sheriff, clerks and court reporters. When you go into Family Court without a lawyer you are going on a hike in the forest without a compass to guide you.
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For example, Some Judges routinely order supervised visits with a child in cases where there are allegations of parental unfitness, drug abuse or other issues. Some judges dislike supervised visits with children in child custody cases altogether. Other judges believe in supervised visitation only for a short time. If you know the judge who you are going to appear before than you have an idea what is a good settlement and how to approach the judge.
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People who represent themselves in divorce, custody, child support, paternity or visitation cases often make major mistakes which cost them dearly in their case. In some cases you only get one chance to make your argument to the Judge. If you make the wrong argument you may lose your case! Article by Rhode Island Family Court Lawyer David Slepkow 401-437-1100