Interviewer: Do parents ever unintentionally violate these terms sometimes? And one parent gets pretty upset and reports it?
Danielle Hawkes: Yes, I think it happens both ways. I think sometimes parents don’t understand the rules and maybe they didn’t understand what the judge said and we really have to go back with our tail between their legs and say, ‘Look, let’s go and cancel that hearing. If we can cancel the order show cause hearing, here’s what they are going to do to make up for..’ They didn’t realize that that was the rule. Generally, courts are going to hold parties to what the court said. The court is going to say, ‘Look, you heard me say what the rule was.
In Certain Cases Involving an Innocent Mistake, the Penalties of Violation May be Avoided
That’s the rule you are going to be held to it.’ But we can, in those cases, where there is an innocent mistake, avoid fines or contempt can actually lead to jail time. So we have to be really serious when we are defending against the contempt charge, we explain the situation, explain how it was an innocent error. You know the other hand of it is that my clients are not always super innocent. Sometimes they are making these mistakes purposely.
It is the Duty of a Family Law Attorney to Work in the Best Interests of a Child
They are sticking a needle in the other guy’s eye and in that case, it is really my job to help my client get on the right track and help them realize that they are going to lose custody if they keep doing things like that or if they are not falling through with their treatment plans or if they are not making a concerted effort to be on time for visitation or to cooperate with the supervisor. I really take my role seriously in helping that person get on track. It’s what’s in the child’s best interest for that person to get on track and I feel I’m in the best position to help that person follow through with what it is they need to do to become a better parent.
A Spouse May Use Disparaging Information Regarding their Partner in a Child Custody Case
Interviewer: Let’s say I go to you and I say, ‘Hey, look. Hypothetically this is the situation and I am afraid that my spouse is going to be using some stuff against me and like occasionally, I do like to drink or occasionally I like to do certain things like smoke marijuana or something.’ Have you ever seen that kind of situation? How is that usually handled? Does that person automatically going to be fighting a very uphill battle at that point?
Danielle Hawkes: It depends on what they want. It depends on if I have a client who is addicted to drugs and comes in and says they want full custody, and they have to help them clarify their expectations. That person is not going to have the money to fight physical custody because that battle is going to be so uphill that it will be more like climbing up a cliff than walking up a hill. So really, it is management of expectations. Maybe that parent isn’t the right parent to be the primary caretaker and if their expectations are lowered then we can get them to some sort of resolution that makes sense for the kid. If it doesn’t make sense for the kid, the court’s not going to enter it. There’s no point of spending a whole lot of money on something the court is never going to do.
If a Client has Drug Abuse Problems, it is Advisable for them to Seek Rehabilitation
That being said, there are some things the court might do or some things my client feels strongly in the children’s best interest, then we will work towards that, and I can help my clients. Obviously I am not going to help my clients sneak around using drugs, I wouldn’t do that. But sometimes it’s been more nuance issues like religion, which religion is in the kids best interest and that might be an uphill battle in a place like Salt Lake City. And it’s one that is worth fighting. But if it’s alcohol or drugs, that’s probably isn’t a battle worth fighting, it’s probably more about managing that clients expectations and/or getting that client into some sort of treatment or education process where they can make a decision is that really what they really want or they want in their children’s life.