Friday, October 28, 2016

Do I Need a Lawyer to Get (or Fight) a Restraining Order?

Do you need shoes to run?  No, but they help.  The same is true for lawyers in restraining order cases.

I've handled more restraining order cases than I can count (on both sides -- representing petitioners and respondents). I've also sat in courtrooms and watched hearings for hours while I waited for my own cases to be called. You don't have to spend much time in restraining order court before you start to notice a pattern, though: litigants who show up with competent attorneys have a distinct advantage over their opponents.

Even lawyers hire other lawyers when they're involved in a restraining order cases. Representing yourself in court is almost always a bad idea. Abraham Lincoln famously said, "The attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client". Even if you knew how to remove an appendix, you wouldn't operate on yourself. Keep in mind that your opponent may be represented by a highly-trained, professional attorney. If you act as your own lawyer, you will be held to the same standards of competence.

A qualified, experienced attorney will understand the rules of evidence -- and the exceptions to those rules. For example, hearsay is inadmissible in some types of restraining order hearings. A trained attorney knows how and when to object to hearsay testimony. He or she also knows the many exceptions to the hearsay rules, and the arguments to support your position that some piece of hearsay should or should not be allowed.

Your lawyer will understand the legal issues that are relevant in your case and they can help predict the questions that the judge is likely to ask. This is crucial. I cannot understate the importance of focusing your arguments on the points that will actually affect the outcome in your case, and ignoring the irrelevant ones. The quickest way to derail your own case is to waste the court's time arguing over something that is just not at issue, no matter how important that point might be to you.

Your attorney knows how to issue subpoenas to compel witness testimony if necessary.  He or she knows how to effectively question and cross-examine witnesses who testify in court.  Your lawyer can also act as an intermediary to correspond with the opposing party and witnesses before the hearing.

Most importantly, your attorney can evaluate your case from a neutral position to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Regardless of what your friends and family are telling you, your case probably has some weaknesses -- every case does. Part of your lawyer's job is to help identify those weaknesses and to form a strategy for dealing with them effectively. It's your attorney's responsibility to "give it to you straight", not to tell you what you want to hear.

It's obviously smart to retain a qualified, local attorney if you can afford to do so. If you or a loved one has questions about restraining orders in California, call our office for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 449-3335. Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Orange County Restraining Order Attorney