War Stories are the fun, awful, tough and unique occurrences that lawyers and parties in litigation get to experience and live to tell about it. At water coolers and break rooms throughout the world lawyers regale anyone who will listen about that time they…(this series will include a few of my own).
My last war story was how NOT to testify, when a witness that was intended to help one side is used to that side’s disadvantage. This time it’s about when your own witness sabotages his/her own case!
FACTS: A mother lost custody, temporarily, due to being arrested for driving on a suspended license. The father was given the child and while mom was in jail, filed a fault based divorce, sought custody and had her served. Mom was finally released and began the process of regaining custody. Mom filed an Answer and a claim for custody herself.
At a temporary hearing, which is a legal band-aid to address custody and finances, mom presented her case. Upon being cross-examined there were numerous questions about alleged drug use. Well, fortunately, mom had been thoroughly interviewed and prepared by her lawyer. Her ONLY dirt was the suspended license.
Mom denied the drug allegations as laughable. Some of mom’s financial records were introduced that showed her in some shady parts of town at unseemly hours. This was shown through ATM transactions. However, mom was a waitress at night and just blew off some steam with some co-workers and got beer money. No harm, no foul. Then mom was asked about a pipe that was “found” in her belongings. ”Not mine,” she quipped.
The Court was ready to rule. The Judge indicated that it seemed dad may have taken advantage of mom’s unfortunate circumstances. It came out that he may have tipped off law enforcement that she was driving on a suspended license. That Jerk! But, “out of an abundance of caution” the Court decided to Order hair follicle drug tests. In fact, the Judge ordered that they were to report to get tested that day, before 5:00 p.m., to have the results furnished to the Court directly from the testing facility and then, assuming all clear, he would determine the custody and visitation for each.
On the way out of the Courtroom mom asked if the test could be delayed. What?! She may have had a “bump.” Nope. Not taking the test was not an option. Only the worst could be assumed from that. Mom took the test and failed, miserably. A No Contact Order was entered. Dad passed. Mom lied.
Final Result: A few weeks later the parties reconciled! Case dismissed.
Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney in Mississippi and knows that in life we encounter bumps in the road, but please don’t make the “bumps” worse.
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