Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What if you disagree with a court order? What to do (and not do).

The Sun-Times reported today on a case where a law student in a Cook County custody dispute landed himself in trouble. The trouble surrounds allegations that he defied a court order regarding the upbringing of the divorced couple's child in the Jewish faith. It was reported that the custody arrangement provided for the child to be raised Jewish but that the father had the child baptized Catholic without mom’s consent and on another occasion brought a TV news crew with him when he took the child to a Catholic Church for mass. This allegedly violated the court’s orders.

If you knowingly violate a court order you disagree with and have no valid excuse to do so, there is generally punishment – sometimes a jail sentence. Disagreeing with the court's order is NOT a valid excuse. Obviously even attorneys are not immune from the rancor and emotional blinding a custody dispute can cause. But to openly disobey a court order AND have it televised, is pretty extreme. Which brings me to the point of this post. I have many individuals come to me after a court order is entered with complaints that the order is unfair. Indeed, sometime they are right on - the order is unfair. However, it is the method to attack the order that is the most important step from there. 

There is a method to this:
          1) If you act quickly (like within 30 days of the court order) you can ask the court to reconsider its order. Or if you act with that 30 days (or 30 days from being denied a motion to reconsider) you could file an appeal to the appellate court. If that fails and your appeal is denied, you can even try to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court (the Supreme Court must accept the appeal though).
           2) In the case mentioned above, it seems the father did at least some of what I outlined but his appeal was denied. So what then? Rather than violate the court order, there are a number of strategies. Mediation can sometime be pursued in the family law area. In that instance, instead of the judge deciding, the parties mutually come up with something both can agree. Another approach is simply waiting. Waiting some amount of time until the nastiness settles down can be effective however not immediate. Within that time the judge may be reassigned or retire. Sometimes judges want there to be a good amount of time to pass before they change existing orders - if anything other than they are tired of the constant court appearances. This works in instances where the judge has a poor view of one party. In that situation, rather than continue the fight, start a strategy of proving to the judge that what they though about you is not still the case. Often counseling can be effective or other treatment depending on the situation.

The fact is certain issues are always modifiable out of a divorce and others are not. Only an experienced attorney can help you effectively deal with your situation. No matter what, I have yet to advise a client to make their dispute with a judge the subject of a television special. If you think you made a judge mad, keep in mind that there is always room to make that judge ever more upset. That is just going in the wrong direction. Also keep in mind that lawyers make money when people fight – we generally make money even if the fight is pointless and not in your best interest. Again, a good attorney will help you tell the difference. By: Anthony Andreano - - (815) 954-8175