Effective legal research and writing can be the difference between winning and losing your family law motion. Most issues in a family law case are resolved as law and motion matters, and most of the factual and legal arguments are made in the papers. So perfecting your writing style is essential.
Prepare an Outline of Your Legal Arguments
You may not have done an outline since your college English paper days, but the fact is, preparing an outline in advance gives your brief focus, and allows you to weed out everything that detracts from your main "winning" points. Start by jotting down every legal argument you can think of that supports your client's position. Then look at your list and eliminate any arguments that weaken your position. I'm not talking about eliminating a good alternative argument. However, if you trot out everything but the kitchen sink, your really good arguments are likely to get lost in the crowd. Once you've eliminated your poor arguments, put the remaining arguments in order from strongest to weakest. Within those, if there are arguments that are related, you may want to group them together for clarity. When you've done all this, list all the facts that support those arguments, and nothing else. Irrelevant facts distract the Judge.
Write Your Statement of Facts
Do this in chronological order, but stick to only those facts that support your argument. Your client may want you to talk about other facts, things he or she thinks make the other party look like a bad person. But you know Judges don't want to read that stuff, so why put it in? If you keep your statement of facts focused on only the important facts to the issues in your motion, you won't run the risk of the Judge reading those irrelevant facts and wondering why you put them there. After all, if you included them, you must think they're important. Right? Just don't do it. After you finish the statement of facts, re-read it and remove anything that's not important to your legal arguments, no matter how interesting you think it is, or how much your client thinks it will sway the Judge. If you really want to get certain facts before the Court, make sure there's a corresponding legal argument, even if you think it will fail. It helps maintain your credibility with the Court.
Research Your Legal Arguments
This may lead to the development of more legal arguments, including arguments you hadn't even considered before. The law is constantly evolving, and that yearly update course isn't going to be enough to keep you up to date on every change that occurs. Do your research. If you haven't invested in an online legal research program, do it. It's worth the money. Make sure your position hasn't been invalidated by a new case or statute. Nothing is more embarrassing than making a legal argument and having the court tell you, in front of your client, that the case you relied on is no longer good law. Once you finish researching your issues, revisit and update your outline.
Write Your Legal Arguments
Deal with each argument or point in a separate numbered or lettered section. Use proper style for citations to legal authority. Keep it as short and to the point as possible, given the scope of your argument. Follow the rules of good writing. Use proper grammar and spelling. Try to avoid passive voice whenever possible. Write "Husband violated the ATROs when he transferred community funds to a foreign account without the knowledge or consent of Wife." That sounds much more dynamic and convincing than "The ATROS were violated by Husband, when funds were transferred by him to a foreign bank account, even though he didn't have Wife's knowledge or consent at the time." Good writing is a pleasure to read. It flows on the page. It's also compelling and makes the Judge want to rule in your favor. If you read your own brief and lose interest or become confused, chances are good that the Judge will also.