Linda I. Braithwate is certified by the Board of Legal Specialization and Education (BLSE) as an expert in the area of Family Law. The BLSE is “charged with identifying for the general public and the profession, those attorneys who have substantial experience and have demonstrated special knowledge, skills and proficiency in certified areas of practice and professionalism and ethics in the practice of law.” For more information about board certification, you can visit the Florida Bar website at www.floridabar.org.
While litigation should be the last resort to Collaborative Family Practice and/or mediation of disputed issues, Linda I. Braithwaite has spent 23 years as a litigation attorney, also known as a trial lawyer. She represents both Petitioners and Respondents in various types of family law cases and manages all phases of the litigation process from investigation, pleadings and discovery to pre-trial, trial, settlement and appeal.
The litigation process involves the following phases:
Initial Case Assessment and Investigation
Litigation attorneys often conduct an initial case investigation to determine the appropriate type of proceeding to bring and what evidence exists to properly represent the client to achieve the desired results. The investigation process may include efforts such as interviewing the client, locating witnesses, taking witness statements through formal or informal discovery methods, gathering and requesting documents, and investigating the facts leading to the dispute.
Litigation attorneys often engage in pre-litigation settlement discussions to resolve the matter before a lawsuit is filed. Additional assessment also includes discussion about the need to hire expert witnesses relating to issues such as, but not limited to alimony, child parenting plans, valuation of business interest.
Litigation attorneys draft a variety of pleadings and motions on behalf of the petitioner or respondent. If representing the Petitioner, the attorney will draft a summons and complaint to commence the lawsuit. When representing the Respondent, the attorney collaborates with the client to investigate the allegations of the lawsuit and formulate responses. Litigation attorneys also draft a variety of motions including motions to strike, dismiss, amend or change venue and motions for judgment on the pleadings.
The discovery process involves the exchange of relevant information between the parties. Litigation attorneys employ a variety of discovery devices found in the rules of procedure to gain information relevant to the lawsuit.
These procedures depositions of the parties and potential witnesses, requests for production of documents, requests for admission and interrogatories. Litigation attorneys collect, process and analyze information gathered during electronic discovery (e-discovery) as well. Litigation attorneys also draft and argue discovery-related motions including motions to compel, protective orders and summary judgment motions. The discovery process helps the attorney gain relevant information, identify issues and formulate a case strategy.
In the weeks (or months) before trial, the litigation attorney wraps up discovery and prepares for trial. In the pre-trial stage, the attorney consults with and advises clients; reviews reports and recommendations of any expert witnesses; attends pre-trial conferences and develops a trial strategy based on the facts and evidence. The litigation attorney also conducts pre-trial depositions of experts and key witnesses; prepares demonstrative to be used as trial exhibits; and drafts and argues any necessary pre-trial motions.
The majority of all family law matters filed prior to trial. In the trial stage of litigation, litigators collaborate with hired experts and clients to craft a trial theme, and then identify strengths and weaknesses in the case. Persuasive arguments are developed and witnesses are prepared for their testimony. Any legal memorandums of law are also drafted.
In family law, there is no jury trial but instead, the matter is heard at a bench trial in front of the assigned Judge. The litigation attorney presents opening statements and closing arguments, examines and cross-examines witnesses and basically crafts. a persuasive story for the Judge who is often referred to as the fact finder.
If the attorney does not obtain a favorable outcome at trial, he or she may appeal the case. Depending on the complexity of the issues, it may be necessary to consider having an appellate attorney sitting second chair to the litigation attorney during the trial so that post-trial motions; identifying and properly preserving issues for appeal.