I frequently see parties involved in litigation who are furious at the other side for the things they have asked for in their paperwork. Most often this comes up in family law cases when children are involved and one side is asking the court to exclude one party from seeing the child or to severely limit access to the child in some other way like supervised possession. But it happens in more tame situations as well. A request for spousal maintenance or a reimbursement claim can set people off. It can also happen in non-family cases. In civil cases, people are often outraged at the amount of money the other party is claiming they are owed. A request for attorney’s fees in any type of case can be upsetting.
It’s the law’s fault.
The problem is that the law requires a party to a suit to list everything it wants in its pleadings filed with the court. To put it simply, if you don’t ask for it, you can’t get it. Rule 47 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure outlines what must be pled for in a civil suit, and section 102.008 of the Texas Family Code does the same for a family law suit. If you want something, or even if you think you might want something depending on information obtained during the lawsuit, you have to ask the court for it in the pleadings.
Asking for the moon.
Because of this requirement to put all claims for relief in your pleadings to the court, attorneys often just include anything they could possibly want. In addition to this being a legal requirement, it’s also just a negotiation tool. You can ask for the moon but know full well that you’ll settle for less than that. If you start out by asking for the baseline that you would settle for, it leaves you no room to negotiate.
Unfortunately, this practice of pleading for everything imaginable can cause animosity. Parties involved in litigation naturally assume the other party wants to take everything from them, and then the paperwork filed with the court often confirms that natural instinct. Though asking for the moon is a good negotiation tactic, it can negatively affect negotiation and the possibility of a settlement in this way.
Keep calm and call us.
If you have been served with a lawsuit, don’t jump to conclusions about the worst possible scenario. Keep in mind that an attorney drafted the paperwork you were served with, not the party suing you. The attorney representing the other party may have taken the facts given to them by their client, and applied them to the law by taking the opportunity to ask the court for any relief even remotely related to the facts of the case. That attorney is doing that a) because the law essentially requires them to do so, and b) to set the case up as favorably as possible for their client when the negotiation phase of litigation is reached.
If you have been served with a lawsuit, whether it makes you angry or not, give our family and civil attorneys at Guest & Gray a call at (972) 564-4644. We would be happy to meet with you for an initial consultation to review your paperwork and your case. We can often tell you what the motivations of the other party might be and the options available to you.