April 18, 2014 by sandyonyourside
So you’re almost finish drafting your complaint. All that’s left is the “prayer”– the part where you tell the judge what you want her to do. My advice here: GET CREATIVE!
Yes, you want custody of your kids. Or you want your customer to pay up. Or you want your neighbor to stop throwing dead squirrels into your pool (real case). BUT DON’T STOP THERE.
I’ve had divorce clients who asked for, and gotten, visiting time with goats; domestic violence clients whose abusers had to surrender the garage door opener; and partners who asked for their share of frequent flyer miles. And then there are cases like this, and this.
Think about all of the losses you have suffered as a result of the defendant’s wrongful actions, and don’t be shy about asking the judge to order the defendant to pay every dime of your loss. Common requests include:
Injunctions — a court order requiring someone to do something (like sell property, surrender a passport) or, most often, requiring someone to stop doing something (think dead squirrels in the pool). Read more about injunctions here.
Damages — This is a huge topic. Essentially, damages are intended to “make you whole” from the monetary losses caused by the defendant’s behavior, and in a sense they include all of the categories below. Damages may include the actual cost of repairing or replacing property broken or destroyed by the defendant, lost profits, loss of future income, pain and suffering, loss of spousal companionship, liquidated damages as specified in a contract, and on and on. You can find very basic overviews of damages on Law.com and here. You will learn more by asking a law librarian for books on “legal remedies” and “proof of cases” that are specific for your state. But don’t be limited by the examples in these books. You situation is different than anyone else’s, and a damages claim that might be bizarre in other contexts might be appropriate in yours.
Double or triple damages — A type of damages meant to punish especially outrageous behavior. The law on these types of damages differs from state to state, but as a general rule the defendant’s bad behavior must go way beyond “ordinary” bad behavior to merit this type of sanction.
Attorneys’ fees — explains itself. Remember to include any limited assistance counsel.
Pre- and Post-Judgment Interest — Rates are governed by statutes, which differ from state to state (surprise!), and sometimes among types of cases. After the judge orders interest, the clerk or other court official will then calculate the amount you’re owed.
Costs — your expenses for bringing the lawsuit, including service and summons fees, including copying fees, filing fees, court reporter fees, expert witness fees, travel expenses, research database expenses, stamps and phone calls. Ask for all of it.
There are grounds for flexibility here. Did you have to take off time from work? Hire a babysitter so you could come to court? Think carefully about what it actually cost you to bring the lawsuit.
Just remember, all these costs have to be backed up with solid documentation and presented to the court in a sworn statement.
For custodial and visitation arrangements. Do you want Skype visitation? Should pick up and drop off occur at a half-way point? Do you need a month’s advance notice of the soccer schedule so you can arrange your schedule to be there? Do you need to make sure your ex has the kids in bed by nine each night? Make sure the judge knows that what you are asking for is in the child(ren)’s best interests. You can find many brief articles like this one about the best interests standard on the web and at your local law library. This article offers a more extended discussion.
Bottom line: don’t shortchange yourself when asking the court for relief. You may only have one chance to get it right and get it all. And: judges appreciate specific requests.
Just ask for whats reasonable under the circumstances, and back it up with solid evidence, like bills, letters from employers, etc.
The judge may not give you everything you want–but it really doesn’t hurt to ask.
‘Til next time.