"Mr. Goolsby, if you will take our child custody case, I promise you I will get a second job and I promise I will do whatever it takes to pay you for your help!"
I will never forget this plea from a little girl's mother and maternal grandmother. At the time, I was right out of law school and still wet behind the ears. I was practicing family law in a small south Georgia law firm. The custody case involved Summer Smith, (not her real name*), a precious two year old girl, who was caught in the middle of a bitter custody battle between the little girl's mother and the little girl's paternal grandmother.
I had serious doubts about taking the case. First of all, the child's mother and (maternal) grandmother had no money and I realized this custody case would be very demanding. Also, at the beginning, the facts and the law didn't look too good for our side. For instance, I learned that the child's (paternal) grandmother had adopted the child in another state, albeit without serving or providing notice to our client, the child's mother. In addition, the child's mother had shown questionable judgment by going to the other state, where she had "snatched" her child and brought her back to Georgia.
The (paternal) grandmother had immediately come to Georgia, retained another attorney, and was seeking the return of her "adopted" child (and grandchild). Again, things didn't look good for the home team!
But I took the case and learned several lessons from it! For instance, we won the child custody battle! I was able to convince the judge that the adoption was bogus, and should be set aside, because our client had not been properly served or given notice. I also convinced the judge that it would be in the child's best interests for her mother to have custody. It was a resounding victory! We were totally successful in re-uniting the little girl, Summer, with her mom! I had learned that, generally, you don't always know what the courts will do!
However, I also learned another important lesson! In this case, even though we won, we never got paid a dime for our legal services! So, I learned that, sometimes, as a family lawyer, your only reward may be a job well done! And at least, looking back, I can be proud that I helped re-unite a little girl with her mother!
[* Facts and names have been changed in this illustration.]