But the statute says …

“But the statute says…”

Sometimes a client will do some “research” of their own before consulting a lawyer. Typically, that might mean reading some articles in print or on the internet. Occasionally, they will actually take a stab at reading the applicable statutes (laws) themselves.

I think that’s great. I like working with clients who take a strong interest in the law, and the nuts and bolts of their case. And, personally, I always try to educate my clients about both.

Having said that, my last post unintentionally illustrates an important point: a little knowledge can sometimes be a dangerous thing. How so?

When a non-lawyer reads a statute and that statute states something pretty clearly, the non-lawyer tends to accept at face value that that statute accurately states what the law is. Sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?

But that non-lawyer could turn out to be dead wrong. Needless to say, making that discovery at a hearing in court can hurt your case.

How can a statute be “wrong”? Sometimes statutes are unconstitutional and simply not applied. More often, unchanging statutes evolve by means of interpretation in the courts.

My post about how a soldier, stationed outside of Florida on an extended basis, can nonetheless satisfy the statutory requirement that he “reside” in Florida for six months immediately before filing for divorce here.

The moral is that you really can’t take any statute at face value, especially not if you are relying heavily on a particular statute in support of your case. If you want to be sure of the law, you must research the legal cases covering the issues in your case.

Otherwise, after you state the quotation at the beginning of this post, your opponent may cite and show both you and the judge all the cases that say differently from the statute.