You probably have the best intentions when it comes to helping your child navigate adulthood. You want them to have the skills they need to pursue a career and build an independent life, while giving them the support they need to make informed decisions and avoid pitfalls.
However, many parents don’t anticipate how their child’s legal affairs could affect their own financial standing or other long-term interests. This can put you in a difficult position. Do you stand back and allow your child to self-advocate, or do you take action as their parent?
If you choose the latter, there are several common pitfalls that may ruin your child’s legal prospects from the outset. It is important to understand these risks before taking action on your child’s behalf.
7 Mistakes That Will Destroy Your Child’s Legal Prospects
When you have a child who has been arrested, it’s natural to be filled with worry. Your first instinct will be to help them in any way that you can.
However, there are ways that helping your child with their legal issues can backfire on them. If you try and help them by doing things like hiring an incompetent attorney or writing a shabby character reference letter, their prospects for a good outcome will be much worse than if you had left the matter in their hands from the beginning.
If you want to help your child through this difficult time while also protecting their future, it’s important that you understand the mistakes that will hurt their case and how to avoid them at all costs.
Hiring the wrong attorney
If you’re doing all you can to help your child, chances are you’ll want to hire an attorney for them to assist with their legal proceedings. However, hiring the wrong attorney can end up causing more harm than good. Make sure to do your research and interview a few different attorneys before deciding on who to hire. Ask each attorney about their experience with juvenile cases and see how comfortable they seem with your case.
If your child has been charged with a violent crime, you don’t want to hire an attorney who focuses on drug crimes. Make sure to hire an attorney who has a good reputation and has experience with similar cases. Your child’s attorney will be a critical part of their defense team. The attorney will be in charge of representing your child in court and making sure that their interests are being served. Your child’s legal proceedings will be much less stressful if they have an attorney who is well informed, skilled and dedicated to helping them.
Failing to set boundaries
You want to make sure that your child knows that you’re there to support them and help them with their legal issues, but you also want to make sure that you set boundaries. If you don’t set boundaries, your child will likely grow resentful. Your child needs to understand that you’re there for moral and emotional support, but not for legal assistance.
If your child asks you to write a character reference or help them with a letter of apology or some other legal issue, you need to refuse. This isn’t to say that you can’t help in any way. There are plenty of ways to support your child without getting involved in their legal proceedings. Your child needs to know that you have their back, but that you also have their best interests at heart. You can’t help your child if you cause them to resent you and lose trust in your support.
Providing a bad character reference
If your child is ever in a situation where a character reference is necessary, you want to make sure that you do it correctly. A bad character reference can not only harm your child’s chances of getting out of trouble, but it can also put you in legal jeopardy. You want to make sure that your character reference is honest and accurate. You don’t want to exaggerate or lie about your child’s character. Instead, focus on their strengths, but also include any areas where they need to improve. Be sure to keep the character reference letter brief and to the point. Your character reference letter should not be more than one page long. Any longer and it will read as pedantic and self-indulgent.
Writing an improper letter of apology
When your child has done something wrong, a common strategy is to have them write a letter of apology. This can be an effective strategy as long as the letter of apology is done right. You don’t want to have your child write a generic letter of apology that doesn’t address the situation or the person they wronged in any meaningful way.
If your child is charged with a crime and they write a letter of apology to the victim, it’s important that they actually address the victim and their feelings. Your child shouldn’t just write a letter of apology in a generic way that is obviously written more for legal reasons than for actual contrition.
The apology letter should be focused on the victim and what your child did to harm them. It should be personal and sincere. The letter should also include a brief explanation of why your child did what they did and what steps they will take to avoid making the same mistake again in the future.
Incorrectly translating your child’s interview
One of the most important things that your child’s lawyer will do during their legal proceedings is have them meet with the prosecutor and/or investigating officer. During this interview, your child will be asked to discuss what happened and their part in the incident.
During this interview, it’s critical that your child not only be truthful, but that they are also well-spoken and respectful. Your child should also be sure to avoid saying anything that could be considered as an admission of guilt. To help your child during their interview, you can have a translator present.
However, if you translate your child’s interview, make sure that you do so correctly. You don’t want to make the situation worse by mistakenly translating something and causing your child to look worse than they should.
Letting your child take the blame for everything
When your child is facing legal trouble, they will most likely be questioned by the police or the prosecutor and asked to explain what happened. When this happens, you’ll want to be present to make sure that your child is given every opportunity to tell their side of the story. You’ll also want to make sure that your child understands that they have the right to remain silent if they so choose.
During questioning, your child may be asked to take responsibility for more than they should. This often happens when the police or prosecutor are trying to close out their case and are hoping that your child will take responsibility for additional charges. Your child should never take responsibility for anything that they didn’t do. If your child is ever asked to take responsibility for something that they didn’t do, they should politely decline to do so.
Your child’s legal proceedings can be a stressful and challenging time for everyone involved, but if you take care to avoid these common mistakes, your child’s case will be much stronger. It’s important that you do all that you can to help your child, but that you do so in a way that doesn’t negatively impact their case.