Family Law Society hosts Judge Ysleta McDonald
The Family Law Society hosted a discussion with Judge Ysleta W. McDonald (JD 83) in 345 Holland Hall on Friday.
McDonald, who has served as an administrative judge in the family law division of the 8th Judicial Circuit, has dealt with aspects of family law including divorce, domestic violence, dependency, child support, mental health and delinquency.
“I discovered it to be a very difficult area of the law,” McDonald said.
Cases involving children and families require patience and compassion, McDonald said.
“Emotions are high-strung,” McDonald said. “You need to be willing to provide guidance.”
The vast majority of families come to the family law division with an agreement already in place, McDonald said.
“Mediation is very important to our family division,” McDonald said. “You are dealing with really good people in the worst times of their lives.”
Often in family law cases, families argue and fight without thinking about the potential damage to their children. Nevertheless, some damage is inevitable.
“The law just can’t fix everything with these folks, no matter how hard you try.”
McDonald commended the students in attendance for their interest in family law. Such cases can be emotionally draining for all parties involved, including judges and lawyers, she said.
“As a lawyer, your goal is to help people,” she said. “If you’re doing your job the way it should be done, you’re going to worry about your clients.”
McDonald stressed the importance for lawyers to stay in touch with their clients, even if there are no new developments in a case.
“The worst thing that you can ever do is ignore a client’s calls,” McDonald said.
Alachua County currently has a unified family court system, which allows one judge to hear several cases involving the same family.
“Whoever gets the first case gets the rest of them,” McDonald said.
Because different cases involving the same family are often interrelated, consolidating the cases under the same judge helps avoid conflicting court orders, she said.
McDonald stressed the importance of integrity in the legal profession. Lawyers need to be prepared and knowledgeable about the status of the law and the facts of their cases before entering the courtroom.
“It’s a small legal community,” McDonald said. “Judges don’t forget.”
Cynthia Winter (3L), president of the Family Law Society, participated in an externship with McDonald in spring 2008. As an extern, Winter was impressed by McDonald’s presence and command of the courtroom.
“She’s such a respectable judge,” Winter said. “She’s a favorite among students and faculty.”