Melody Petitt | What Family Lawyers Need to Know About Texas Anti-SLAPP Laws

We welcome attorney Melody Petitt to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast. Ms. Petitt is a graduate of Baylor University School of Law and has been a family law attorney for over 20 years. She is a partner at Hargrave Family Law. 

Today we sit down with Melody to talk about the Texas Citizens Participation Act which is often referred to as the “Anti-SLAPP law.” Additionally, we discuss:

  • Anti-SLAPP lawsuits in a family law context
  • The truth about Anti-SLAPP suits, social media, and the First Amendment
  • Key strategies for defending an Anti-SLAPP claim
  • Her one piece of advice for young family law attorneys
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Melody Petitt: The Anti-SLAPP took out you know, most Family Law stuff doesn’t apply. But it does apply to people who are speaking out in domestic violence situations.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast, your source for the latest news and trends in family law in the state of Texas. Now, here’s your host attorney Holly Draper.

Holly Draper: Today we’re excited to welcome Melody Petitt as our guest on the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast. Melody is a graduate of Baylor University Law School and has been licensed to practice law for almost 20 years. She’s a partner at Hargrave Family Law in Dallas, and her practice is dedicated 100% to divorce and other family law matters. We’re not helping families in DFW navigate contested cases, Melody enjoys spending time with her three children and many pets, and she fosters dogs for the Brittany rescue and adoption network. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Melody: Hi, thank you for inviting me.

Holly: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background in family law?

Melody: Okay, so I actually didn’t start in family law, my background is actually in sort of your personal injury area. But I didn’t find that to be sort of personally fulfilling the way Family Law is. And so within the first year of of being licensed, I transitioned to the attorney general’s office, and I really handled child support cases for a couple of years. But, you know, again, it was kind of this idea of okay, this is rewarding, but I wasn’t I didn’t feel challenged enough. And Family Law is really challenging. So I’m probably in the right spot.

Holly: How would you describe your current practice?

Melody: Probably, I would say we’re, my practice is about 90% litigated divorce cases. That’s what sort of lands in my lap, where I’m practicing now. And I actually really enjoy it. I like kind of being in the courtroom and presenting evidence and kind of handling the strategy. So that’s primarily what I I handle in in my firm.

Holly: So today, we’re here to talk about a topic that most of us Family Lawyers know very little about, which is Anti-SLAPP. Can you and I’m going to be the first one to admit that I have heard many a talk on anti-SLAPP I have read several articles about it. And I still am completely clueless on this topic. So hopefully today we can get it explained for people in a way that Family Lawyers will understand it and know how and when to use it in their practice. But can you start by explaining generally what is anti-SLAPP?

Melody: So I actually like to think of anti-SLAPP is more the story of SLAPP, because what SLAPP stands for and that’s an anagram. It’s s l a p p. It is a strategic lawsuit against public participation. And these lawsuits are meant to have a chilling effect on people’s right to participate in public forums and prevent them from speaking out against someone or an entity in a in any sort of public area. And it’s a really large kind of broad application of public concern that we talked about when we talk about these anti-SLAPP suits or SLAPP lawsuits. So can I give you some examples of what we’re talking about?

Holly: Absolutely.

Melody: Okay. So one that is really prominent that comes to mind is the lawsuits that were filed by Lance Armstrong. He filed if people will remember, you think back to the doping scandal that surrounded Lance Armstrong. And for a while there, you know, he was really hitting people hard with defamation lawsuits, and libel lawsuits. And these were lawsuits that happened in Texas and everywhere. I mean, there were lawsuits in England about this stuff. And so he had a lot of people that were in his inner circle, that were making accusations and writing books about his drug use. His doping.

And, you know, he filed half a dozen or more lawsuits against these people. Some of them he won, some of them settled out of court, whatever. But those were designed specifically, as strategic lawsuits to prevent these people from speaking out in public forums, either print, or radio or somewhere that they were attempting to speak out against what he was doing. And of course, years down the road, we discover that, you know, he was in fact doping and this stuff was all truthful. But those lawsuits would be a really good example of what we mean when we say strategic lawsuits against public participation.

There are others so for example, a person who makes a complaint in a public forum about a lawyer or a doctor. Online reviews are a big one. Things like you know, any time that you are participating in a political campaign perhaps, or testifying in a school board meeting. Somebody tries to prevent you from doing those things, those things could trigger an anti-SLAPP lawsuit. So if they try to stop you from from doing something that is where this anti-SLAPP campaign comes in this this chapter 27 of the civil practice and remedies code.

Holly: And so when you say they when somebody tries to stop you from doing something that’s only if they’re trying to stop you through a legal lawsuit, essentially getting an injunction or something of that nature against you.

Melody: Right? Yes. And it’s typically in the form of an injunction. Yes.

Holly: So kind of going back to the Lance Armstrong example that you gave, if they’ve already made the statements, and he’s suing for defamation, or libel, or something of that nature? Is it a SLAPP suit? If there’s not an injunction? It’s more related to damages?

Melody: Um, so typically, these are not going to, you know, I think that there’s a difference between. And I don’t know that we can really get into that too much today, but sort of these cases that occurred before SLAPP was an issue, right. You know, defamation and libel and slander are sort of different things that are not necessarily aimed at the public participation part of this, which that’s the sort of, I think, key. And the difference here is, is this lawsuit intended to chill your right to freedom of speech or freedom of association?

And that’s, that’s what we have to look at. And what you know, if if that is what it’s aimed at, sort of a desire to choke public criticism, or prevent you from exercising those rights, it’s not going to be this quite the same thing as a defamation issue. Those two things are different. Right. So damages, is what you’re gonna get from a defamation suit. But an injunction is that preventative mechanism that will trigger the anti, the anti-SLAPP, Chapter 27 issues.

Holly: Okay. So what are the origins and history of anti-SLAPP?

Melody: Well, it really can be sort of traced back to these lawsuits that were filed by people like, like Lance Armstrong. And there were there are examples of other people that were, you know, their their freedom of speech was chilled by various lawsuits. And so the Texas Legislature, I believe, in around 2011, kind of heard a lot of testimony about this. And there seem to be a need to stop this sort of litigation, because what was happening is, these larger corporations, or people with lots of money, like Lance Armstrong, would go after these smaller companies, or really individuals, and essentially break them with excessive litigation, lots of unscrupulous attorneys doing lots of things they shouldn’t be doing, you know, filing what is essentially a meritless lawsuit.

And so a defamation case is not going to be meritless. Whereas some other type of situation might be meritless. And so that’s kind of part of this assessment, too, is, you know, it’s not going to be a SLAPP lawsuit, if it’s not meritless. If it is meritless, and solely aimed at curbing somebody’s right to freedom of speech, that’s where that that kind of comes in. So they, you know, in 2011, they passed the chapter 27, of the Texas civil practice and remedies code to sort of give people who were in a less powerful position, an easy way out.

Some people might look at it and go, well, what about things like, you know, couldn’t you do the same thing via summary judgment? Not really, summary judgments are going to come in, generally speaking, after all, the investigation has been done in a case. SLAPP is not something that comes in at the end of litigation. It’s something that happens very, very early on, in a litigation case. And so, you know, you have an obligation to file your anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss within 60 days after the date of service of the legal action. So it’s very quick. It’s not after discovery. It’s not after years of litigation. It’s very much right at the beginning.

Holly: So one of the things you mentioned was that a SLAPP suit is when someone doesn’t have merit to their claim.

Melody: Yes.

Holly: So if you don’t do discovery, how can that decision be made so early?

Melody: Well, there is actually a mechanism for very limited discovery in the SLAPP lawsuit itself. And it’s limited in scope because really, only the person challenging that SLAPP lawsuit. So the person who’s invoking the anti-SLAPP statute has the right to conduct that, that discovery. And there and it’s solely going to be related to the issues of whether or not this is a meritless lawsuit or your SLAPP claims themselves. So it’s very limited, very brief, and basically designed to get you out within, you know, four months or so. There’s some extensions in there. But really, it’s designed to be a very quick process in, you know, quick is relative, right?

Holly: Four months in the legal world would certainly certainly be quick, though.

Melody: That would certainly be quick. Yeah.

Holly: So you’ve kind of gone over this in general, but specifically, what is the purpose of an anti-SLAPP suit?

Melody: So an anti-SLAPP suit is a challenge to a lawsuit filed against someone that is attempting to chill their right to freedom of speech, or freedom of association. And this can take place in any many, many arenas. So school district meetings, like I said, before. Newspapers, city council meetings, all of these types of things can can generally come up in these SLAPP lawsuits. And it’s important to remember that they are triggered by the filing of the petition. So if it’s in the petition, it’s going to be a problem. I know that there have been, you know, a lot of people have asked me, well, what happens if a judge orders this stuff?

A judge order something sua sponte? I haven’t personally seen any litigation about that, you know, if a judge orders a gag order, so to speak on their own without a request. I don’t believe that that actually triggers this statute. This anti-SLAPP statute, because it’s the filing of this petition with a request for the relief to chill somebody’s freedom of speech. That’s what’s going to cause an anti-SLAPP. That’s really what it is, you know, are you trying to prevent this person from speaking out in a public forum?

Holly: And so you mentioned a 60 day deadline. So what starts that 60 day?

Melody: Service.

Holly: Yes. Okay. So once somebody is served with the petition, they have 60 days to decide if anti-SLAPP suit is appropriate or not. And if they don’t file within that window, they waive it. Is that right?

Melody: Yes. Yeah, they’re, they’re done. If you don’t file it within your 60 days, you’re not going to be able to do anything about it.

Holly: So would the same be true if there was a subsequent amended petition, or say, a motion for temporary orders that included a something that may be considered SLAPP.

Melody: Well, that restarts your timeline. And so you know, if it’s from that date of filing, that’s going to kind of be okay, you know, did we get filed did we get served, once you get served with that new action, it does restart this 60 day timeline.

Holly: So if whenever the questionable language isn’t the petition was included in the original. And then, you know, somebody amends later and ask for different things unrelated to that one issue, but that issue remained the same. Did the clock start over as to those claims, or because they’re the same, it reverts back to the original?

Melody: It’s going to revert back to the original because it’s really the filing of that petition, that’s when you’re noticed that you have a potential SLAPP issue. So if they didn’t amend that, to add that new claim. So if you have, let’s say, a request for some sort of gag order in an original petition, and you don’t do anything, and somebody files an amended petition, but that same language is in there, you’ve lost it. If you didn’t file something before that 60 day deadline, because they didn’t amend that section, they amended something else, you’re not going to win on that issue. And there are cases that, you know, have have actually held that you don’t get a SLAPP claim. If you missed that deadline. It’s a pretty hard and fast sort of rule that I’ve seen in my research.

Holly: So a SLAPP claim can be just a portion of the lawsuit as a whole. There may be plenty of other perfectly meritless claims, but you can single out that one piece and file an anti-SLAPP lawsuit if appropriate?

Melody: Yes, yes, it isn’t necessarily going to dismiss everything. It’s going to be solely related to that one kind of portion that triggers the anti-SLAPP laws.

Holly: Okay, so I know that the law related to anti-SLAPP was amended in 2019. Can you tell us about those changes?

Melody: Yes. So anti-SLAPP was really broad and really, really broad like it it targeted, any lawsuit, based on related to or in response to a party’s exercise of the right of free speech, right to petition or right of association. So it was it was really broad. I mean, lots of things can relate to these issues. And so in 2019, they, the legislature, what we saw is a huge boom in these SLAPP lawsuits. And they were sort of, well, anti SLAPP lawsuits, really. And they were sort of meritless anti SLAPP lawsuits, right? Like, it’s sort of a pendulum swing. And so you get this, you know, we’re gonna give people very broad freedoms swinging one way, we put in a law in place.

And it turns out that this law doesn’t really quite get there. And so now the pendulum swung the other way in 2019, to narrow the anti SLAPP lawsuit. And so one of the important changes for Family Lawyers is it expanded the exemptions, and took out most of the stuff in the family code, you know, all of the family code is essentially, well, maybe not all of it, but much of the family code is now sort of exempt, or there are some places which where it will apply. But it also changed the language about it took out the phrase relates to, and so that that sort of narrowed the focus of this anti SLAPP law so that it’s really something that is based on or is in response to a party’s exercise of the right of free speech.

And and that’s again, it always sort of goes back to is this lawsuit targeted to punish this person for speaking out? And that’s really where you know where you’re looking at this? And is it done on a matter of public concern involving a public official, those types of things. So that that’s really what the focus is going to be on, they narrowed it in a way that makes it less likely that doesn’t trigger quite so many anti SLAPP suits.

Holly: So since this podcast specifically targets Family Lawyers, can you explain post 2019 amendments? How anti SLAPP fits into the family law context?

Melody: So I think there are a couple of different things that can be addressed in the family code with with anti SLAPP issues. Number one, if you start asking for in your petition, things to prevent people from public speaking. You know, gag orders that say you can’t post in a public place, things like that, that’s going to cause damage. In well, it’s going to trigger so to speak this this anti SLAPP statute, because, you know, anytime you try to prevent somebody from speaking out in a matter of public concern, it’s going to be problematic. One area that I see, and I don’t know that there’s been I haven’t seen litigation about this, but there are a lot of, you know, Facebook groups and things devoted to various types of litigation like, you know, promoting 50-50 possession schedules, or father’s rights or mother’s rights or something.

And all of these places have people who are speaking out in a public forum about these issues, and there really isn’t any way to stop them, because these are what we consider matters of public concern. You know, so whether, and that public concern is pretty broad. But you know, what, what crosses the line that that? I don’t know yet, because there’s, it’s been interpreted pretty broadly, that that public concern issue and so your your troublesome spots in family law, are when you ask for restraining orders that go beyond those that are recognized in the family code.

Holly: So you know, when you bring up the matter of public concern, I think about the injunctions that get requested really frequently in family law matters, of making disparaging remarks about the other party, in front of the child, or in front of on social media, or it could be in front of other family members, or whatever the case may be. And I wonder, you know, is somebody bashing their soon to be ex spouse really a matter of public concern that would implicate this?

Melody: And that’s kind of a question that I think has been left up to the court to look at. So the family code actually does, if I remember correctly, have the sort of basic disparaging remarks as part of the allowed restrictions. So if it’s already codified in that statute, you’re not going to trigger it. What triggers It is these more unusual ones. So like you were saying social media, social media is actually not part of those that are recognized in the family code.

And so kind of when I look at this, I go back to okay, well, you know, is this person, you know, are they making these disparaging remarks in this public forum to like, is this a matter of public concern? Well, 50-50 possession is really broad. So I think it’s still kind of left up to the courts to decide because this is the question. You know, there’s somebody making those disparaging remarks in the public forum. Is that really a matter of public concern? That I can’t tell you because I haven’t seen any case law on that issue that the Supreme Court hasn’t seen to nobody’s addressed that that I could find.

So that sort of left up in the air, like whether or not that is a public concern. But I think that sort of the broader topic of, you know, if they’re making these disparaging remarks in the context of the, you know, right of freedom of speech, you’re speaking about a 50-50 possession schedule that they’re trying to shoot for, or equal custody, those types of things. I mean, those are certainly going to be matters of public concern, and you’re probably not going to win on that issue. If it’s solely directed at, you know, a disparaging remark in a public forum. You know, I don’t know about that. I just haven’t seen any, I haven’t seen any cases addressing that issue anywhere.

Holly: So I can recall, and this may have been pre 2019. But there was a lot of panic amongst lawyers and fear of, oh, you have to watch out for an anti SLAPP suit, and there can be these damages, and it can be really bad. So what damages or remedies are available out there? And how much should attorneys be concerned when requesting injunctions.

Melody: So I think your safest bet, to be honest, is just asking for your standard injunctions that are already part of the family code, because those are exempt. One of the areas that I am kind of most concerned about is, and this is actually an exempt part of the, you know, the anti SLAPP took out, you know, most Family Law stuff doesn’t apply. But it does apply to people who are speaking out in domestic violence situations. And so what that means is if a person complains in a public forum, about somebody who has committed domestic violence or family violence on them, and the person who committed those acts, then files a lawsuit, the Texas civil practice and remedies code actually says, hey, look, that person who spoke out against this family violence as you can file, an anti SLAPP suit.

And so, you know, that’s where you’re going to, I think, see some continued litigation is these people who might be speaking out in a public forum about a family violence issue, they’re going to be allowed to do that. And so when you talk about what damages could exist, they’re gonna get sanctions, and, you know, essentially a monetary fine and have to pay attorneys fees, if it is found that the motion was filed, you know, that it did, in fact, attempt to chill their free speech. So they will get damages. That’s mandatory damages, mandatory sanctions and mandatory attorneys fees, if I remember correctly.

Holly: So when you talk about chilling free speech, one of the things I’ve always taken away from the First Amendment was that, yes, you have the right to say whatever you want, but you do not have the right to be free from the consequences of doing so. So when it comes to SLAPP suits, anti SLAPP, if the person if you’re trying to prohibit them from making false statements, is this implicated?

Melody: And I think that’s going to be kind of covered under the more defamation and libel sorts of stuff. You know, because if somebody goes out and makes a false statements, that that triggers defamation, because if I remember correctly, and it’s been a while since I looked at this, but libel and slander are, you know, truth isn’t is a defense in those cases, right. But if somebody makes a false statement, and that was sort of the Lance Armstrong thing, right, he was saying, this isn’t true. This is defamation.

They’re making false claims about me. So in those circumstances, I think that that those are not meritless. So they would not be lawsuits that trigger this chapter 27 remedy, if that kind of makes. Does that kind of make sense? Because the chapter 27 remedy is available for the responding party, right? That’s really who it’s aimed at is, you know, you get sued, you can respond with an anti SLAPP lawsuit of your own to challenge this. But if the question is, this person made a demonstrably false statement against me and I’ve now sued for defamation.

I think that’s I don’t think that quite has the same thing because they’ve got to the motion to dismiss is really targeted at meritless suits. But you know, if you if you have a defamation suit that’ll that may not be meritless. It may be kind of confusing, but it’s really aimed at solely at meritless lawsuits in a defamation suit may not be that although, you know, you could maybe still file an anti SLAPP. But if you file a meritless, anti SLAPP suit, you’re in trouble, because you’re going to fall, you’re going to end up, you know, costing yourself attorneys fees and sanctions on that.

Holly: So in defamation would have would be when there’s already been a false statement made. Right, right. But if let’s say there’s been a false statement made, so we sued for defamation, but we also sue, for an injunction against future false statements on the same topic, does that injunction implicate anti SLAPP?

Melody: I don’t know the answer to that, exactly. Because when you have a request to chill, somebody’s free speech. You’re you’re getting into all sorts of First Amendment questions and things like that. And so defamation is you already put this false thing out there. And we want to stop you in the future from making false statements? And I don’t think you can do that. I think that that’s, that’s essentially a prior restraint question. What you’re asking me is, you know, can we prior restraint, somebody’s free speech, we can’t, you can’t prevent somebody in advance from making those statements. So what you’re going to have to do is you’re gonna have to bring that defamation claim every single time.

But again, it’s kind of one of these things like, you know, the sort of process that I envisioned in my head is somebody goes out there and makes a false statement, or just a statements disparaging statement, right? You bring a defamation lawsuit, let’s give an example of the doping one is good, but let’s bring one that’s that’s about alcohol instead. Because we see a lot of alcohol in family law and and other drugs, but you know, lots of suits about so and so’s a drunk. Okay, so let’s say that, I’m just gonna use mom here in this example, mom goes out makes a statement that that is a drunk. She puts that all over Facebook, she posts pictures. Look at all this alcohol he drank over the weekend, right?

Mom post that on Facebook. Dad filed a defamation suit against her. You’ve defamed me, if this isn’t true to mom, and you need to stop making these statements. So now we’ve got the petition that triggers this, I want you to stop making these statements. That’s our gag order that triggers the scenario. We’ve got a SLAPP suit. Dad filed the slap suit against Mom. Mom said, I’m gonna file an anti SLAPP suit against you. Okay. And so it’s really almost this question of is dad’s lawsuit against mom meritless. That’s what the decision is going to be in mom’s anti SLAPP case. And mom is going to get to conduct limited discovery. And she’s going to get to put on, you know, her case pretty quickly, for the court to say is what dad filed against mom meritless?

So the question of, there may be some overlap in what we’re doing there. But dad’s defamation lawsuit could get dismissed right away, his gag order could get dismissed right away. Or it could be one of those situations where mom is, you know, found to be, you know, maybe she defamed him, she’s setting up, right, like, maybe that was false, then mom is the one who gets poured out and she’s gonna get stuck with attorneys fees payable to dad for dad defending her anti SLAPP suit. So that’s kind of how I envision that kind of working out. When you asked me the question about defamation, libel, and those sorts of things. It’s going to be essentially a very quick trial to determine whether mom’s anti SLAPP suit has merit against dad. And if she’s found that she filed a meritless anti SLAPP suit, she set dad up, then she gets poured out and his defamation suit goes forward.

Holly: So let’s assume that the defamation suit and the anti SLAPP and all of that were a part of a bigger divorce proceeding. And the judge makes whatever decision on the anti SLAPP issue, but the divorce is not complete, it’s going to continue pending. Can either party appeal the anti SLAPP ruling while that divorce case is still pending?

Melody: So the person who filed the motion is the one who has the right the anti SLAPP motion is the one who has the right to appeal. And it basically stays everything else in the case. It stops the divorce action from moving forward. So in my example, dad’s defamation lawsuit isn’t going anywhere until mom’s anti SLAPP lawsuit is heard first. And she would have the right to appeal.

Holly: Okay, so even though the divorce issues might be completely irrelevant from the anti SLAPP issue that on appeal, the divorce proceeding cannot go forward?

Melody: So it stays any other proceedings. If I were remember correctly, anything else that’s occurring. It are completely stayed until that appeal is heard.

Holly: Okay, so one of the other things you mentioned was a SLAPP suit impacting the right to associate. So something that popped into my head is, let’s say, we picked on dad last time, so pick on mom. Let’s say the mom is a member of a satanic cult. And mom like wants to take children to her rituals. And dad wants to stop it. Would that implicate anti SLAPP?

Melody: I think that that has a lot of implications, like your first amendment rights, all sorts of stuff. But yeah, unfortunately, and I haven’t seen any case law about this. But that is going to be something in my opinion, that does trigger these anti SLAPP lawsuit. Like that is going to be a SLAPP lawsuit, if you try to say, hey, mom, you can’t participate in these rituals with your satanic cult, mom’s gonna bring a an anti SLAPP lawsuit, or she should bring one because that really does. So it’s really aimed at you know, the the very first part of the, or the, you know, kind of the first statements about what this is aimed at in the history and kind of the sort of the the preface to this is that every person shall be at liberty to speak right or publish his opinions on any subject.

And there, there won’t be any law that curtails a person’s freedom of association. So it really is, you know, something that triggers these first amendment rights and in the Texas constitution, kind of almost aimed to broaden those rights with this lawsuit. So I think that that would in fact, trigger an anti SLAPP lawsuit filed by mom, she would file that. And we should also look to the family code because our family code actually says, you know, you’re going to have the right to the moral make the have the right to make decisions and, and raise your child in whatever religion you want. Even the satanic cult one.

Holly: So you think that it would apply not only to prohibiting mom from attending, but to prohibiting mom from taking her child to attend?

Melody: So I don’t know, it definitely goes with mom, right? Like, you can’t say mom can’t do that. But I do think that mom has the right to take her child. I think that that’s one of those sort of fundamental parental rights, and maybe this is litigation we should look out for in the future. But I think there’s recognition that you know, teaching your child your religion is a fundamental parental right that you can’t curtail that, it at least, you know, so long as it’s, you can’t prevent a satanic religion, right. So like, so long as there aren’t any other issues that would come up? I don’t think there’s any way to say you can’t take the kid to the satanic cult church. If there is one, I don’t know, the Church of Satan. What is it? I don’t know.

Holly: All right, so are there any other recent developments in anti SLAPP that Family Lawyers should be aware of?

Melody: Well, the family violence one is the one that strikes me the most, because I see that one is sort of not a recent development necessarily, but there is this, but it did come with the 2019 amendments. And in that, you know, particular section, it basically says, you know, family violence stuff, you can talk about that stuff. There’s nothing out there that says that we’re going to prevent you from speaking out about these sorts of things. And even though all these other areas of the family code, we’re exempting, we’re not exempting family violence stuff. And so you can go out there and talk about this stuff.

And it’s not going to create any problems. So if if a victim of family violence speak out about what happened to him or her, and the other person files, a, you know, whoever the, you know, aggressor was file some sort of anti SLAPP lawsuit that says, hey, you can’t speak about this. Don’t defame me, you know, maybe it’s a person who is prominent in the community or something. And so they’ve decided they’re going to go out and, you know, they don’t they don’t want to getting out that they abused somebody in their family. Well, that’s going to be an area that you know, you can file an anti SLAPP lawsuit when those issues come up.

Holly: So as a family lawyer, if an attorney thinks there might be an anti SLAPP claim, what steps should that attorney take?

Melody: Well, the first thing you’re going to do is make sure that you file your anti SLAPP motion to dismiss before that 60 day deadline passes because you don’t want that to pass. That’s going to be you know, you waive it if you don’t follow something by that date.

Holly: So I know you’ve written a paper about anti SLAPP. Is that something our listeners can find online somewhere Or is there a way that they can obtain a copy?

Melody: So I’m working on making it into a blog post. But since that’s sort of directed at kind of the general public’s consumption, it’s a little bit hard to sort of narrow that down. But I’m working on that. But I do have a paper and I’m happy to share that paper. If people want to email me at [email protected] I’m happy to share that paper with them. And my PowerPoint presentation that I did when I presented for the Collin County Bar Association. But yes, that’s, that’s where you can go, you can always ask me for it. I’m happy to share.

Holly: So one of the questions that I like to ask every guest on the podcast is, if you could give one piece of advice to young Family Lawyers, what would it be?

Melody: I would say find a mentor, I will tell you that from personal experience, I didn’t really have one. And I and that kind of is really sad, like, you really need that go to person that you can trust that that will sort of share your, that you can share your concerns and your questions about we are sadly a judgmental bunch. And if you do something wrong, or put a step out of line, and you know somebody is gonna come at, yeah. So it’s really helpful to have that other person that you can bounce ideas off of that can talk to you about, you know, a strategy session, maybe that you need about a case that’s new for you.

I’m always happy to talk to people. I don’t always have the right answers, I always need to bounce ideas off other people, every like on anything that is sort of outside my wheelhouse. Or maybe that’s a little bit unusual. But I’m always happy to help others. And I know there are lots and lots of family law attorneys out there that feel the same way that it’s, you know, imperative that we put ourselves out there and and offer to help others however we can. And so I do that I’m I try to anyway, if people want my help.

Holly: I agree 100% that is critical to doing well and surviving and thriving in the practice of family law. And I would add, you know, if somebody reaches out to an attorney that is more experienced, and they don’t have time, don’t take it personally. They may just be really busy. And it’s not that they don’t want to help. But they have you know, they just can’t right now, but I’m sure that there is somebody out there willing to help almost any young family lawyer out there who is eager and willing to learn.

Melody: Yeah, absolutely. And I I try to make time. I mean, I, there was somebody who needed help really late last Sunday. And right, you know, late for me is relative, right? So it was probably 9:30, 10 o’clock. And I did call him up and talk to him and walk him through kind of, you know, what, what I thought was best for what he was doing. And I think everything worked out really well for him not because of my advice, but for other reasons. And so, you know, even when it’s late, I’m, I’m always willing to help. But I know there are lots and lots of people. So if you get turned down from somebody, there’s always somebody else who’s going to be helpful, for sure.

Holly: All right, we’re almost out of time. So where can our listeners go if they want to learn more about you?

Melody: Well, you can go to my avvo profile. That’s a great place because it has lots of reviews from clients that you know, say nice things about me. And that’s just you go to a v v o and look up my name. And you can also go to my firm web page, which is the Jennifer S. Hargrave dot come I believe and my profile is linked as a partner at the firm.

Holly: All right, well, thank you so much for joining us today. For our listeners. If you enjoyed this podcast, please take a second to leave us a review and subscribe so you can enjoy future episodes.

Melody: Thank you so much for having me, Holly. I enjoyed it.

Voiceover: That Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by the Draper Law firm. We help people navigate divorce and child custody cases and handle family law appellate matters. For more information, visit our website at

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