A bad divorce attorney writes an article about how bad she and other divorce attorneys are? Or, is she projecting her own badness off onto all divorce attorneys?
An article was featured on The Huffington Post Divorce section that stunned me. Why? It is written by a divorce attorney and reveals what some of us have feared divorce attorneys were thinking about their divorcing clients and their responsibility to those clients.
In the article, 3 Things You Need to Hear But Your Lawyer Isn’t Telling You the author says “To help you avoid getting stuck in a never-ending divorce, you should know the top three things that lawyers wish they could tell you, but probably won’t.”
You would think that divorce attorneys would feel it their ethical responsibility to tell a client whatever is needed to keep them from getting stuck in a “never-ending” divorce. According to the article though, if you get stuck it’s something about you, not the attorney who represented you. And, I find that claim a less than honest representation of what can, and often does happen in the relationship between a divorce attorney and client.
So, if you will allow, I’d like to respond to the three points the author made in her, “what your lawyer isn’t telling you” article with a few thoughts of my own.
Point I: We have to assume you are stretching the truth (okay, lying).
“Until I see a clean drug test, bank statements with canceled checks or a copy of the school sign-in sheet, I’m going to take any “facts,” a client tells me with a grain of salt.”
Yes, there are people who lie during the divorce process. And, it is those people that make divorce hell on earth for the majority who are being honest. Lying during divorce is not so prevalent that divorce lawyers should be automatically dismissing any client as a liar.
After nearly 14 years of working with divorcing clients, it has been my experience that most people going through a divorce have an honest desire to take the high road and move smoothly through the process. That can’t be done without being honest and upfront with any attorney, therapist our coach. And, I can’t imagine that assuming someone is lying is productive when it comes to helping a client navigate divorce.
Is it even possible to create a desire to represent a client to their best ability if divorce lawyers assume right off the bat that clients are lying?
Point II: We don’t believe that Mother Teresa married Genghis Khan.
Wanna make a bet?!?!?! No one gets up one morning and decides to find themselves a “Genghis Khan” to marry. In spite of the author’s beliefs, sociopaths and narcissists are highly talented at hiding who they are for years. It is possible to discover after years of marriage that, although it was not your intent, you married a “Genghis Khan.”
I’m working with a client now who is divorcing after 32 years of marriage. Her ex, who has always been loving and fully engaged in the marriage and family met a younger woman and now wants a divorce. This man, who once protected and loved his wife, is now out to destroy her financially and emotionally. He is behaving like the “spawn of Satan” and why a divorce attorney would not feel it their responsibility to protect a client from such a person, I don’t know.
According to the article, “The more you insist to your lawyer, the court and everyone else that your ex-spouse is the spawn of Satan, the more we assume that you must have some major issues yourself (particularly if you were married for a long time). Of course, you might be suffering from a genuine Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but that just makes the court more worried about whether you will be able to keep your kids safe in the future. Whether you were married to a person who lied on their taxes, used illegal drugs or was emotionally or physically abusive — the first question you will need to address with your attorney and the court is what are you doing differently now. Be ready to prove that you can keep your finances in order, that you don’t also abuse drugs and that you have learned how to recognize the signs of abuse early enough not to let it happen to you or your kids again.”
The above paragraph tied my heart into a knot. I felt for all the men and women who have divorced someone with a personality disorder and found themselves on the receiving end of such a harsh attitude by a divorce lawyer.
It is the divorce lawyer’s job to protect a client from the “spawn of Satan,” not dismiss them out of the belief that their client has “major issues” of their own. When divorcing someone with a personality disorder it may be impossible to keep your finances in order, not need antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications and keep your children safe.
If a divorce lawyer and the Family Court won’t help a client address the issues that come up during a malignant divorce, who is there for the client/victim to turn to? A question I’ve heard and asked, myself, often!
Point III: We can’t give your ex a personality transplant.
“No matter how specific orders get, a manipulative person will find the way to gain the advantage. Your lawyer (or even the judge) can’t change the other person, but you have the power to change how you react and how much you allow their behavior to impact your life.”
I disagree with this statement on so many levels. Court orders are specific for a reason, to make sure it is understood what is expected of each party to the divorce. What can a divorce lawyer and the courts do about someone who manipulates or defies the order? They can hold them accountable!
Is there a lack of desire to hold non-compliant litigants accountable? Is saying, “Change the way you react” just another way of refusing to take responsibility for failing to fully protect a client? Is it unfair of me to assume that, that kind of speak points to the belief by divorce lawyers that once they have your money you are on your own?
Here is a suggestion for divorce lawyers who share the above feelings and, the Family Court…when someone defies a court order hold them responsible by sending them to jail. What makes you think that the victim ex of “Satan’s spawn” is going to get what is rightfully theirs if divorce attorneys and the Family Court won’t react at all? It doesn’t matter how much the victim changes their reaction if divorce lawyers and court refuse to REACT and RESPOND with every legal action available.
No one goes to a divorce lawyer expecting a personality transplant for their ex. They go to a divorce lawyer looking for protection from the bully ex and that expectation isn’t too high. There are cases of lawyers and Family Court judges protecting clients who are being bullied. If one lawyer and judge can care enough to protect a litigant, all lawyers should.
And, lastly, the author writes, “If possible, work with a therapist or a life coach to start rebuilding a life that is all about the happiness and security of you and your kids, regardless of what shenanigans your ex is up to. As they say, the best revenge is a happy life.”
I fully agree, therapy, coaching, whatever outlet you have available to you should be used to keep a bullying ex from doing more harm. When an ex is withholding child support, defying court orders and going out of their way to make life miserable the best a therapist or coach can do is teach coping skills because there is no “happy life” when dealing daily with an ex who is out to destroy. Unless, of course, you have a divorce lawyer willing to leave no stone unturned when it comes to protecting their legal rights during divorce instead of making false assumptions from the moment they accept a retainer fee.