Thursday, May 5, 2016

The "I've met with a Divorce Lawyer" Threat.

Sometimes I feel used.  This happens when I see a potential client whom I know has no intention of actually getting divorced.  No, he or she is only there to pick up my business card and bring it home with the intent of "accidentally" leaving it in sight. I can always tell when this is happening.  The consultation usually consists of the client telling me all the terrible things that his or her spouse has done and continues to do.  There are hardly any questions, and the surest sign? There is never a question about fees or what it will cost.  I started thinking about this after recently watching an episode of "Vinyl," a mini series about the rapid descent and destruction of a former super successful record producer.  In one particular scene his wife is at a consultation with a divorce lawyer.  At the end of the consult the lawyer asks the wife if she has her checkbook.  The wife responds that she does, and the lawyer says, "that will be $150.00."  When the wife begins to protest that there wasn't supposed to be a consultation fee, the lawyer turns to her and says words to the effect that it is clear this wife is still in love with her husband and just wasted an hour of her time all so she could tell her husband that she has been to see a divorce attorney.  Guess what?  The Wife does tell her husband that she went to see a divorce attorney and nothing changes.

While I have had many an hour or more wasted on this type of "consultation," I have never charged for it.  Why?  Empathy.

So what is going on here? I feel for this client.  He or she DOES in fact love his or her wife, but at the same time is in such pain and turmoil because it is a bad marriage.  This client desperately wants to be noticed, heard, loved, appreciated, or whatever it is that his or her spouse can't or won't give.  The client comes to my office with hope that maybe by doing so, he or she will change his or her spouse.  Unfortunately, I don't believe it works.

I don't believe you can change anyone except yourself, and even that is hard to do.  I do think that for this type of "client" it is both smart and empowering to go and pay this type of visit with a divorce lawyer- BUT only if he or she keeps it a secret.  Once the secret is out, it's merely an empty threat.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Dirty Dozen: A Guide to Your Rotten Ex (Her)

As a follow up to my list of the Male Divorce Archetypes below you will find the Female Divorce Archetypes.  There are many overlaps in almost all of the categories.  I have put them into Male and Female Types to reflect what I have most commonly seen in my work.  My hope is to show you that you are not alone, and how to deal with these negative types.  Also, anyone going through divorce has at one point or another shown at least some part of some of these traits and it’s important to know how that impacts you.  As with all my writing, it can be painfully straightforward as I am not one to sugar coat.  Hope you enjoy!

1.         The Man Eater.  She is successful, ambitious, assertive and ready to fire your unproductive, lazy and sorry ass (whether true or not).  For years she has “done it all” without and in spite of you.  She is the woman who can “bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan and never, ever let you BELIEVE you’re a man” (as paraphrased from the old “Enjoli” perfume commercials of my childhood).  This is the woman that “made” you and threatens to break you.  Perhaps she introduced you to the world of culture, travel and sophistication.  Perhaps it was through her contacts or family business that you got your first job.  Whatever the circumstances, she believed in what she wanted you to be, and could never accept who you really are.  At first you tried to keep up with her and make her happy.  You changed your clothes, the way you eat, walk and talk, but it was never enough.  You even took that job she got you, but only made it half way up the golden ladder.  After years of countless verbal assaults on how you have never amounted to anything, you just gave up and became the “loser” she accused you of being.  Why not?  This woman will expect you to leave the marriage exactly as you came in, and as far as her recollection goes, that is with a duffle bag of ugly clothes.  When dealing with a woman like this, don’t let your pride get in the way.  She may try to bully you by telling you what a loser you are and that you are stealing from your kids.  Don’t give up, if all you are guilty of being is “never enough” you are bound to get your fair share. 

2.         The Virgin Mother.  As far as this woman is concerned, all you are is a sperm donor.  Incredibly, she not only believes, but actually tells you that the children are hers and hers alone.  She will refer to the children as “my daughter” or “my son” and forever accuse you of not having their best interests at heart.  She will fight you tooth and nail for any type of regular and meaningful access to them.  She cannot understand for the life of her why they need to spend more than a day at your place.  She will interfere with overnight visits at all costs, and when it comes to holidays, she thinks you should celebrate them on the day before.  She will “forget” to turn on the ringer to her phone, and tell you that her children will not have a cell phone until they are 15 (even though they have “emergency” cell phones to call her just in case).    She may or may not tell the kids bad things about you.  If she does, it can be blatant or subtle.  Either way you must stay guarded and make sure you show up for all your visits.  Never give up on seeing your kids, and never ever give her a reason to make you look bad! 

3.         The Reporter.  Welcome to the world of Paparazzi.  Smile! You’re on camera.  Be careful what you say.  You are being taped.  Be careful where you go.  You are being followed.  You are never alone.  This woman is digging for a great story.  She wants to “catch” you doing or saying something that will help her get an upper hand in court.  If the Judge isn’t interested in her investigation, she will find someone who is.  She is not afraid to leak her story to anyone who will listen, and thinks nothing of the consequence.  She is the one who will post things about you on Facebook, call your boss, and show compromising emails and pictures to your mother.  While you may be tempted to “fight fire with fire” and launch your own Facebook fury, don’t! She is the one who people will think is crazy and in Court, those posts can be used against her.

4.         The Enabler.  Unlike the Man Eater, this woman does not hate or resent you for not pulling your weight in the marriage.  She recognizes that you didn’t work or earn to your potential and understands that by being overly accepting or accommodating, she contributed to your own financial shortcomings.  When it comes to supporting the household or the children, she will quickly tout off your credentials and stellar capabilities and push for a package that reflects your “earning potential.”  Her greatest fear is that now that the marriage is over, you are going to go out and become a millionaire.  To your credit, she really does believe in you; to her discredit, this is the fantasy that landed her in this precarious position.  In a situation like this, don’t take advantage of her generosity.  Chances are she will be very fair with you and accept what is fair to you even though she believes that it’s unfair to her.  Her enabling ways may have gotten you this far, but an impartial Judge may find you capable of earning more than you are.

5.         The Warrior.  This woman has been through it all.  She has been by your side through all of your ups and downs.  She has supported your flopped business ventures, sexual indiscretions, and addictions.  Although she has some traits of the enabler, she has no hopes or fears of success for you.  She doesn’t want anything from you except her freedom.  Don’t push her and don’t cross her.  She has survived many battles, and though her heart is gold, her skin is thick.  Against the advice of her attorney, she is going to let you slide.  Don’t try and hold on or get in her way.  

6.         The Princess.  You were her Knight in Shining Armor.  You swept her off her feet, bedazzled her with jewels, and built her a castle for a servant staffed home.  She hasn’t worked in twenty-years and admittedly, has no marketable skills.  Though smart and witty, this beauty’s business savvy has been limited to hosting, boasting and toasting to your own success.  Perhaps you’re trading this now Queen for a new and younger princess, or perhaps she has been kissing other frogs; but whatever the case, alone she cannot succeed.  Do not insult or anger her by telling her to “get a job.”  After all, with “Trophy Wife” at the top of her resume, it’s going to take a lot more than fairies to make this dream come true.   If you’ve read my piece on the Male Divorce Archetypes, I hope you are not a bully or a miser because if your princess becomes a damsel in distress, you can be sure the Judge (man or woman) will come to her rescue. And don’t count on some other frog to pick up the financial burden; next time your princess will be marrying for love. 

7.         The Screamer.  Will someone please get this woman to shut up? Give her what she wants, whatever she wants!  That is exactly what this woman is hoping you will do in order to get her to stop screaming, cursing, slamming and otherwise torturing you with her rants and rages.  She doesn’t care where she is or who is there.  Once she gets going she won’t stop until she’s gotten what she wants.  This is how it worked throughout the marriage, and she’s banking on whining her way to the win.   A few meetings with your respective attorneys and you’ll see that even her own attorney won’t be able to rein her in.  This of course will not be a surprise to you, and after a while you may find yourself tempted to just give in one last time.  Keep in mind that “one last time” in the divorce does not mean it will be the last time.  Nope, if you give in now, expect more rants in the future.  A couple of court appearances should do the trick when dealing with a screamer.  The first time the Judge may be forgiving, but the second he or she will not.  This woman will be promptly escorted out of the courtroom even after her profuse and teary apologies.    

8.         The Martyr.  She gave you the best years of her life and you ruined it all.  This woman does not want a divorce; she wants revenge.  She wants a pound of flesh but will take it in dollars.  She is not looking for a quick or amicable divorce so please don’t use those words, and for God’s sakes, don’t tell her you want to be “fair” even if you do.  She must believe that she has won, in one way or another.  Do not smile and do not move on with your life (in public).  If you really are happy and want to move on with your life then be prepared and willing to pay- but don’t show you are eager to do so.  You will have to offer her more than her fair share but can’t do it up front.  This is going to take time.  If you give too much too soon she will get angry.  Take your lumps and give until it seemingly hurts.  

9.         The Mistress.  She’s having an affair but hasn’t been caught.  She’s looking to do things “quickly and fairly.”  She’s looking to get out of the marriage easily but doesn’t want to hurt you.  She will do all the work.  She will find the lawyer, draw up the agreement, pay the fees, and present you with it on a silver platter.  She’ll tell you that you don’t “need” an attorney and that everything is straightforward and fair.  She’s right for the most part, but do get an attorney anyway.   If you suspect she’s having an affair you may just want to keep it in check.  Once the cat is out of the bag, she may not feel so guilty, and the opportunity for a quick and easy divorce may be gone.  

10.       The Fool.  Thanks to your cunning ways, your wife has been completely in the dark as to the true state of your finances.  Whether good or bad, the truth is going to be ugly, and it is going to take a lot of work to undo what this fool believes.  If you have had your wife believing for years that you had “no money” only to have her attorney discover your hidden treasure, take cover as hell hath no fury like a woman fooled.  On the other hand, if you’ve hidden your financial horrors from her, and kept her living like a princess, you will be hard pressed to explain, let alone have anyone believe that you really have “no money.”  In either case, having a heart to heart with your wife to tell her the “truth” is not going to work.  If you have one hidden treasure, who’s to say you don’t have two?  If you’ve been living on borrowed money, who’s to say you can’t borrow more? You are going to need an outsider to set the record straight, and even then it may be too late.

11.       The Tease.  She says she wants a divorce but expects you to be home for dinner with the kids.  She tells you she loves you but isn’t “in love” with you.  She wants to have separate lives but live under the same roof.  What gives?  This woman is a control freak and afraid to pull the plug.  She really does want to be divorced but wants to control all that you do.  Her biggest fear is that when you are actually divorced, you’ll be out from under her thumb and doing what you want.  For some guys this arrangement is a dream come true, but for many it is not.  If you like the idea of not splitting assets or parting with your pay, go along with this please, but if you crave a real partnership and not a housemate, get rid of this tease.

12.       The Bad Girl.  This woman refuses to grow up, and her motto is “Girls just want to have fun.”  She goes out five nights a week and dresses like a teen.  She gets drunk at parties and on weekends sleeps until noon.  She points out that no one gets hurt and she otherwise gets to work on time and the kids on the bus.  Some men stay with these types because they’re afraid that if Daddy leaves, all hell will break loose.  Threats of divorce fall on deaf ears and do nothing to reel in this rebel.  If she wants the divorce, she surprisingly knows how to carry on her escapades to the proverbial edge, limiting those activities to her private time and away from the kids.  This woman won’t fight you too hard for access and shared custody so stop trying to get her to “grow up” and focus on ensuring that you get your kids at least half of the time.    

The Dirty Dozen: A Guide to Your Rotten Ex (Him)

When it comes to divorce strategy, my biggest and best source of information is YOU.  From the time we first meet, I am already getting a sense of who your spouse is.  As you go on recounting the history of your marriage, the struggles, the pain, and ultimately what brings you to my office, I am already tuning in to who I am dealing with on the other side.

Over the years I have come to recognize quite a few "types" in divorce.  Unknowingly, I had categorized them into various degrees of "jerks."  This simplified system had enabled me to deal with these types quite easily.  As it turns out however, certain behaviors go with certain "archetypes," a concept that has been around for a very long time.  Once you can identify your spouse's divorce archetype, you can understand, predict and plan for the likely battles that will ensue.  Keep in mind that you too have an archetype, and as such, are just as vulnerable to having your behaviors anticipated and provoked. I so often hear, "He knows how to push my buttons" from a client who has just done something that undermines her case, and my response is usually some version of "Yes, he does!"

Pushing buttons is just one way a spouse can get the upper hand in divorce, but if you want to anticipate, prepare and respond in the best way possible during this trying time, recognizing archetypes is key.  As a preview to my book, here are my "men-types" from the top 12 which I have affectionately named The Dirty Dozen:

1. The Bully.  The Bully in divorce is the same bully as the one on the playground.  He likes getting his way, and will use any and all tactics to get his way.  This is the guy who will stare you down, threaten you, and even have his "friends" reach out to you in order to try and talk some "sense" into you.  The best way to deal with a bully is to get your own bully, i.e. your lawyer to do all the talking and dealing.  You cannot and should not try to have any direct dealings with the bully.  He knows or believes you are the weaker one, and will prey on all your soft spots.  He will wear you down.  It will drive him absolutely crazy when he can't have total access to you.

2. The Softie. Unlike the Bully, the Softie can't stand a fight.  He's passive and anxious.  He will be reasonable and likely to settle but it will take some time because he is so passive that you can't get him to the finish line.  He is not deliberately trying to stall.  He is genuinely afraid.  He even cries.  It is almost like having another child, and you are going to have to hold his hand.  These are the same traits that probably drove you to divorce him, but he's not going to change-not then, not now, and not in the future.  Be patient and be kind.  In this scenario you will most likely get all you want and more, it is just going to take some time.

3. The Victim: Despite his title, this guy is more like the Bully than the Softie.  He may be really nice but he's really bitter about the divorce and will yank at all the guilt strings he can find.  He is the one who will tell anyone and everyone who will listen, what a great guy he is, and can't understand for the life of him why you want a divorce.  The best advice here is to stop explaining it to him!  He is never going to see your side of it let alone take ownership for his part.  Unlike the Bully you can deal with him directly but steer away from anything other than numbers, dates and times.

4.  The Charmer: This guy is all about image.  He is neither tough nor soft, and certainly no victim.  He loves to "put on a show" and goes to great length to have everyone see what a great guy he is.  You of course know the truth and are sickened by his schtick, but guess what? Let Mr. Charming put his money where his mouth is.  All proposals should begin with "Keeping in line with Mr. Charming's generosity..." basically wording and packaging is key here.  Whatever you propose, make sure it has all the bells, whistles and plenty of red ribbons.  Don't be upset if your attorney has to whisper to him about how "difficult" YOU can be or what a hero he will be to his not-yet born grandchildren from his not-yet adult children.

5.  The Blamer. It's everyone's fault except his own.  We lawyers especially can't stand this guy because he loves to tell you how bad a lawyer you have and how all these problems are the lawyer's fault.  Trust me, his own lawyer probably can't stand him either.  Rather than engage in the blame-game, your best strategy with this guy is to have him make the proposals, i.e. "Well Mr. Blamer, how do you think we should handle X?"  Ironically, this guy never has an answer.  Rather than wait indefinitely for this guy to come up with the answer, give him options.  I suggest a minimum of six.

6. The Guilty Cheater. This guy seriously feels guilty for doing you wrong BUT wants to stay with his mistress.  He feels so badly about it that he will give you just about anything you ask for.  His hope is that by giving you everything, you will forgive him, and he can somehow "make it up to you."  The biggest mistake women make with this guy is expecting to get all the money AND an apology.  While they may be sorry for hurting you, they are not sorry for divorcing you, so in this case, take the money and run.

7.  The Heartless Cheater.   This guy does not feel guilty about cheating.  In his mind YOU were the reason he cheated, and since you did him wrong emotionally or sexually, he has every right to hold out financially.  This is the guy who will start every meeting with "you need to get over it" and heartless as it may be, he's right.  Stop making yourself crazy thinking he is going to apologize or do the right thing (however you define that).  Let your lawyer deal with him "by the book" because it's all he is ever going to agree to (he has no choice).

8.  The Miser.  This guy thinks that everything is his and cannot believe that you are entitled to anything.  If your job in the marriage has been to care for the children, look after the home, cook for him, do his laundry and otherwise help him get to where he is today, he will only talk about how "easy" a life you have had.  This is the guy who tells you that you "did nothing" all day but go to the gym and shopping.  He cannot stand the thought of having worked so hard his whole life only to share it with you.  It doesn't matter if it is you or him who wants the divorce.  In his mind you came in with nothing and should leave the same way.  Though he has bully traits, he is more of a lion, seeking to protect his jungle and when you are looking for a piece of it, he will be sure to play the victim.  Skip all attempts to be nice or negotiate.  You are wasting your time.  This guy needs to hear it straight from the Judge.

9. The Ostrich. It's one thing to go slow, even painfully slow as the Softie likes to do, but quite another when you can't even get this guy to acknowledge that the divorce is taking place.  Incredibly sometimes an entire divorce will take place and this guy won't get his head out of the sand until he's literally taken out of the house.  You can write letters, make phone calls and even threats but this guy will ignore them all.  This "no show" is among the very worst because he will cost you lots of time and money.  He is like the Softie in that he will need someone to hold his hand, but it cannot be you.  You are going to have to call in an outsider an intervention.  Whether a friend or therapist, they will take this divorce more seriously than him, and get him to do what you can't.

10. The Baby.  No matter how old or successful this guy is, he doesn't make a move without Daddy's okay.  He is usually the heir to a family business throne and has been in his father's controlling claws for years.  Now that you have taken steps to extricate yourself from these treacherous trenches you will be fighting not just your husband, but Daddy too.  In this case be sure you know Daddy's archetype as well.  You don't have to worry too much about Mommy because she too is controlled by Daddy.  He will not be able to agree to a court date without clearance, let alone an entire divorce deal.  Do not despair because in their zealous quest to protect their baby they inevitably take positions that are so unreasonable that you could not possibly do worse.  With so many spoons in the soup, this bunch is sure to leave the Judge with a bad taste in his or her mouth.

11. The Yes Man.  No matter what the question, issue or request, his answer is always "Yes."  The problem with this guy is that he never delivers.  He is a modified version of the Ostrich but even more frustrating because you actually believe he is going to do something.  He will "yes" you to death if you let him.  Whatever it is that you ask of him, when he says "Yes" or even worse, "No Problem," expect a problem!  The solution here is to get it in writing- no matter what it is- big or small, get it in writing.

12. The Menace.  He is hated by everyone and loves it.  This is the guy who is one part arrogant and two parts ignorant.  He thinks he knows more than you, your lawyer, and even the Judge.  He seems to come and go as he pleases, doesn't have a care in the world, thumbs his nose at the law, and loves to say "so put me in jail."  This is exactly where this guy belongs.  He is so smug that he will even use these words in front of the kids, causing you to beg your lawyer to back off.  Trust me, this guy is not one who will willingly go to jail.  He may be tough around you, but a real criminal he is not.  Although he is definitely a Bully, it's going to take more than your own Bully to bring this guy down.  Fortunately, that person is him.  He will do himself in.  He will lose control and say or do something stupid and have no ability to hold back.  The best thing you can do is keep things public.  Do not ever meet with him alone.  The Menace loves to cause chaos but hates when he's caught.  Tough as you may be, and equally able to match him in a game of shout, don't do it.  The one thing he can't stand is losing control and having everyone feel sorry for you.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dressing and Planning for Divorce: Remember the Weather.

Among the many things that we do first thing in the morning is check the weather, be it by looking at our Weather App, listening to the radio, or simply looking out the window.  It's almost automatic;  as is our response.  We dress or plan our day accordingly.  This is especially true when we have a major life event or plan that we are making.  I would argue that many of us even plan our entire life around the weather.  It affects where we choose to live, how we feel, what we wear, and even when we get married.

Although we can generally adapt to unexpected changes in weather, the one thing we don't do is make beach plans in Winter or Ski trips in Summer.  In other words, we understand core weather concepts, and therefore are realistic about what and when we can and cannot do.  Sometimes we intentionally fight the weather.  We may wear a new sundress even if it's raining.  Other times we mentally block ourselves out of the realities of weather.  The Temptations had "sunshine on a cloudy day" and the month of May when it was cold outside.  But more often than not, weather is real, and we adjust our thoughts, decisions and actions to reflect that reality.

When it comes to divorce, it too has weather patterns, temperatures, and seasons, and if you don't check the weather, understand its patterns, and dress or plan for the season, you will find yourself soaked, freezing and sorry.  After almost 20 years of being an attorney and fighting legal battles, my goal is to explain things to clients in a way that is relatable, understandable, and do-able.  There is a lot that does not make sense in divorce, but "dressing for divorce" is one thing that every client can do to "weather the storm ahead."

Every divorce begins in the dead of "Winter."  The divorce begins before it has actually started.  You feel cold.  There may be ice in your heart.  There is darkness all around you.  The roads are slippery and you can't seem to go very far without falling down and getting hurt.  Your emotions are bundled up tightly in your body.  You have layered yourself in fears.  You have confined yourself so as to protect yourself from arguments and accusations that that howl at you like a blizzard with its pellets of hail striking your fragile mind and aching body.  The ground is frozen, and so are you.  This is not the time to make drastic changes.  Ready as you may feel to build your new life, as any architect or builder will tell you, there is no construction in Winter.  This is the time to comfort yourself, and find ways to get the support you will need for the storm that lies ahead.  This is the time to dress warmly and not overexpose yourself or reveal too much to your soon to be ex-spouse.  This is the time to meet with an attorney, a financial planner, a therapist, and anyone else that will be a part of your team during the divorce.

Once the ice begins to melt, it is safe to come out  to begin your Spring Cleanup and Planting.  While the worst of Winter may be over, there will still be some very cold days, and guaranteed rain.  While you are clearing the debris and gathering new and fertile soil, you will simultaneously continue to face some of the hail from those slushy spring rains.  This is the time when the professionals begin their work and you start to feel and see the signs of "new life."  You may feel rejuvenated and renewed, but among the signs of new beginnings you may feel equally disappointed by the continued rain.  Although the plants are beginning to grow, the progress is slow, and the blooming is still very far away.  Although the snow is gone, and the temperature is rising, there are still very cold days.  At this point the best thing to do is wear a "slicker" because you are going to need to let the rain roll right off of you.  Gone are the days of Winter where you were frozen and bundled.  You have taken the step, left the house (perhaps literally), are moving forward and springing ahead.

While Spring comes on slowly, Summer sizzles its way in and quickly turns up the heat.  The days feel twice as long and hotter than hell.  The pellets of hail get engulfed in the fire and relief from the heat is impossible from harsh crashing waves.  It is no longer a battle of two but a battle of four.  The cold words of your spouse are not nearly as cutting as those of his or her lawyers which burn through you like rays of swords.  You are not only hot and sweaty, but exhausted and thirsty.  Depending on where you live, you are in Hurricane, Tornado or Wildfire Season.  This is the time to choose and pick your battles.  This is the time to sit with your lawyer and take inventory of where you are in the case.  What is holding this back? What concessions have been made, and what reasonable concessions need to be made?  More importantly, what do you need to do to avoid getting burned?  This is the time to get out of your bathing suit and into a wet suit or you will drown.  If there is nothing you can do, then get into the shade and wait.  Take the time to let the sunburn heal and your body rehydrate.  You cannot go to the beach everyday.

And then, as quickly as it came in, Summer is gone, having been sent off with a kiss of cool air from its calming Sister, Autumn.   Welcome to the splendor of color and transformation.  This is the final stage of your divorce.  This is a time to witness your resilience in surviving the most brutal of weather.  This is the time to breathe in the crisp air and harvest the crops of your strength.  This is a time to shed your fears and even tears.  The divorce has ended when that final leaf drops, and that branch is naked.  It is you, uncovered and unbroken.

Photo Credit: This beautiful photo was found at:


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Divorce is Bad for Business

My retirement aged client (who works 7 days a week and runs a business) sat in front of me, head shaking with eyes welling.  "I still can't believe this," he began to say.  I took a deep breath, and my normal, in your face, harsh telling truth talker softened.  If this normally happy-go-lucky, bigger than life giant did not sit so humbled in my chair, I would have quickly given him my usual dose of "reality 101."  I tried to soften the blow, and said "Let's look at this divorce another way.  Let's take your wife out of it for a moment, and pretend instead it was your business partner. I want you to imagine that you have a partner at the office. Imagine that you go in every morning and have a plan for the day.  You have scheduled a staff meeting and a couple of appointments.  You plan on meeting with some investors and architects who are going to review plans for your expansion.  Now imagine that your partner comes in and has a totally different plan.  He cancels the staff meeting, re-schedules the appointments and decides that rather than expand the business, he thinks it's time to down size."  I now had his full attention and so I asked, "How does that sound?" He told me of course that it sounded awful and that someone like that would destroy his business.  "Exactly," I replied.  I then asked him if he could put a "price" on getting rid of a partner like that, and we both agreed, that whatever the price, it would be worth it because eventually his business would be dead.   "Your wife is killing your life and your business, and so I ask you, what is the price you put on your peace of mind and quality of life? The payment you make to your wife is about YOU, not her." He made a note in his journal, smiled and said "I'll get back to you."    

Saturday, May 17, 2014

No Bundt Pan for you!

I've settled hundreds of seriously contested and complex divorces over the years, and I'll tell you this: when it comes time to breaking up the pots and the pans, look out because that process takes the cake! I hate to admit this, but usually it's the women who get all the household contents.  It's true.  Ask any divorced man you know.  Most men leave their homes with the shirt on their back and return to collect little more than some old clothes, junky tools and maybe some photos.  In the beginning they always ask, "so when it comes to the stuff in the house, how does that work?"  In the end, it comes down to the dreaded "Schedule A" -that last sheet on a divorce agreement that specifies those items that the Husband will get to keep. When "Schedule A" is presented to the Wife, I inevitably brace myself for the tirade that is about to ensue.  "You want the small TV in the basement? Oh my God you are so petty. I can't believe you want the small TV.  Records? What records? Are you kidding me? Those are gone.  Your mother's rings? She gave me those rings.  I can't believe you.  No.  Those rings are going to my future daughters in law."  I see the Husband start to recoil in his seat.  He looks down at the list and begins, "There are FIVE TVs in the house! Are you kidding me? What did you do with my records? I've been collecting those records since I was a kid! My mother gave you her rings? Yeah right."  I already know what is going to happen next, and sure enough, here he goes, "Okay, how about I just take the other small TV? The one in the garage?" The Wife continues to look at the list, ignoring his request.  "The Bundt Pan? Absolutely Not!"

Hindsight being 20/20 as they say, my advice is that you don't wait until "the end" to work out the personal property.  If you are a husband who plans to move out, trust me, your wife will be much more accommodating of your requests up front, especially if she's eager to see you go!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Divorcing a Jerk? The Best Years are Yet To Come!

Divorce is both an end and a beginning.  It marks the end of a marriage and the beginning of a new life, identity, and existence.  For some clients, it's a process that marks the beginning of their "liberation" and for others, the end of a life they wish they could hold on to.  For the client that did not choose the divorce, this end can be very painful, and their hurt, masked as anger, can lead them to act in ways that are self-destructive and sabotaging.

Divorce Court is not a private place, not even close.  Indeed, not only is it a public venue, but quite literally a stage for every onlooker who happens to be there.  Courts are filled with divorcing husbands and wives, their lawyers, friends, family members, and of course, the court personnel, including the Judges, Clerks, Court Officers, and Cleaning Staff.  On a daily basis you can stroll the court halls and find couples shouting at each other, cursing, and pointing fingers.  It seems that the busier the day, the louder the screaming.  I see behavior in court that I would never see in any other public place.  I always counsel my clients not to engage their spouse in any type of communication that might set off an argument.  In some cases where I know there is going to be trouble I even ask my client to wait on a different floor, other wing, or even in the car.  Sometimes however, you find yourself in a moment you least expect!

While settling a case in court the other day, we were just about to sign an agreement when suddenly my client became very upset.  My client had always been very quiet and composed in court.  Instead of signing her name, she took the pen and pointed it directly into her husband's face.  He stared at her blankly.  In a cracking voice she told him, "I gave you the best years of my life!" He said nothing and then she signed.  I think she was hoping to get some kind of recognition, apology, or quite frankly...anything.  He didn't flinch.
When it was all over, I said to her, he was a jerk and you didn't give him the best years of your life. He gave you the worst of yours, and it's over now.  I wanted her to see that at that very moment she was the author of what I like to call "Part 2" of her life.  That pen she had used to sign her name and end her marriage had also given her a new life, one that she had co-authored with me, setting forth the terms of where she would live, what assets she received, and what she could expect from him-what was required of him, contractually.  Before that, he called all the shots and she never really knew what was coming next or when.  He had always handled all the financials and she had very little involvement.  It was certainly overwhelming but at the same time, very liberating.

Now I know and understand that you will never truly be rid of your ex, and that he may in fact be around and continue to haunt you long after the divorce, but the notion that we gave anyone the "best years" of our life is just one that doesn't sit well with me.  It's almost like saying we have nothing left to enjoy or give or receive.  It's victory for him, a feather in his hat, and why should you, even if you do feel that way, give him that power? Even worse, if you perceive it to be true, he never saw it, never apprecited it, and certainly won't now.