Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What the heck!!

A great posting from Family Lore: Not a good idea #3...

On how NOT to avoid paying child support...

P.R. for the Sex, Drugs & Rock'n'Roll Disasters

Okay, who hasn't been at least peeking at the headlines of the latest celebrity train-wreck splits?  Vicodin rehab, sex addiction clinics, rock star lovers, etc etc.  Of course, whoever's in the news today is in the recycle bin tomorrow.  Then it starts all over again, and we get regaled anew with tales about other rich, famous, glamorous people who've unzipped their pants one too many times, or left rings of white powder gobbed around their noses in public, or cussed out a self-styled journalist who posted the video all over YouTube.

I know, I know. I totally watch this crap, too.  Thinking stuff like, better them than me. Or, if I had all that money, I'd never do that. Or, how could someone that talented end up like that?

And then I hear all the snarling about the lawyers for these people.  Publicity hounds. Greedy bastards  wallowing in their celebrity clients' misery.  Is it true?  Who's responsible for all the ugly P.R.?  What makes people think the train-wrecks didn't ask for the publicity themselves?

Lawyers who go issuing press releases about a sensitive case without permission have some serious issues if they breach client confidences.  Most experienced lawyers pretty much have the attitude of 'same old, same old'.  Custody and divorce cases don't get resolved in the court of public opinion, unless you want to count how an individual's career survives the hurricane headlines.  Remember Woody Allen?  Alex Baldwin? Christie Brinkley?  How did all the public noise about their personal travails affect their cases? Not one bit.  Now think about how it affected their careers.  Mel Gibson is a case in point. So what's the negative P.R. about one spouse or the other really all about?  Yeah, thought so.

Here's a great example, just hitting the headlines this week:  In the Woods's divorce, these highly-regarded bloggers were notably impressed that the lawyers said nothing about the details of the settlement.  A dignified conclusion to what had been a media circus.  

But for some reason (I don't blame her for being angry, but Lord knows how much the settlement actually was for their short-term marriage), silence won't suffice for the ex-Mrs. Woods.

Hmmm, do I smell a book deal?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eight Emotions During and After The 'Closing'

In no particular order:

1. Exhaustion (from: negotiations, legal fees, pressure from spouse and family, emotional turmoil)
2. Relief (because the parentheticals in #1 are over)
3. Anxiety (about: financial future, ability to survive and bounce back emotionally, children where applicable)
4. Anger (i.e., why the hell did s/he have to put me/us through this?)
5. Sadness (about: the end of the marital relationship or the strains placed on it)
6. Guilt (that the relationship required a formal agreement in the first place)
7. Joy (that the parentheticals in #1 are over)
8. Emptiness

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Now on Technorati!

Now you can find me in Technorati, the blog search engine X6ZZTDFUBW42

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Heartbreaking Case from Jolly Old England

Forget father's rights, mother's rights- this should disturb anyone with a heart and soul, regardless of agenda:

Family Lore: Warwickshire County Council v TE & Ors: Another father abandons his battle

World Literacy Initiative

I thought I'd share this information, which I saw linked on Emily Giffin's blog (

A company called Better World Books, that was started 8 years ago, has raised over $8 1/2 million for world literacy projects. They collect and sell used books online, and the purchase proceeds help to fund the global literacy projects.

Here's the company's website:

TIME magazine also has a blurb on it: Better World Books

Family Lore: Revenge is a tissue to wipe your...

Family Lore: Revenge is a tissue to wipe your...

Toilet Paper's New Name Is...Revenge!

I found this article about Charmin a/k/a Cushelle linked on John Bolch's excellent "Family Lore" blog from across the pond (‘revenge-on-ex-girlfriend-cushelle’/

Now that's one angry (and powerful) ex, if it's true!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blame It On The A-a-a-a-a-alcohol

Just thinking about a few examples of life in the loony-bin world of divorce and custody cases:

A father rants on the phone, oblivious to the probability he's being recorded. Telltale white powder rings a mother's nose as she hurls obscenities at strangers, while her kids cringe next to her.  A husband spends tens of thousands of dollars on hookers instead of on his family.  A wife runs off with a lover and expects her kids to welcome her back with open arms after a 30-month absence.  A lawyer doesn't look at the settlement proposal that  her adversary sent six months earlier.  A judge issues contempt orders, over and over and OVER again, for the exact same offense that happened one time last year.

Cripes. What are these people thinking???

Some folks say, blame the lawyers.  Others say, blame the adversarial process.  Still others say, blame the whole legal system.  There's plenty of blame to go around. Like blame solves anything, right?

I say, there comes a point when I've just gotta go with Jamie Foxx and T-Pain: Blame it on the vodka, the Henny, the blue top, and the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol.

I can't wait for tomorrow's headlines (sigh).

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Now this is one fugly fish.

It's also one of the stars of a guaranteed movie classic-in -the-making, scheduled for release in the US on August 20:  Piranha 3D!!!!!

Here's the IMDb summary for this must-see flick: After a sudden underwater tremor sets free scores of the prehistoric man-eating fish, an unlikely group of strangers must band together to stop themselves from becoming fish food for the area's new razor-toothed residents.

"Fish food for the area's new razor-toothed residents"?  I'm hooked!'s my segue: Divorce lawyers may be ruthless, but jeez-- I don't know anybody who's quite this ugly.  Not even me after I pull consecutive all-nighters.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Lawyer vs. The Writer

Lawyer : The parties executed a separation agreement on June 25, 2009, approximately two years from the commencement of the action for divorce.

Writer: Paul grasped his pen as if it were a bayonet. Across the conference table, Elaine leaned her chin on her hand and suppressed a yawn at the sight of her husband's consternation.  What's the big deal, she wondered?  After two years, just write your goddamn initials underneath mine. Every page, just like the lawyers had instructed.  She heaved a theatrical sigh as he finally scribbled his name under hers on the last page.  Finally.  All  the lawyers had to do was not smear the ink from their notary stamps all over the page.   And fill in the date: June 25, 2009.  The hemorrhaging was about to end.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Likeable? No, make that redeemable

An instructive post from literary agent Nathan Bransford:

After the divorce- a celebration?

I can't count the number of clients who've told me that when their case is done, and they've finally shed their spouse, they're going to throw a huge party to celebrate their new freedom.  And they're going to invite me, of course.

Well, I've never been invited. And I suspect it's for one of these reasons:

(1) The client couldn't stand the sight of me when it was finally over (I've found that when I send a former client a simple holiday greeting, they groan and wonder what bad thing has happened- me and bad memories, we go hand-in-hand); or

(2) The party never happened - the client realized the divorce was too sad, too anti-climactic or too damn debilitating to leave much energy (or much money) for celebration.

I've seen a few photos of "divorce cakes" on the Internet (seems like they're more pro-women).  I wonder if they're for real and if they are, how many people actually enjoy eating them.

How We Piss Off Our Clients: Another Top Ten List

What goes around, comes around.

1. Nickel-and-dime the client to death. Charge for subway fare, the dinner you ate while you were thinking about the case but working on a closing for someone else, last month's roaming charges while you were on vacation, etc.
2. Yell at the client. It's your normal speaking voice.
3. Diss everyone in the case. The client's therapist. His/her parents. Your adversary. Make sure it's impossible to speak directly to any third party without having to go through someone else.
4. Remind the client you have a lot of other cases to handle. It's a matter of priorities. Triage, if you will.
5. Keep your client waiting for you. Make sure (s)he sees you sneaking out for a sandwich before the appointment, and waltz back into the reception area with either (i) a brown paper bag; or (ii) a receipt that you can ostentatiously slap on the front desk. Your choice.
6. Don't look at the FedEx packets your client sends you. Just say, "I never received your financial documents" and hope no one tracks the delivery date.
7. Whenever something's missing - and delivery to your office has been confirmed - blame your staff.
8. Is the client calling you again? Hell with it, you're busy. All the time. Ignore their letters, too. And why waste time sending them copies of anything? They'll find out eventually.
9. Make shit up. Everyone else does it. The judge never sanctions anybody.
10. Billing is an art form. So don't bother.

How to Piss Off Your Divorce Lawyer (A Top Ten List)


1. Promise to pay. Then don't. Or pay in dribs and drabs - string it out for as long as you can.
2. Yell at him/her at every opportunity. Make sure you can be heard even if the telephone is six inches away from your lawyer's ear (not on speaker).
3. Say you need to discuss his/her legal advice with your best friend (neighbor, former roommate, drinking buddy, etc.), who got a great deal on his/her divorce.
4. Remind your lawyer that lots of other lawyers are waiting to take your case.
5. Arrive 30 - 60 minutes late for all your appointments. Or just show up unannounced and demand immediate assistance.
6. Insist that a complicated document (e.g., your Statement of Net Worth, an affidavit, your draft Separation Agreement) be completed and e-mailed to you on a particular day, although you have no intention of looking at it for at least two weeks because you'll be on vacation.
7. Forget to tell your lawyer that you own property in another state (or country). Let it be a surprise when you testify about it at your deposition
8. Grill your lawyer about the status of your case - repeatedly - four or five times in a single day. Even better, several times in the space of one hour.
9. Invent facts, both trivial and major. No one's going to notice.
10. Repeat #1.

Best Publisher Pages on Facebook

Best Publisher Pages on Facebook

Monday, August 2, 2010

Are there winners in custody cases?

The usual answer is "no".

Kids get so twisted up inside - pressure from both parents, pressure from other family members, pressures they face outside of the custody case (medical, psychiatric, school/learning, social issues, sex, drugs, etc.).   They act out, they get sick, their existing problems get worse.  Tons of studies discuss how the stress impacts kids for the rest of their lives.

Parents?  They have their lives swabbed  all over a gigantic microscope slide.  Pretty unpleasant.  I mean, who doesn't have something negative in their past or present?  And on top of the emotional and financial stress, they get to have their heads shrunk repeatedly, not just by their therapists, but by forensic mental health professionals for use in court.  Yeah, not fun.

Whatever the results, everyone's too burned out and too broke to do much except collapse after their cases end.

But let's look at this from another angle.  The earlier, more traditional - now passe - view.  Maybe there are winners.  Not all the time, but sometimes.

Like in the documented child abuse and neglect cases, of course.   Saving those kids from years of torment, well, that's a win for sure.  No argument there.

Then there are the "shades of misery" cases, where, as a lawyer for the kids in one of my cases put it a long time ago, being with one parent was like living in black-and-white while being with the other was like living in technicolor.  I'd say the vast majority of cases fall in this compartment. Tough to prove, but when the facts are finally pointing clearly in one direction and the kids end up with the technicolor parent), isn't that a "win"?

Now we get to the noisy, celebrity-choked gray zone of parental alienation claims.  Experts pop up everywhere on this one, from the solid  mental health pros who've been studying (and testifying about) this stuff for years, to the pissed-off parents whose latest  rants are making the circuit on the Internet.   Who knows who's really the alienator?  Okay, sometimes the answer's kinda obvious.  Not as often as you might  think, though. Sometimes it boils down to: Who's kept the voice mails?  Who retrieved the deleted parts of the hard drive?  Who's got the most damaging text message records?

But assuming one's worse than the other - and someone usually is far worse (seriously, is any warring parent totally innocent?) - the facts will eventually be revealed.  Hopefully, during the case.  And then, isn't getting the kids away from the mega-toxic parent a good thing?  A "win"?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Early hours

My first blog post ever.  I'm starting this blog to share my thoughts about divorce and custody wars, warriors and survivors.

Okay, I think an introduction's in order.  I did my time in two big law firms, starting off as a commercial litigator from a top-something law school.  I (almost literally) fell into matrimonial law when a good friend and colleague at firm #2 enlisted me to work on a large matrimonial case.  Yep, just like the bumper sticker says.

That was in the late '80's.  A few years later, I jumped ship, formed my own firm, and spent the next two decades of my career eyeballs-deep in the world of  matrimonial law.  Building my practice, raising a family, and unsuccessfully battling MS.  (Of course, I'm royally pissed about the MS but that, unfortunately, doesn't make it go away.)

In the course of two-plus decades, I've represented husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, the wealthy, the poor, the smart, the not-so-smart, arch-conservative and left-of-liberal. I've seen games played by both sides, one side, and neither side, of my cases.  Good judges and bad judges, indifferent judges and some (okay, a few) who really cared.  I've battled in court to the bitter end; settled before lawsuits ever were considered; handled pre-nups, post-nups, and collaborative (misnomer alert!!) divorces.  Pretty much been there, done that, and if I haven't, well, them's the breaks, right?

I did the usual stuff that all reasonably ambitious lawyers do - I wrote lots of professional articles, gave lectures, networked.  Became a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, an amazing group of some of the best matrimonial lawyers in the US.  I actually like a lot of people.  No, I'm not posting rah-rah, back-slapping, self-congratulatory crap - I know the flaws of the profession.  But I'm not into  "bitter lawyer" stuff, either.  I've been around enough toxic snarkiness in my time -- I don't need or want to add more to what's already out there.  And because I've been around a block or two, I'm not pro or con any group, or any gender. Not into father's rights, mother's rights - maybe because I'm still idealistic enough (after all these years) to believe in human rights.

I've turned writer.  Pure fiction - not fictionalized memoirs.  It's been hard, un-learning how to write like a lawyer ("just the facts, ma'am").  Practicing law for 25 years before shifting gears- how very un-Turowesque. (Yes, naturally I'm another of the gajillion Scott fans.  I went to law school fearing/dreaming about "One L".)  I've been studying the "craft" of writing for the past five years or so...sometimes with some pretty bizarre people in my writing classes.  I've had to re-learn the art of humility (I know- no sympathy out there for me on this one).  Gone to a bunch of writers' conferences and meetings, I subscribe to writer-friendly blogs (I'll be providing links), etc.  The whole nine yards.  I'll be posting excerpts of my work here from time to time.

Here's a  heads-up/disclaimer. This is NOT a legal advice or legal opinion blog, NOT a how-to blog, NOT a war stories blog.   If anyone wants to talk or bitch about their own divorce or custody case, I'm not dealing with it.  Like I said before, been there, done that. I'm not doing more of it online, believe me. Ain't happening.

So we'll see where it goes from here.