Monday, May 20, 2013

When I Say I'm A Divorce Lawyer

Gloves off.

These are the reactions I get when I tell people I'm a divorce lawyer:

1. Shudders and disdain: Usually that's the response from my corporate brethren and sistern, you know, the tax lawyers, commercial litigators, mergers & acquisitions specialists, intellectual property gurus -- virtually all lawyers except personal injury and criminal lawyers. Because their rep (that of the PI and criminal bar) is as bad as ours, maybe worse. They get down and dirty, too, just like we do: Sex, drugs, violence...  : )

2. Pity: Usually from the corporate crew. Because they assume divorce lawyers are too stupid to go into the more high-falutin' areas of the law. Revealing I'm a Georgetown Law alum, and a former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius lawyer, usually shuts that one down fairly quickly. Along with asking the M&A lawyer if s/he knows what a QDRO is. See, most other specialities don't realize that matrimonial law requires a breadth of knowledge. In order to be any good at it, we need to know a lot about contracts, tax, real property, pensions, and estate law. As well as how to get down and dirty, of course. ; )

3. Requests for advice: Because everybody has either had a divorce, or post-divorce issues, or their brother or sister or cousin or best friend is in a pickle. And I'm, like, do I really want to give free advice on a case I know absolutely nothing about, second-guessing the lawyers in the trenches? On the other hand, can I stop myself from butting in and pontificating? Sigh.

4. TMI: That's short for 'too much information.'  A whoosh of disclosures about the person's personal life comes flying at me. It's as if I were sitting next to a stranger on a plane who has to unload on somebody and that somebody is lucky me. It usually takes me a good fifteen minutes to extricate myself. I don't want to be rude, ya know? And the thing is, the person is usually not a stranger. So repeat encounters and additional disclosures are likely. I learned a long time ago: It comes with the territory.

5. Hostility: Okay, I saved this for last because it crosses age, gender, religion, race, occupation and socio-economics. And how can I respond when I'm barraged with what creeps divorce lawyers are?How we should be ejected from the planet, or banished to the swamps of Borneo without mosquito nets? I AGREE. Because if it weren't for the damn dabblers out there - the lawyers who toss 'divorce' on their list of practice areas (along with traffic tickets, wills, worker's comp, accidents, house closings, bankruptcy and criminal defense) on their website or on those paper placements in the local diner - the world would be a better place. My internist shouldn't attempt brain surgery. Not that divorce lawyers are the equivalent of neurosurgeons, but you get my drift. Dabblers make me soooo mad. Grrrr.

Being a divorce lawyer was my choice. No one forced me into it, and honestly? It has had more than its fair share of stressors and hassles.

But it has also been intensely gratifying. Like helping someone move on with his/her life to a far more positive place; getting kids to live with the parent who is providing them with a stable, safe home and learning, years later, that the kids are now successful and happy adults; unraveling the mess in someone's life efficiently and with a minimum of anger; cleaning up a post-divorce disaster so there's no room for future uncertainty; closing a deal that provides financial security and logical parenting arrangements in a nice, tight  agreement...

Granted, the good moments occur less frequently than the grueling ones, but when they do? Ain't nothin' like it.


  1. Not all feel this way about Family Law Attorney's...I have been grateful and realistic for and about their assistance. The process is unpleasant truth be told...and for some, especially those divorcing narcissists or sociopaths, long drawn out, painful and expensive affairs...but without the assistance many of us would never see our kids or worse. My own attorney's (it took a team) ensured that my children have a parent, a father and someone else they can turn too...they also kept me out of jail on false charges and guided us through two custody evaluations. I for one will forever be grateful. Divorcing these types are especially difficult to do pro se.

    1. Hi Pierce,

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      I dare say, you must've had a rough time of things during your divorce. Often, having been gone through a meat-grinder case like yours, the parties take out their pain on their lawyers, instead of viewing them - as you do - as the ones who helped them achieve (or avoid) results.

      Of course, when the results are not what the client expected - in a bad way - the lawyer is usually the first to blame. Sometimes rightfully so, but often the parties fail to look in the mirror and accept, or at least share, responsibility.

  2. Dissolving a marriage is a legally complicated process. There is alimony and property division to consider, and child custody agreements to be negotiated. A divorce lawyer can be your ally and advocate, dealing with the legal details while helping you come to a mutually agreeable settlement with your spouse.

    1. Yes, Colorado, I agree. But I have a bee in my bonnet for dabblers who pretend to be divorce lawyers and then louse up the details to dismaying levels. Dabblers are what I think are largely responsible for our lousy rep.

  3. Hi Terri,

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  4. Thanks Mark, for commenting. I'm not sure I totally agree with divorce being the MOST straightforward, but it generally will move people forward with their lives, even if it wasn't a push ahead that they wanted, planned or expected.