Kline couldn’t sleep past 5 am.  So he was the first one in his law office Monday morning.  He flipped on the lights and started checking email.  Among the dozens of pitches from salespeople and scam artists, one from a young lady named Kerry caught his attention.  “My husband left me on Friday,” she said.  “He called me today and said he would like to get back together but his parents ae against it and they want him to divorce me.  Can he do that legally?”

Kline leaned back in this chair and looked at the ceiling.  “No,” he said.  “You have to state your grounds for divorce in your complaint.  Grounds are reasons for divorce.  They are listed in the law.  Parents don’t like me is not on the list.”

“What’s on the list?” Kerry asked.

“For Maryland?”

“Yes.”

Kline recited the list:

  • One Year Separation
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Conviction of a Felony or Misdemeanor
  • Insanity
  • Cruelty
  • Excessively Vicious Conduct
  • Mutual Consent

“Wow.  Thanks,” said Kerry.  “Now I’ll be able to sleep.”  Kline was wide awake as he filed her email under “Prospective Clients”.

Damage

by Rachel Wammack

I’m a bartender
Best friend pretender
I make drinks to help forget and help remember
Beautiful humans
I am a student
And I’ve seen it from all sides winning and losing

Oh, love can do
Love can do
Love can do some damage

She was his first wife
She was his whole life
He whispers through the whiskey that I’ve got her eyes
And then the others
The cancer, the mother
And the prodigal just trying to find some shelter

Oh, love can do
Love can do
Love can do some damage
Oh, love can do
Love can do
Love can do some damage

I listen and I smile
The breaking up to making up to walking down the aisle
We try to manage
From the cradle to the grave
Getting lost and getting saved
Love’s always been the same in any language

I’m a bartender
If you came in here
I’d pretend that I’ve forgotten to remember
All of the beauty
Beautiful ruins
And tonight I’ll make a toast to me and you and

And all that love can do
Love can do
Love can do some damage
Oh, all that love can do
I still love you
And love can do some damage
Oh, some damage

When my kids were growing up, we had an inside joke.  Whenever I corrected their grammar or slang, I told them to speak the King’s English.

In today’s news, I hear of Trump’s lawyer profanely chewing out a reporter, Samantha Bee apologizing for calling the President’s daughter a profane name, and Roseanne Barr sending a racist tweet.

It  recalls to me one of J.W. McElhaney’s columns on trial practice.  When opposing counsel insults you in the courtroom, an inner voice rises inside you.  He called the inner voice Mongo.  It said, “Mongo kill!”

McElhaney would reply back to his inner voice, “Down, Mongo.”   Then he would calmly present his argument to the judge, in the King’s English, of course.

The tall beauty strode into my shabby downtown office like she owned the place.  I wasn’t complaining.  She had booked a half hour consult and my rent was due.

Her voice was sultry with a foreign accent.  “My husband is behaving strangely.  We never talk anymore.  He is always tweeting on his cell phone or watching Fox News.  We lead separate lives.  It’s like we are roommates.  What do you think it could be?”

Divorce lawyers are the repository of cynicism in the world.  I broke it to her gently.  “The French have an idiom.  Cherchez la femme.  It means, ‘Look for the woman’.”

Her eyes started to tear up as I handed her the box of tissues.  A gesture I had repeated hundreds of times in this office.

I read that 42% of Republicans believe President Trump has been faithful to his wife.  I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that none of them were divorce lawyers.

I could see this case calling for stormy weather and a big retainer.

 

 

“You’ve got the facts in each paragraph but nothing is tying them together,” said my boss.  “You are missing the connections.”

My first lesson in legal writing came fast after law school.  The assignment was to write a report for the Federal Communications Commission.  I learned the value of connecting words and phrases that make your writing flow and carry the readers along so they are nodding their heads in agreement by the end.

It was about that time that I read The Magus by John Fowles, in which the protagonist discovers that he has been looking at life as a series of events, like mountaintops.  But his girlfriend sees the relationships between the events.  She sees not only the mountaintops, but the valleys that connect them.

Facts are powerful mountaintops.  We all like to think we weigh the facts and make rational decisions.  But relationships between the facts may be even more powerful.  Our decisions may be based on subconscious connections that we are unaware of.

One of the things I like about our law firm is that we have people who see the mountaintops and people who see the valleys between.  That is some of our lawyers see the facts clearly and others see the relationships.

We joke about it and say we have a Partner in Charge of Feelings.  But when you are dealing with emotionally charged issues like divorce, children, betrayal, and money, feelings can be the driving force.   So by all means, get the facts.  But don’t forget the connections.

 

 

When I was ready to hire the first employee for my law firm, if you had asked me what I was looking for in an employee, I would have told you “Why, someone just like me.”

What a mistake that would have been.  Can you imagine two headstrong, stubborn attorneys, full iof themselves, arguing and debating all day long?

When I was  younger, and before my enlightenment, I knew I was always right.   People who didn’t think the way I thought were simply wrong.  Now I see the value in having partners who each view things a little differently than me.  For example, in a divorce, I might decide no child custody evaluation is needed.  One of my partners, a litigator, might say we need the evaluation in order to get the child’s preference into evidence at trial.

People make a similar mistake when looking for a spouse.  They look for someone like themselves.  First, no one will be exactly like you.  There will always be different agendas and your thinking will not always sync.  You can try to control the situation and persuade your spouse that your view is the correct one.  I guarantee that will not be a successful relationship strategy.

The enlightened approach is ‘viva la difference”.  Enjoy and embrace the fact that your spouse thinks differently than you.  That is what makes life interesting, richer and joyful.

 

 

 

“Why don’t men want to go to therapy?” my wife asked me as we rode to work together.  Shes works in an office three blocks away from mine.

“John Grey, in Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus,” I told her, “says that women solve their problems cooperatively with friends, while men solve their problems alone.  To ask for help would be a sign of weakness in a man.”

“That’s idiotic,” she retorted.  “We are all on the same planet, which is Earth.”

“Yes, but we have evolved differently.”  Rob Becker in Defending the Caveman says that prehistoric women would gather spices, fruits and vegetables, and had to communicate and trade information with one another.  Prehistoric men, on the other hand, had to be silent while stalking the woolly mammoths.

“If women have a better idea,” said my wife, “men ought to try it.”

“Men are not  just women in men’s clothing,” I replied, “They are different.”

When I got to my office, my first appointment was in the waiting room.   I escorted her to my office.  “What seems to be the problem?” I asked.

“My husband doesn’t want to go to therapy.”

“Hubby, you know where I am, why don’t you visit me?” wrote Ms. Lin to her husband online.  She had moved out of his home because his family was unfriendly to her.

“I got into a car accident, I’m in the ICU!”

“Hubby, I’m in the hospital ward.”

“Hubby, why do you keep reading my messages but not replying?”

“Hubby, is it necessary for things to become so cold between husband and wife?”

“Hubby, are you just going to be so ruthless and not ask me anything?”

“Hubby, why do you treat me like this?”

There was no reply.  When Ms. Line recovered, she filed for divorce, and presented the messages to the judge.  The judge said that failing to respond to the messages showed the state of the marriage and the foundations of the union had fallen apart.  He agreed with Ms. Lin that it was heartless of her husband to read her messages without replying, and granted her a divorce.

When we were boys, my pal, Jerry, and I built a motorcycle one night. Somehow Jerry had gotten his hands on a motorcycle.  But it was in pieces scattered on the floor of his room. There were no instructions. Only a frame, a motor, gears, cables and hundreds of nuts and bolts. We had screwdrivers and wrenches. And we were young and insane with the possibilities of where that motorcycle could take us if we got it working.

We worked all night on that machine. We built it wrong, tore it down, bolt by bolt, and started over many times that night. We probably built a dozen motorcycles before we got it right.

By morning, we had a motorcycle. It didn’t look like much, but to us it was worth its weight in gold. We took it out for a test drive. That’s when we discovered a major design flaw. At the first stop sign, you had to disengage the clutch with one foot, and press the brake with the other foot at the same time, so there was no foot to put on the ground and hold the contraption upright.

That motorcycle taught me a lot about problem solving.  You have to keep working on it, all night long, if necessary.  This requires patience and persistence, focus and concentration.  You may have to tear down the solution and rebuild it several times to get it right.  Even then you may have to go back to the drawing board in the morning.  I’ve lost many night’s sleep solving chemical engineering problems, briefing cases in law school, and studying tax law. And now I’m solving problems in marriages, divorces and separations.  It’s as complicated as building a motorcycle.