”Fairly new attorney although in her 30’s. Used to be a  paralegal and decided to become a lawyer. Teaches paralegal classes at the community college.” Holt proclaimed to me. “She’ll learn. She just needs some seasoning.”

“You deduced that from the phone call?” I asked.

“No, I Googled her.”

Holt started flipping through the case file on his desk. “Where the devil did she get the husband’s income? I don’t remember giving it to her. Ah, here it is. It’s in his tax return. But she used his 2019 return and she did not deduct his $57,000 in business expenses.”

The next day, Holt scanned and emailed the husband’s documents to Moriarty with a request that she send reciprocal documents from her client. Moriarty said she would.

Instead she sent a draft Consent Order under which the husband would pay the wife’s living expenses plus insurance until the trial. She said that since the husband had not provided any proof of assets before the marriage, the wife was asking for half of everything.

She declared this was her last offer and that the husband could either sign it by the end of the week, or she would, as they say, see him in court.  She added that she now doubted a settlement could be reached after the last telephone call.

I watched as Holt attacked his computer keyboard  like a mad piano player with fingers flying in all  directions at once.

Draft No. 1: Dear Professor Moriarty:  You never asked for statements prior to the marriage. They are not the subject of our discussion. Besides, your client is well aware that mine did not come to the marriage penniless.

“No, strike that.”  He started again.

Draft No. 2:  Professor Moriarty: Responding only to those parts of yours that move the case forward…

“No, I will rephrase.”

Draft No. 3: Professor Moriarty: Attached you will find statements from my client’s accounts which predate the marriage. I cannot advise my client regarding your alimony proposal until I receive your client’s tax returns and therefore am unable to meet your deadline. Sincerely yours, Sterling Holt

I have always admired the way Holt’s brilliant is somewhat eccentric mind works as draft by draft he drained blame, ego and drama from his reply, leaving his correspondence lean and business-like. His writing was concise and clear in its purpose.

I caught up with Holt at his office at 221B Billiard Street, where his secretary, Ms. Hobson said he was expecting me. The office was well-appointed in a traditional style with leather, brass and mahogany accoutrements. There were Jade treasures from the Orient hidden among the books behind the glass and wood of his bookcase. The red and blue rug was from Tibet. The chess set was ready for the first move.

I sank into one of the two wingback client chairs as Holt spoke on the phone and typed on his computer at same time.

“It seems my new client’s marriage to the daughter of a well-known politician is not working out.” Holt had the habit of starting his sentences halfway through his thoughts. Which was why he needed me perhaps, to untangle the story.

Holt had just been hired, by email and telephone exchanges, to represent a Mr. LeStrange, successful investment advisor, in a divorce. The marriage had lasted three years and while  there were no children, there were allegations of a mistress. The wife wanted 110% of the husband’s income and assets, although she would settle for half her monthly livi expenses and half of the assets.

Holt rang up; the opposing counsel, one Marion Moriarty. “This is Holt.” he said.  “I’m representing LeStrange.  Just calling to introduce myself and see if it is possible to settle this case.”

“Yes, it is possible although your client is an adulterer and abandoned my client and has paid none of her expenses since deserting the family home.  I’ll need copies of the husband’s tax return and statements for his bank, stock and retirement accounts.”

She also requested that the husband indicate his good faith by paying for the wife’s expenses, while the parties negotiated a final settlement. Her expenses included country club dues, gym membership, manicures, and clothing.

“How did you arrive at the temporary alimony amount?” Holt inquired.

“I used the guidelines.” responded Moriarty.

“And what incomes did you use?” asked Holt.

“$150,000 for the husband, and $40,000 for the wife.”

“And where did you get the husband’s income?” Holt asked her.

“You gave it to me.”

“And the wife’s income?”

“That’s her 2020 income for the year to date.” said Moriarty.

“So you used $80,00 for the wife’s income for the whole year?”

“Yes, of course.”

Holt raised an eyebrow. “Temporary support is for necessities, not country club dues,” he said.

Moriarty replied. “I’ve written articles about this. The judge will maintain the status quo.”

Holt rejoined, “The person who cites herself never lacks for authority.”

Moriarty hung up and the line went dead.

An Honest Lawyer Works HereIt is not a compliment to say a lawyer has a “sharp practice.” It does not mean that he is the sharpest pencil in the drawer or that he is well-dressed.

I first heard that term when I clerked for the public defender during my final year of law school. I asked the public defender what it meant. He told me it was a lawyer that took short cuts and could not be trusted. You needed to get everything from him in writing because he was not as good as his word.

Webster’s Dictionary defines A “sharp practice” as a “dealing in which advantage is taken or sought unscrupulously.”

Occasionally a divorce client will hire me thinking that I will help them take advantage of their spouse. They want me to find a loophole or a way to keep more than their share of assets or income. Like the President, they are looking for their Roy Cohn.

Upon entering my office you will see a sign from The Honest Lawyer Pub in England. Take note. If you are looking for your Roy Cohn, he is not at this address.

The dog ate my homework.“The court discourages requests to postpone court events.”  — Family Law Manual, Circuit Court for Howard County, Maryland  

It is the policy for the court to provide timely justice for the citizens of Maryland, so getting a postponement in your divorce case is not easy. All requests for postponements have to be by motion, in writing, and state good cause for postponement.

Not Good Cause

The court does not usually consider the following as a good cause for postponement:

  • Counsel or parties agree to postpone.
  • The case has not previously been postponed.
  • Discovery has not been completed.
  • A party wants to hire, or has hired, new counsel.
  • Unavailability of a witness who has not been subpoenaed.
  • Party or counsel is not prepared to try the case.
  • Any postponement beyond a second trial date.

Good Causes for Postponement

  • Sudden death or medical emergency.
  • A party did not receive notice of a hearing date.
  • Facts becoming apparent too late for correction that would create undue hardship or a miscarriage of justice.
  • Unanticipated unavailability of a subpoenaed material witness.
  • Illness or family emergency of counsel.

A move about divorce lawIf you are getting divorced or thinking about divorce, you must see the Netflix movie, “Marriage Story”.  My son saw it and asked if divorce law was really like the movie.

So I decided to watch it. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver fall in love, get married and have a son together. Inevitably, different agendas and unwritten agreements bring marital discord. They agree to settle their differences amicably without lawyers.

Send in the Divorce Lawyers

The Wife’s Lawyer

The wife hires a divorce lawyer played by Laura Dern. Dern (who reminds me of two or three lawyers I have had cases against) is all sympathy as she listens to the wife’s story. She sits down next to her on the couch in her well-appointed office.  At the end of the interview, the wife is crying and the lawyer hugs her. The wife says, “and he is having an affair.” The lawyer says, “That bastard!”

The Husband’s Lawyer

The wife’s lawyer files for divorce so the husband has to find his lawyer. The first one he tries to hire is conflicted out because the wife consulted him.  The husband finds that the wife has consulted all the top divorce lawyers in town. The husband hires Alan Alda (who is playing me), a divorce lawyer with a heart. Alda tells the husband that trial is the last resort, but they are unable to settle and the husband hires another lawyer, played by Ray Liotta, to try the case.

Legal Fees

All the lawyers get the legal fees. The wife’s lawyer charges $900 an hour and requires a $10,000 retainer up front. Alda informs the husband that he will probably have to pay some of the wife’s legal fees as well.

The Divorce

Once the lawyers take over, the gloves come off, and they start talking about the wife’s drinking and the husband’s infidelity.

The Custody Evaluation

The custody evaluator is a hoot. You can feel the discomfort building as she observes the husband and son interacting together at dad’s apartment.  By the end of the scene, you know that dad is going to get an unfavorable report.

My Evaluation

“Yes,” I told my son. “That’s what divorce is really like.”

 

 

 

 

The residents of Bhopal, India were suffering through a drought this summer. In desperation, they sought to appease Lord Indra, the Hindu God of Rains. The only way to do this was to hold a special marriage ceremony. It was special because the bride and groom were frogs.

The frogs were married on July 19. It began to rain. And it rained and rained. It is still raining two months later. Bhopal has received 26 percent more rainfall than normal. Rain in Bhopal on Sunday almost broke a 13-year-old record of most rain recorded in a city.

Bhopal has recorded 48 mm of heavy rain in the last two hours. The city’s lower sections flooded. Officials released three gates at Bhopal Kaliyasot Dam, Bhadbhada Dam, and Kolar to release the water and prevent the dams from breaking.

There was only one thing left to do to stop the rain. The frogs had to be divorced. During the divorce proceedings, mantras were chanted and the frogs were separated. The people of Bhopal hope the frog divorce will bring them relief from the rain.

Who had more wives, Larry King or King Henry VIII?

King Henry VIII had six wives whose fate is memorialized in this rhyme:

DIVORCED, BEHEADED, DIED

DIVORCED, BEHEADED, SURVIVED.

Larry King has had seven wives.

Divorce lawyer and mediator Ron Ousky has created a set of conversation cards to help you stay married.

Ousky got the idea from listening to his divorce clients and wishing he could turn back the clock and get them talking to each other.  He says that as kids, jobs, in-laws and money stresses begin to take up all the conversation time in a marriage, couples grow apart.

His cards prompt couples to talk about ideas that keep couples connected, like gratitude, mistakes, forgiveness, and how we express love and want to be loved. The idea is that these topics will help you stay married.

As for a divorce lawyer promoting marriage, Ousky says it is not that unusual. Divorce lawyers want to help people in distress just like doctors want people to be healthy. And, he notes, there will always be enough conflict to keep divorce lawyers busy.

Here are some secrets that divorce lawyers hope you’ll never find out.  Because if you did, they might go out of business.

“Arguing and getting angry, never works.  Understanding and loving, always works. – Notes from the Universe.”

“May your case be decided by a piece of paper that flies through an open window at the courthouse on the day of trial.”  – Unknown.

“He came to court seeking justice.  That was his mistake.’ – Unknown.

“May you have a lawsuit in which you know you are right.” – Ancient Chinese Curse.

“We pay judges to make decisions, not to be right.” – Unknown.

“The secret to the success of my marriage is that I’m hard of hearing and have a short memory.” — Anonymous

 

Redesigning the courtroom for a better divorce

Cincinnati Judge Amy Searcy is redesigning the courtroom for better divorce proceedings. She wants better outcomes for families going through the divorce process.

Courtrooms are pretty intimidating places. The walls are wood-paneled. The ceilings are high. The judge sits higher than everyone else behind the bench. It is a solemn and somber décor evoking the majesty of the law.

It is set up for a civilized form of combat. As Judge Searcy sees it,”I wasn’t here very long before I started to realize that the way the courtrooms were set up, it was almost like a battleground. There is a plaintiff and a defendant’s table so it’s me versus her, me versus him.”

A More Relaxed Courtroom Environment for Divorce Hearings

So Judge Searcy decided to remodel her courtroom, using her own money, to make it a more relaxed environment for divorce hearings. She replaced the plaintiff and defendant tables with an oval conference table.

Now the parties sit next to each other at the same table facing the judge with the attorneys on either end. She also hung large pictures of area parks and put a sign on the wall that says “Best Interest of the Child.”

“We want you to be successful,” she said. “We want your children to be successful.”