Tipper Gore and Al Gore announced in an email to friends that they are separating after 40 years of marriage.  They said they labored over the decision for a long time and reached a mutual agreement to live separately.  The reason given was that they had grown apart.

My wife and I have different pursuits.  She stays home with our children.  She is the president of the PTA.  She is working on a local political campaign.

I manage a busy law office and spend most days puzzling out how to untangle complex financial relationships between divorcing spouses.  Sometimes, while I am in the middle of a million dollar deal, and trying hard to concentrate on some troublesome aspect, my wife will call me.  The fish died, my son made the swim team, what was in that salad we had last week, and oh by the way we need milk.

Do I stop what I’m doing, take a deep breath and redirect my mind to her world?  You bet.

We are different, but we respect the differences, sometimes even finding humor in them.   We have different worlds but they intersect at home, family and raising our children.  We interact, communicate and participate.  Growing apart is a decision you make.  The opposite decision is staying together.

This is the second part of my experience as a lawyer hiring a lawyer.  Because I could never get through to my lawyer, I considered not paying his bills.  But Alan sent bills the same way he returned telephone calls, that is infrequently.

I only had a vague idea of what, if anything, I owed Alan.  I received bills in October, November and December.  However, once 2010 rolled around, I stopped receiving bills with any sort of regularity.  I’d walk to the mailbox slowly somewhere around the fifth of every month and heave a sigh whenever I opened the mailbox.  I wondered if this was the day that I’d be receiving a bill which reflected that Alan or someone in his office had actually worked on my case.

No bill in January and no return telephone call from Alan. No bill in February and no return telephone call from Alan.  And no bill or return telephone call from Alan in March, although I did receive a one-line email in March wishing me happy birthday.  Hurray! At least he hadn’t forgotten me completely and perhaps he actually worked on my case.

Finally, I received a bill in April.  The bill started with a carry-forward balance of $3,500.00 indicating that Alan or someone in his office had done some work on my case.  It was work that was not described in the bill and work that I knew nothing about!

As I looked at the detail of this bill more carefully, I saw something that left me flabbergasted.  Alan had billed me a tenth of an hour for e-mailing me birthday wishes!

(To be continued)

A four foot robot named “I-Fairy”  performed a wedding ceremony in Tokyo according to CBS News.  The bride was Satoko Inoue, 36, who works at Kokoro Co., the company that manufacturers the robot.  The husband was Tomohiro Shibata, 42, a professor of robotics in Japan.

There were 50 guests.  The human controller of the robot stood behind a curtain typing commands into a computer.

One has to wonder.  Can the robot divorce lawyer be far behind?

I was wondering the other day what it would be like to come into my office as a client.  Many people have sat across the desk from me in the client chairs looking to me to solve their legal problems.  What are they thinking?  I got a view from the client’s chair myself when I had to hire my own attorney recently in connection with my mother’s estate.  The experience was eye opening, to say the least.

I called my attorney no fewer than five times over the past five months and never received a return telephone call.  I’d call his office, only to be put in touch with his trusty assistant, Janice, who sitting directly outside of his office would tell me in her oh-so-caring voice, “I’ll see if he’s in,” and promptly put me on hold.  As far as I know, the lawyer didn’t have a trap door under his desk from which he could escape.  And he only had one door to his office and there was no side door so he couldn’t sneak out without Janice noticing him.

Inevitably, Janice would return to the telephone and provide any one of a number of reasons why my lawyer, was unable to come to the telephone.  Depending on the day, he was (a) in a meeting, (b) on the telephone, (c) on a telephone conference call, (d) at breakfast, (e) at lunch or (f) simply not available.  Interestingly, Janice would alternate reasons that Alan couldn’t take the call in the same order each time I called.  I always wondered whether she kept a running list of excuses and ticked them off as she took various telephone calls.

At first I thought up various excuses as to why he wasn’t returning my calls.  But the more excuses I made for him, the worse I felt about him and wondered what horror had beset my case.  And the longer I went without hearing from him, the more I wanted to do something about it, like maybe refusing to pay his bill.  To be continued.

Caroline fidgeted uncomfortably in the worn leather client chair in Art’s cluttered lawyer’s office.  “Why do we have to send him discovery anyway?”

“Well, the purpose of discovery is to avoid surprises at trial and encourage settlement,” replied Art making a steeple with his hands.  “For this reason, the scope of discovery, as set forth in MD Rule 2-402 is very broad.  We sent your husband written interrogatories and a request for documents, which are among the methods allowed by MD Rule 2-401.”

“But he hasn’t responded,” complained Caroline, brushing her dark blonde hair out of her eyes, as she reached into her purse for a cigarette and lighter.

Art silently decided not to tell his client it was a non-smoking building.  He pushed his half empty cup toward her for an ashtray.  It was cold anyway, he thought to himself.  “Yes,” he said.  “But he has 30 days, plus 3 since discovery was mailed, to either answer, object or file a motion for a protective order under MD Rule 2-403.”

“What if he doesn’t give us all we asked for?”  Caroline blew a long puff of smoke into the atmosphere of Art’s office, which was crowded with knicknacks, bric-a-bracs, bibolots, and memorabilia from past cases,  accumulated over his long career.

Art took off his silver, wire framed glasses and began to clean them with his handkerchief.  “If he fails to respond sufficiently, then I must first make good faith attempts to settle the discovery dispute with his counsel under MD Rule 2-431.  If that doesn’t work, I file a motion for an order compelling discovery under MD Rule 2-432.  If he still doesn’t respond, then I can ask for sanctions or ask for a contempt order under MD Rule 2-433.  And if he doesn’t respond at all, I can skip the order compelling discovery and ask for immediate sanctions under MD Rule 2-433.”

“And what are sanctions?” asked Caroline arching her eyebrows that looked like the tops of two question marks.

“The court can strike his pleadings, prohibit him from testifying, keep him from offering exhibits or witnesses or proof of anything that would contradict your claims or support his claims, and order him to pay your legal fees for his failure to comply with discovery.”

“Good, I like that,” said Caroline, tossing the last of her lit cigarette, as though she wished it was her soon to be ex-husband, in Art’s coffee cup where it sizzled as she walked out of his office.

“My husband and I have not been intimate for over a year,” Louise, an unhappily married woman tells Joe, a Maryland divorce lawyer, “and I want a divorce.”

“OK, any other woman in his life?” inquires Joe.

“No.”

“Hmmm, any domestic violence or threats?”

“No.”

“Then you’re going to have to move out of the house for a year before you can file a divorce complaint,” says Joe trying to push the box of tissues across his desk toward Louise unobtrusively.

“But we can’t afford that,” cries Louise reaching for the tissues, “There must be another way.”

Neighboring jurisdictions, DC and Virginia permit parties to be separated while living in the same house, but not Maryland.  In Maryland, spouses are required to live separate and apart under different roofs for one year if the both agree, and two years if they don’t.  This waiting period must occur before they can even file for divorce.  And the divorce might take a year or longer after that.  These are the no fault grounds.  Adultery and cruelty have no waiting period.

The purpose of this waiting period is to favor marriage over divorce and make sure the parties really, really want to be divorced and not married.  After all, sometimes people change their minds.  But the recession has forced many couples to live together in misery because they cannot afford to separate.

So Montgomery County Delegate Luiz Simmons, an attorney, will support legislation this year to add a new grounds for divorce in Maryland, according to this morning’s Frederick News Post.  If this law passes, couples who go a year without sex would be able to file for divorce.

How to Protect Your Fathers’s Rights and Mother’s Rights at a Deposition

A deposition is part of the discovery process in a custody trial.  Your spouse’s lawyer gets to ask you a lot of questions, some rude or embarrassing, at his or her office, in front of a stenographer who is taking everything down to be used against you at trial.  You are in the hot seat and it may take all day.

The lawyer has usually done this hundreds of times and knows a lot of tricks, trips and traps.  And the lawyer gets to ask the questions.  You have to answer them.

Here is the number one thing I tell my clients before their deposition.  Repeat the question in the form of a declaration, pause, and finish the sentence.  Put a period at the end of it and then stop talking.  Wait for the next question.

So the lawyer asks, “Where were you on the night of August the 7th of this year?”

You say, “On August the 7th of this year…I was at work.”

This approach has several benefits.  It gives you time to think.  It keeps you focused on the question asked.  It keeps you from talking too much.  It keeps you from guessing.  It keeps you calm.  And it might keep you from saying something that can be used against you at trial.

Uncontested divorces in Maryland are heard by a Family Law Master.  The Plaintiff needs to appear in court to testify.  The Defendant need only appear if it is what he or she wants to do.  Here’s a checklist of things you need for an uncontested divorce hearing:

  • Report of Absolute Divorce or Annulment of Marriage (the Blue Form)
  • Separation Agreement
  • A Copy of Your Marriage Certificate
  • Child Support Guidelines Worksheet
  • Corroborating Witness and Witness Information Form
  • Submission to Judgment

A Chicago divorce attorney decided to review our father’s rights book. It did not go as she had planned.

“Thus, it was with a smirk that I picked up the book titled Father’s Rights by James J. Gross. I intended to flip through it, roll my eyes and pity the poor father who would take such a BS book seriously.”

That’s from Chicago divorce lawyer, Marie Fahnert, at JustDivorceBlog.Com.

But, after reading the book, she says in her three part review, “To my surprise the book is very good!”