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Most mornings before the courthouse opened, all the lawyers and judges could be found at the Silver Spoon Diner.  Although they would soon be battling it out, there was a convivial atmosphere in the diner, among the clink of dishes and the babble of discourse.

Judge Cullen sat across the booth from attorney Clark.  Clark took some papers out of his briefcase.  “What would you do in this case?” Clark asked the judge.  “I’ve got paystubs that say the husband pays $300 a month for health insurance and a year end statement that says he paid $5,000.  Which one should I use for the child support guidelines?  Should I just use the one most favorable to my client?  Or prepare two guidelines and let the court decide?”

Judge Cullen blew on his coffee to cool it, then opined “Get the facts first.”

“What do you mean?” asked Clark, taking a bite out of his blueberry muffin.

“Does the husband have an attorney?” Judge Cullen inquired.

“Yes,” answered Clark.

“Then call the attorney and ask why there is a discrepancy in the health insurance premiums on the pay statements.”

Clark reached for his cell phone inside his suit jacket which was on a hook attached to the booth.  He dialed the number and had a brief convesation over the din of the diner.

“Well?” said the judge.

“He says the husband took her off his health insurance after the first few months of the year so the premiums went down.”

“Mystery solved,” said the judge, handing the bill for his coffee to Clark.

 

 

 

Lois Finkelstein and Michael Callahan will present a seminar on Divorce Law at 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Thursday, March 16, 2017.  The seminar will be presented at 27 West Jefferson Street, Rockville, Maryland.  There is a charge of $10.  It is part of Divorce 101, a series of seminars on Thursday nights this Spring.

Greta Van Susteren has an idea for breaking the political deadlock in Congress.  She writes that every day of the year divorce lawyers sit down with warring spouses (who HATE each other) and manage to hammer out agreements.

She says it is not that hard to get people to work out solutions. All it takes is effort and perseverance.  She says divorce lawyers can do it so why can’t politicians.

Van Suteren’s message to Congress?  “Get to work!  Sit down and talk…figure it out!”  Maybe we should send some divorce lawyers to help Congress figure it out.

 

 

 

Should gender play a role in deciding to hire a divorce attorney?  If you are a woman, do you want a male or female attorney and vice versa?  Does it make a difference if the judge in your case is male or female?

I like to have both in my law firm because I do believe men and women think differently.  As one women lawyer told me, men think like a ladder, women think like a wheel.  When you get different perspectives on problems, that can lead to better  solutions.

Today, women make up 50% of law school classes.  There were only five women in my law school class of 200.  Of those five, one became the chief judge of the highest court in the state and another became secretary of the state.

I remember a female attorney and I were in a meeting with a prospective female client once.  I am usually pretty laid back.  I try not to make promises I can’t keep.  I prefer to underpromise and overperform.  That way I can be the hero if the case happens to go my way.  The women attorney, however, was full of energy.  She was shocked that the woman’s husband treated her badly and she promised to hit him where it hurts (his wallet).  Naturally, after the meeting, the client said, “I want her to be my lawyer.”

To answer my first question, I think it is more important to get a good lawyer than a lawyer of a specific gender.  By good lawyer, I mean one who can attack their work for your case, meet deadlines, and return your calls.  Some good lawyers are men and some are women.

By Jill H. Breslau

Divorce lawyers sometimes finds themselves being part time social workers in dealing with the problems in family law.  Harvard Medical School is having a series of programs for psychologists, but the titles remind me of issues that family lawyers deal with daily.

1.  What’s Love Got to Do with It?: Updates on the Neurobiology of Attraction and Attachment. What? Love is just about the brain? And it causes so much suffering?  Divorce lawyers frequently have to deal with the underlying mystery in intimate relationships.

2.  Sex, Sexuality, and Sex Therapy: Female and Male Perspectives. Divorce lawyers, especially in “fault” jurisdictions (like Maryland, Virginia and DC), have to learn more about your sex life than is comfortable for anyone.

3.  Working with Couples Around Financial Issues. Interesting to consider this occurring during a marriage rather than at the end.

4.  Domestic Violence: Challenges and Opportunities for Intervention. Sadly, people in abusive relationships tend to forget what behaviors are acceptable and where to draw the line. Violent relationships tend to get worse without intervention. Yet people are often so ashamed that they don’t even tell their lawyers about it.

5.  Behavioral Therapy for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. When the client tells us about a spouse who is using drugs or abusing alcohol, do we go full speed ahead with the divorce? Or do we have resources to provide  information about the possibilities of rehabilitation, so the client can better assess his or her options?

6.  Stepfamilies: Ways to Live with Each Other. We talk about “blended” families, but divorce lawyers often see them as more like oil and water that don’t mix.

7.  Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Partners. Getting a divorce doesn’t change your difficult partner into a reasonable person.  If you have children, you still have to deal with them.

8.  Understanding High Conflict and Emotionally Distant Couples. While the traditional divorce lawyer may be able to avoid understanding these folks, a mediator, collaborative professional, or parenting coordinator could  benefit from knowing what drives high conflict and what creates emotional distance.  Both of these factors make shared decision-making during and after divorce a real challenge.

Divorce lawyers are not psychotherapists, but they need to know something about psychology and human behavior to be successful working with people going through a divorce.

Words are the tools of a lawyer.  Words can be used to persuade and convince.  Words can be used to build relationships or harm relationships.

Discounting is the label I give to words that harm relationships.  It means you show by your words you do not respect the other person or their opinions and beliefs.  In fact you disrespect them and have contempt for them.

You can listen to, and acknowledge, an opposing point of view without agreeing to it.  Or you can discount it.  Here is an example of discounting in a letter I received from an opposing counsel in a divorce case recently.

“Jim:  This needs to stop. You are doing a disservice to your client. This is beyond ridiculous. If your client would stop this nonsense, sign the agreement I sent last night she would get a check the next day and this would be done.  Instead, you are making changes that make no sense, conflict with each other and costing my client (not to mention yours) unnecessary fees.  I will be tied up all day Monday and will be leaving the office early, out of the office on Tuesday and am leaving at 5:30 today and have deadlines I have to meet before then.”

Divorce lawyers have to develop a fairly thick skin in the heated exchanges of a litigation practice.  But do you really think that a letter like this ever persuades anyone to do what you want them to do?  Our response was to file suit.  Discounting never works.  As the Good Book says, A kind word turneth away wrath.

Scientists have found a gene they say is linked to an increased risk of breakdown in relationships, according to an article in the Telegraph by Roger Highfield today.

The researchers found that men with one version of a gene – called the “334” version, or allele, had low scores on a Patnership Bonding Test and were less likely to be married or reported having marital difficulties.

“Women married to men who carry one or two copies of (the gene) were, on average, less satisfied with their relationship than women married to men who didn’t carry it,” said Hasse Walum, one of the scientists.

The discovery, reports Highfield,  raises the highly speculative possibility that scientists could one day develop drugs to target the gene in an attempt to prevent marriages from falling apart.

And if that happens, divorce lawyers will need to find another line of work.