SAGE ADVICE:

WHAT YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER WANTS YOU TO KNOW BUT WOULD NEVER TELL YOU TO YOUR FACE

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By Vicki L. Shemin, J.D., LICSW, ACSW

In this season of joy and good tidings, it is easy to overlook those families whose lives are forever changed because of divorce. The traditions of the holiday meal and of opening presents is replaced by bruising brawls about where the children will be spending their holiday time and which parent will “win” and which parent will “lose” Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Winter vacation, and New Year’s Eve. Although these holidays are emblematic of the season, these fights replicate throughout the year in one way, shape, or form to birthdays, graduations, and even who gets to be on the soccer field.

I polled 7 of Boston’s top divorce lawyers and asked them a simple question: “What would you like to be able to say to your clients but never would”? Under promise of anonymity, here are their blunt and unadulterated answers.

·        “Unless you have a degree in psychology, I don’t want to hear that your spouse is a narcissistic sociopath with borderline personality disorder who gaslights you.”

·        “S/he’s moved on. It’s hard to see now, but you are going to move on. Stop being a jerk. And, really? You’re blaming me for your high legal fees? If you would stop being so irrationally and insanely ridiculous, and let me do my job properly, I could settle this for you in a week. Moreover, the judge disdains you and the court staff roll their eyes when they see you are on the docket and look at the size of your file. You do not have a hard case. You have a personality which makes everything impossible. Yeah – I get why s/he is divorcing you.”

·        “I was once naïve enough to take on a client who said, ‘Are you taking new clients?’ I said, ‘Yes, I am.’  She said, ‘Thank G-d, because the last 3 I spoke to said they weren’t taking new cases.’ Yeah….I learned my lesson. So, if a divorce lawyer tells you they’re not taking new clients, it’s more likely than not that they have detected something about your case, your history or your personality they either don’t like or don’t want to deal with – no matter how much you’re willing to pay them!”

·       A renowned Judge used to say, “Do you really hate your ex-spouse more than you love your children?” To which I would add, “Do you have any idea how much damage you are doing to your kids? Forget about exacting revenge, take the high road, and show your kids you are a decent human being underneath that seething rage.”

·       Here are my words of advice: (1) Figure out what matters most and don’t sweat the small stuff; (2) If you message nasty content to your children about their other parent, you will be inflicting pain on them and it will boomerang on you in your relationship with them; and (3) If you want to reduce legal fees, consolidate and make concise your communications with your lawyer.

·        “I can only go so far in representing you. Your position is totally unreasonable. In fact, not only will the court see your position as totally unreasonable, I think it’s time for you to find another lawyer if you want to continue being so unreasonable.”

·   “Most seasoned divorce lawyers can predict the likely final outcome of a divorce case, within reason, after the initial client consultation.  Unfortunately, it is often a client’s lack of complete candor about the “warts” of their case during the initial consultation, or the client’s unwillingness to follow the guidance and specific recommendations of their lawyer, that alters these initial predictions.”

There is a doctrine in the law known as res ipsa loquitor – the thing speaks for itself.

Enough said.

Vicki L. Shemin, J.D., LICSW, ACSW, a divorce lawyer and clinical social worker, is a partner at Fields and Dennis LLP in Wellesley.  She can be reached at 781.489.6776 or [email protected] 

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