It has been interesting for me to read articles in "The Greenwich Times" about the horrific divorce cases which have taken place in Connecticut. These are cases where mothers often lose everything that they have, not only their financial base, but also their children.
Unfortunately, the focus in these articles has been on what litigants in family court have done rather than on the primary source of the problem, i.e. Family Court attorneys. So here for the uninitiated is a list of 25 things that Family Court attorneys do in order to generate conflict among family court litigants and profit from their distress. In no particular order, they are as follows. Such attorneys will:
1. Advise clients to file for divorce without notifying their spouses. Attorneys frequently advise litigants to file for divorce and serve their soon to be exes with the divorce complaint without any notice or advanced warning. Faced with an unexpected complaint for divorce, a spouse who is an abuser will immediately shift into a narcissistic rage and vow revenge.
2. Fail to establish a parenting plan from the start. Attorneys should immediately set up a parenting plan establishing a fair and equitable visitation schedule including holidays and vacations, and making provisions for how to manage disagreements and make decisions. Without such a plan, divorcing couples get into trouble because they don't know what is expected of them.
3. Allow the divorcing parties to live together in the marital home. Item No. 8 of the automatic orders states that if you are still living together at the time of the divorce, you are not allowed to deny either party access to the house. This is ridiculous. This means an ex can stalk and harass the other party, set them up for being arrested, and steal everything from the house. Responsible attorneys immediately negotiate to get one spouse out of the house or file a Motion For Exclusive Use of the House.
4. Have regular meetings without the parties present. Attorneys often conduct in chambers meetings with the Judge, the opposing attorney, and the Guardian Ad Litem. etc. without including the parties in the meeting. Then they make agreements and try to force their clients to go along with them. Nobody likes being bullied or not consulted about issues that will have a major impact on their lives.
5. Fail to have a Stipulation made into a Court Order. If a written Stipulation (legal agreement) isn't signed by a judge and made into a Court Order, it isn't worth the paper it has been written on and cannot be enforced.
6. Include gender, disability based, racial or religious slurs in Family Court documents. Many attorneys write motions to the Court where they slander the other party based upon gender, disability, race or religion and Family Court judges regularly tolerate such slander. Litigants, however, often find such comments unforgivable and will litigate until the shame of them goes away, which could be years.
7. Lie and misrepresent facts in motions submitted to family court. A substantial number of documents Family Court attorneys submit to Court are full of lies and misrepresentations. For most people, it is infuriating to see document after document full of slander, slurs, and aggravating innuendoes without any basis in fact. They will continue on forever trying to correct them, and attorneys know that full well.
8. Sue for sole custody without grounds. If you deny parents access to their children, they will fight forever to get it back. When parents aren't allowed to have a meaningful opportunity to make decisions about their children or maintain their dignity in the face of their children, this is intolerable to them. When attorneys go for sole custody for no reason other than that they are egotistical or can make more money, this simply means more time in Court for everyone.
9. Allow the other party to abscond with marital assets. Many attorneys couldn't care less when a guy hides his assets and won't take steps to safeguard the marital estate for their clients. The problem is that when people feel they have been cheated or that someone stole from them, that's something they won't give up easily. Again, more time in Court for everybody.
10. Allow a client to file his financial affidavit with inaccuracies in it. Most exes are pretty knowledgeable about the basic details of the opposing party's financial situation. If the attorneys who countersign these documents knowingly allow their clients to lie, as they often do, this goes under the category of issues that will be litigated forever. This includes fancy ways of reporting the information that is intended to deceive and mislead.
12. Lie to a client about the law or what a judge will do. Attorneys often tell their clients that judges will or will not do something when they really have no clue. They will often state that the law dictates that litigants do certain things or agree to certain things which are a total fabrication. Sure, an attorney might get his client to do what he wants in the moment. But as soon as the litigant figures out the attorney is a liar, there sure will be Hell to pay, and usually the ex or the kids suffer.
13. Threaten to withdraw if the client doesn't do what she's told. This is one of the most common and most stupid actions attorney take. When attorneys don't get their way with a client, then they begin to threaten to withdraw from the case. Such behavior is so disloyal to the client and such a betrayal of trust that litigants will fight to the death as self represented parties rather than ever give in.
14. Force a client to sign a document that is disparaging to him. The only reason why a divorce decree or an important agreement would include disparaging comments about one of the parties is because the attorneys involved intend to go back to Court and use that language against the person who is being disparaged. So if a document has statements like, "The plaintiff will not speak ill of the defendant." You can be sure that the plaintiff will be found doing it sooner or later, whether she did it ot not. Language like that is just a set up for later legal proceedings. Further, disparaging language causes resentment, particularly when it is written in a document that can be reread frequently.
15. Fail to include a conflict resolution piece in the divorce decree. I always advise people to have a conflict resolution piece in their agreements because it gives them an opportunity to think it over before running into Court again. Nobody should be running back to Court after the divorce is over. If an attorney says you don't need a conflict resolution piece, you have to ask what's motivating that attorney--filthy lucre perhaps?
16. Use vague, unclear language in Stipulations. You know the saying, "the devil finds work for idle hands", well, let me tell you, "the devil finds work for useless words". If your agreements are not written in solid, concrete, specific terms, there will be hell to pay, and I say that in no uncertain terms. Attorneys will often write in an agreement the parties will meet at a "mutually agreed upon location." WTF is that? State that they will meet at the police station. Trust me--vagueness leads to abuse and endless argument.
17. Present issues in all or nothing terms (or give you the bum's rush): Attorneys love to scare their clients to death and imply there are no other alternatives, i.e. "If you don't sign this right away, or do this right away, you will lose your children." Most sensible and lasting agreements end up in the muddy middle, and arise from flexibility, compromise, and negotiation. If an attorney offers only one extreme option, this can and will only create resentment. People do not appreciate being cornered, bullied and browbeaten.
18. Defend a client who is clearly a danger to a child. Some attorneys will defend a pedophile aggressively simply because they know desperate protective parents will do all they can to safeguard their child. Such attorneys are well aware their client is guilty but they don't care. Money is money. These cases end up being litigated in family court for years.
19. File motions that will go nowhere. It never fails to surprise me how much attorneys play games with their clients. One game attorneys play is to file multiple motions in Court that will never be looked at, will never be heard, and will never be ruled upon. They are done to shut up complaining litigants who won't stop asking for their legal rights, and to add more fees to the case because attorneys can charge a lot for crafting motions even if they just recycled them from another case.
20. Collude with the opposing attorney. Practicing attorneys in family court are in one big club and have known each other for a long time. The down side of this is they can get much too friendly with one another and end up cutting deals and exchanging favors in ways that compromise their clients. Attorneys will even go to the point of staging fake fights with one another in order to hide their complicity. Still, litigants are pretty sensitive to being screwed, and if they figure it out, they generally find that unforgivable, which means more litigation.
21. Bribe the judge or GAL. When money has exchanged hands, then legal professionals make decisions that are so clearly unjust and not supported by the evidence that generally everyone notices. Litigants in particular will never let go if they smell the influence of money on the outcome of the case. Allegedly, this happens often enough to be a serious concern.
22. Prolong reports or evaluations for no reason. When I started the proceedings in my divorce case, I was told that the custody evaluation would take at the most three months. One year later I was still waiting around to receive it. As long as the evaluation hasn't been completed, this means that more motions can be filed, more problems negotiated, more letters exchanged, all for more and more legal fees. The case becomes more complicated as time goes by, harder to understand as far as everyone is concerned, including the judge, and sets the stage for years of litigation.
23. Fail to protect the client. During my divorce, my ex refused to pay child support which I needed to feed my children and pay the bills. He also refused to obey Court Orders, and would bully and threaten me when we met to exchange the children among other bad behavior. Of course, I then became very emotional which made it harder for me to make decisions. Attorneys who leave their clients exposed to attack and take no steps to defend them from abuse inevitably prolong and complicate the case.
24. Fail to respond to inaccuracies. In the early days of my case, the opposing attorney would file motions containing fundamental inaccuracies about me, my kids, and our situation. When I tried to get my attorney to correct these errors, he stated that they were unimportant. The same is true of the custody evaluation in my case. In hindsight, I would insist upon correcting all factual inaccuracies that are in motions and reports filed with the Court. Lies constantly repeated in Family Court documents often ended up being thought of as the truth. Attorneys who fail to correct errors create a legacy of discord and confusion in the case that usually endure for years to come.
25. Refuse to communicate with the client. Family Court is like stepping foot into another world with its own language, traditions and culture. If an attorney fails to explain what is going on, fails to make clear to a litigant what is expected of him or her, or does not respond to important questions about what is happening, the result is always disastrous. Many attorneys make the mistake of shutting their clients up or refusing to respond. Clients who feel that they are not heard will vow to be heard in the end particularly if their attorneys took tens of thousands of dollars from them.
If anyone has anything more to add, put them below in the comment section! Thanks!