Whether or not this story specifically resembles your divorce, the lessons within touch on the significance of how bad advice and divorce attorneys’ expensive maneuvering can leave you in dire financial distress.
Jeff Master and his wife Janet were living in North Carolina when Janet asked for a divorce. Jeff called to make an appointment with me, and three days later they were sitting in my office for our first meeting. Married nineteen years and with two children, ages 11 and 16, Jeff owned a building supply business that had been started by his grandfather and gifted to Jeff by his father who had run the store for forty years. Janet had not worked in fifteen years having chosen to be a stay at home mother. Jeff was 50 and Janet was 47. Both appeared fit and attractive. Like so many other couples they told me a story about a marriage that had gone stale so that both felt they had grown apart. There had been one short round of marriage counseling. Janet had finally told Jeff she didn’t want any more counseling and wanted a divorce. Jeff did not want a divorce and felt that they could fix the marriage with more counseling and a lot of prayer. But Janet had made up her mind and was clear that the marriage was over. Continue reading
Over the past fifteen years a movement called “collaborative law” has grown quickly in the American divorce system. As many people seem to confuse collaborative law with mediation I thought it would be useful to explore the differences. Continue reading
There is no doubt that divorce mediation has been a success and is slowly changing the landscape of divorce. But the legal profession has now fought back and created another version of mediation — but one that will not dislodge the lawyers from the center of the process. This is happening in North Carolina and states all around the country, in order to not only preserve legal fees but additionally create a new billing event for attorneys, while allowing them to pose as progressive. Continue reading
I have long thought that if I could get people to read one of my books on divorce
… I could change their minds about how divorce should be done and then change their approach to their own divorce. I frequently get e-mails or calls from people who have read one of my books, and they tell me that they have been persuaded and want to use mediation to resolve their divorce. Continue reading
What is the difference between a mediated divorce and conventional divorce?
In a conventional the divorce husband and wife each hire a lawyer to be in charge of the divorce. Usually the lawyers fight in court and prepare for a trial in which a judge decides all the issues related to children, support and division of property.. But less than one percent of divorces actually go to trial. In more than 99% of all divorces the lawyers negotiate a settlement on the eve of trial. So after paying many thousands of dollars to prepare for a trial the couple negotiates a settlement one to five years after the process begins. Divorce Mediation is a reform movement started in the late 1970′s by lawyers and therapists appalled by the unreasonable waste of emotional and economic resources in conventional divorce. The premise of mediation is that if the couple is going to settle the case anyhow why put them through the cost of preparing for a trial that is not going to happen in 99% of divorces? Why not help them retain control of the process and negotiate a settlement themselves with the help of a trained facilitator, the mediator? Continue reading
Many people believe that an adversary legal system means that lawyers must fight with each other. People also believe that lawyers must be aggressive in order to be effective. The swaggering, loud and pugnacious lawyer is assumed to have an advantage in that he/she is assumed to be able to intimidate quieter lawyers. In truth all of this is utter baloney. Continue reading
People often reach out to me with questions about their divorce lawyers and what is currently happening with their case. They often ask things like whether a fee is reasonable, how to tell if the lawyer is paying attention, or whether they should look for a new attorney. The one question I get most often is with regard to how quickly a client’s call is returned. I will respond to this one today, and future posts will address some of the other questions I receive.
About half of divorcing people report that they are unhappy with their lawyers. Some are so unhappy that they fire their lawyer and hire another one. And some of those people find that they are just as unhappy with the new lawyer. There are even a few poor souls who go through numerous lawyers before the divorce is over and invariably, they are still unhappy with the last lawyer. Early in my career when I was practicing conventional divorce law I developed a rule for myself, after a few unfortunate experiences, that I would never be anyone’s third lawyer. If the first two lawyers were unable to satisfy, why would I be able to do it. I suspect my rule saved me from some very miserable clients. Continue reading
Is there such a thing as good divorce? As in any human endeavor there is a range of performance and a range of possible outcomes. Just as there is bad divorce characterized by mutual self defeat, there is also successful divorce in which a couple has successfully negotiated a post-divorce arrangement that leaves both partners as well a s their children able to adapt to their new lives. Continue reading
Divorce is one of life’s most stressful experiences. In bad divorces acute stress can last for years and follow long the official divorce is over. It has serious implications for both mental health and all stress related illnesses and the stress can extend beyond the divorcing couple to injure their children as well. So it is reasonable to ask whether all this stress is necessary and whether there are steps that divorcing people can take that can reduce the stress associated with their divorces. The answer is an unqualified YES. Divorcing people can dramatically reduce divorce related stress by choosing the way they divorce with care and forethought.