MATRIMONIAL LAW REFORM NEEDED. STAT.
OPINION PIECE BY SV USER RUDOLL
There are two types of lawyers in America—problem solvers and shit stirrers. The vast majority of attorneys I have worked with in my business career have been skilled negotiators, deal makers, and creative problem solvers. Then there are matrimonial lawyers.
These are people who prey upon the deeply flawed legal system to capitalize upon distressed relationships, crumbling families, and the painful emotions that often drive the rage of divorce proceedings. They are handsomely rewarded for skillfully manipulating a process which is weighted heavily in their favor—not in the favor of the very people the process is supposed to serve. Many matrimonial attorneys actually decrease the chance of settling the case. Mired in procedure, positioning, strategy and ego, matrimonial attorneys often are more interested in winning the case and “beating” the opposing counsel rather than navigating a reasonable settlement in the best interest of parties involved.
I have seen firsthand that the facts of a case has very little to do with the outcome. It boils down to which attorney can tell the best story on that particular day to one of the judges' many case workers (as you may or may not see the actual judge when you go to court) who then relays their opinion to the judge, who then may or may not render some small decision to mildly push the case onward to the next court date, allowing the attorneys to file motions and wrangle with each other in the interim resulting in more legal bills and further ambiguity. I have watched with disbelief as non-issues have become major sticking points, clarity on fundamental disagreements has become clouded by deceitful positioning, and arguments have been manufactured in one area to hide the facts in another. And how is the court to know the difference? There are hundreds of cases, countless pages of motions, and I have been forced to sit silently and listen while strangers discuss and make decisions about my family when they can’t even pronounce my name correctly. How does this serve my children or me for that matter?
Where is the incentive for a $500 per hour matrimonial lawyer to settle a case? A custody trial and subsequent financial hearing can easily provide 2 years of continuous work an a seven figure paycheck for a cunning an opportunistic counselor, leaving financial ruin in the wake of the very families they are sworn to serve with the entire system fully aware and a participant in the horror. The judges are attorneys, the case workers are attorneys and in custody trials the children’s representatives are attorneys—and they all play by the same unspoken yet understood rules of the game which protect themselves. The judges have final say in all matters, yet often ignore or fail to intervene on senseless motions or pontificating blowhards, opting instead to leave it in the hands of the protected to duke it out. This is no different than allowing a criminal to decide their own prison sentence.
The system needs reform now. Caps on legal fees. Parameters on settlements. Barriers which prohibit blatant motion practice abuses. Mediation between attorneys and forced mediation between parties in conflict.
This divorce has been the most challenging time in my life. But this horrible time will pass. I have already begun the transition into my new life. But it will take years to recover from the disservice of the system, both financially and emotionally.