Friday, December 10, 2010

Some things I’ve learned in 23 years as a divorce lawyer

Nobody Said Law School was Easy Billy
Editors Intro: As I write this post, I am glancing out my frost covered window as my car warms up courtesy of my automatic car starter. (By automatic car starter I mean a first year law student intern from one of our prestigious local law schools. Good work Billy). Shivering from the cold, my thoughts take me to Attorney Diana Mercer. If you practice family law in Connecticut, you may remember Attorney Mercer from her days as a mediator in Milford and surrounding courts. If you are wondering whatever happened to Diana, let me update you. She was smart. She left the cold of New England for sun filled California. Diana was kind enough to take a break from surfing, lunches with movie stars, mining for gold and whatever other things I assume all Californians do on a daily basis. We prodded her to do a guest post for our blog, and thankfully she complied. Our sincere thanks.

Some things I’ve learned in 23 years as a divorce lawyer: Guest Post by Attorney Diana Mercer

You pick up a few tidbits of wisdom that they don’t teach in law school when you are a divorce lawyer. These scenarios happened back when I was practicing as a divorce litigator. Sometimes people ask me why I became a full time mediator 12 years ago. Here’s why:
One of the first things you learn as divorce lawyer is that not everyone is very good at picking a spouse. It stands to reason that a successful marriage probably depends on picking a good mate. I had a client once who married a man who had been acquitted of murdering his wife with a poison spear made by attaching an Indian arrowhead to a broom handle with twine and covering it with curare. “But he was acquitted!” she protested. Never mind that he made her teenage son call him “Mr. Daniel Loomis” even after they were married, and he beat her within an inch of her life. The lesson learned: homemade poison darts do not make for a happy marriage.

Once you’re in the middle of your divorce, it’s important that you cooperate with your lawyer. Everyone’s done things they’re not proud of, and it makes sense to share most of those with your lawyer, before you’re confronted with them in open court. When I first started practicing, I had a contested custody case. To me, my client looked like Laura Ingalls Wilder, and she seemed pretty convincing. Imagine my dismay when, on cross examination, the husband’s attorney starts shaking a videotape in her direction, shouting, “and isn’t it true that this video tape, made for commercial distribution, depicts you having sexual intercourse with a chainsaw?” My jaw dropped, my face turned ashen, and the room started to spin. The judge, knowing I was just a Baby Lawyer and sensing I didn’t deserve to be pummeled publicly over this, dropped his gavel onto the bench with a bang, calling “recess! I’ll see counsel in chambers!” We settled that case. Lesson to be learned: If you used to be a porn star, it’s unlikely your ex will forget that little fact, so tell your lawyer about it before cross examination starts.

Sometimes, no matter how far it appears a marriage has broken down, there’s still hope for reconciliation. I was sitting in court one day, waiting for my case to be called, and listened to a man give testimony in support of his motion to vacate his divorce judgment on the grounds that he didn’t know that he was getting divorced. He testified that while his wife had filed divorce papers on him many times in the past, that they’d always reconciled. He’d received a copy of the most recent papers, but they’d continued to live together, eat dinner together, put their money in a joint bank account, and they even slept together.

I started to nod off, as all this testimony was taking awhile, but my head snapped to attention on cross examination when the wife’s lawyer, barely able to contain his indignation, blurted out, “yes, but while you were all lovey-dovey making hamburgers on the barbeque and watching TV holding hands, isn’t it true that your wife SHOT you? Didn’t you realize then that your marriage was OVER?” Sheepish, the man replied, “well, she’s got a hot temper all right, but I got better and a week later we went to Disney World and had a great time!” The lesson learned: it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

And people wonder why I was drinking Maalox directly from the bottle. So now I’m a mediator, and a writer with a new blogging addiction I probably won’t shake anytime soon. If you do read my book(s), Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010) and/or Your Divorce Advisor, I’d appreciate a 5 star review on I’d love to be your friend on Facebook, and to hear from you at the Huffington Post as well as on my new video blog Making Divorce Work I’ve issued a challenge to myself to mediate my own tenuous relationship with my father. Check out Project Vic on the blog. I blogged from Cabo in my bathing suit on Thanksgiving---that’s how real I’m being, LOL. Walking my talk is important.

Author Background:
Attorney Diana Mercer is the founder of Peace Talks and the co-author of Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and A Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Fireside, 2001) After 12 years of practicing as a top divorce litigator, she now devotes her practice solely to mediation. She has conducted over 4000 mediations, and has received over 450 hours of specialized, professional Family Law Mediation training.


Mark Henry said...

Best Divorce Lawyer are tough to find but they will always in lime lite due ti their achievements in each cases. a good lawyers strategy can make your profession very good.

Virginia Divorce Attorney said...

Thank you for sharing, I was suffering that kind of issue in those days so it's really good for me to read and get information there I do wish you do continue that kind work in future also.

aliya seen said...

The quality of a good lawyer can be read here and it is just amazing. A good lawyer can achieve the goal and confidence of a client by his efforts. You need to do best work with loyalty.