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On Behalf of | May 6, 2013 | Affordability

Lately there has been a strong trend against affordability in family law.  In other words, there has been a strong trend toward increasing costs.  A tried and true way to increase costs in family law is to deny the obvious.  Let me give you a few examples:

A dad claims he ought to receive primary custody despite the fact that the mother has only worked part time so that she could be home with the parties’ children and dad has nothing outrageously bad to say about mom;

A dad claims he is not in contempt even though he hasn’t paid dime one of child support in well over a year, although he has managed to purchase a $30,000 truck and move in with his now pregnant girlfriend to help raise her three other children; 

A mom claims that dad should only receive supervised visitation because he has moved out of the house and in with the new woman in his life and mom can’t bear the thought that the children might be without her for several days at a time.

The examples of denying the obvious and therefore making family law far more costly are fairly endless.

What causes this antipathy to affordability? Foolishness is one possibility; a belief that judges were born yesterday, could be another; and then, from the point of view of the attorney who is promoting such ridiculous contentions there is always down-right greed.

Objectivity is hard, so maybe a party can get lost in subjectivity and no rational person can be found to bounce the nonsense off of.  But even if there are no friends who can or are willing to check the raging me-isms, the party himself (or herself) has a responsibility to ask the tough questions like, “really?”  

Then there is counsel.  I’ve blogged about this often.  Counsel has value, not just in advocacy but even more in counseling and advising.  Counsel is not and should not be a mere mouthpiece.  Counsel should not be just a cheerleader. Instead, counsel should be the conduit between the client and judge and the conduit between the judge and the client.  It is counsel’s job to know the ropes, the way the waters run.  It is counsel’s job to know the truth.  It is also counsel’s job to tell the truth, to the Court, yes, but to the client, too.

Too many counsel fear that truth.  They think that if they tell the client the truth, the retainers will dry up and they’ll be forced to resign their day jobs.  So counsel will act like they’ve swallowed the Kool-aide too, perhaps they even dispensed it, and the money-wasting, time eating dance deeper into absurd conclusions carries on until one party, or both, run out of money.

What a waste.

You can’t not respond to an absurd contention or bizzare conclusion just because it is absurd or bizzare.  In our system, if one party doesn’t respond and remains silent, the other party will most certainly win.  If mom doesn’t educate the judge that she is a part-time employee so that she can stay home with the kids, if mom doesn’t point out that dad bought a truck and is raising three kids that are not his own and if dad doesn’t show that he’s a great dad even though a less than desirable husband, the other party will prevail and accomplish their otherwise un-accomplish-able goals.

Still, what a waste.

Fighting for fighting’s sake is a fools game.  Striking back at any perceived wrong is wrong itself.  As Ghandi said, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” As families we should and can do so much better, starting by never denying the obvious.    

As families and as rational beings we can preserve our assets for our children and for ourselves.  

The family will keep its own money and the attorneys will still make out just fine, thank you.

Michael Manely