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"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."  So sayeth Jesus in John 8:7. That the statement is wise is irrefutable.  That it has an application in relationships and family law is the point of this blog post.

After 24 years of practice, it still somewhat surprises me that some divorcing parties can keep a straight face when they denounce their soon-to-be partner's prevalent issues in court. "He's an alcoholic;" "She's a spend-thrift; "He's full of rage;" "She's bi-polar."  

There are two points I want to make here, one is how the courts actually consider these issues.  

No one is without sin, as the doctrine goes.  And no one is without issues.  The decisive question is how does a party deal with their issue.  Consider alcholism. Assume the party spent time in rehab a few years back.  Since then, has that party been on the wagon?  Do they remain committed to AA? Have there been any further instances of whatever conduct placed them in rehab to begin with?

Consider bi-polar or any other mental health issue.  How is it treated?  How successful is the treatment? What does the treating physician say? How have the parties been living since the last episode? 

No one comes to life issue free so you know that no one comes to court issue free.  Even the judge has issues.  Just ask the attorneys who appear before him/her.  The issue is not the issue it's how the issue is managed.  Was he drunk off his rocker last night?  Was she talking to her favorite friend, Joan of Arc at breakfast?  Then there is something to discuss and take into account at court. But if the issue has been a non-issue in the family, except historically, it will be a non-issue in court. 

The second point gets back to the quote.  Since no one is without issues then the party casting stones probably has a big issue of their own.  Another relevant quote here would be about obsessing about the splinter in your partner's eye while ignoring the beam in your own.  Any seasoned trial lawyer and every judge can tell you that the more you complain about your soon-to-be ex, the more we ought to be concerned about you.

So, for the sake of strategy if not for the sake of honesty then, take a deep breath and look in the mirror before you chunk that rock.

And for the parties against whom stones are cast, just know that what they accuse you of, is quite likely true of them.  It is difficult not to take the accusations, the blame, the name calling to heart, but remember that your soon-to-be ex is really accusing themselves.  Good attorneys and good judges see right through that.

Michael Manely

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