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Return of the Nasty Divorce

For decades, I have been fighting against the nasty divorce. Over 27 years ago, when I was first licensed to practice law, the aggressive divorce, also known as the nasty divorce in today's parlance, was the norm, standard operating practice in family law.

The nasty divorce is when the attorney stokes their client's worst angels to convince the client to fight their spouse, to draw blood, in the divorce. You seek, a fighting client writes larger checks far longer. The angrier the client, the more they are willing to pay in legal fees. There's big money in the nasty divorce. That's why you see some firms deceptively promoting it through slick advertising on mass media.

For years, I fought the good fight against aggression and hostility in divorce practice, showing parties and their counsel how they could get through the necessary detanglement of a marriage without having to engage in the acrimony that is often lurking just beneath the surface. Case by case, counsel by counsel, the family law practice had come a long way toward creating a more peaceful, productive and economic way of doing family law.

Along came the great recession and it seemed that the nasty, aggressive practitioners were finally, completely stamped out. Parties became extremely savvy to the ways that aggressive attorneys could amplify anger. Parties righteously resisted such sham attempts to reach deeper into their wallets.

Unfortunately, I did not then drive a stake through the heart of the nasty, aggressive divorce practice, for now that the Great Recession has been over for a while, I'm watching the rise of this vile practice yet again as husbands and wives find more money to burn by setting fire to their spouses and scorching the earth and their children in the process.

Of course, me and my firm will continue the practice of handling each case strategically and intelligently, fighting off the nasties one case at a time. But judges hold the greatest stake to strike into the heart of this demon. When they observe a counsel or party going for the jugular and getting nasty, they can most quickly and certainly rectify it. Judges can very quickly train nasty attorneys to be nice.

And parties, who have the greatest stake in the game, have the most to lose and therefore the most to gain in turning away from the dark angels of their fears and demented advocacy which feeds upon it. Watch out for your wallet, watch out for your children and watch out for your karma. Don't let them be victims of someone else's strive to increase their bottom line. Strive instead for the efficiency, the economy and the positive energy of a good divorce. Stay away from the nasty ones.

Michael Manely

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