Introducing the YOU IN CONTROL blog series for divorce professionals.
December 9, 2020 marks my 26th anniversary for practicing law in San Diego County, California. In these past 26 years, I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the most amazing professionals in the United States—many of them in my hometown.
Not coincidentally, I am also finishing my book, You In Control of Your Divorce, to be released on Amazaon.com in early 2021.
As anyone who works with DPs (divorcing people) knows, the 21st century divorce is far more complicated than before. As a community, we are moving away from litigation—thank God and toward a more integrated, respectful approach to the individuals getting divorced. Finances are more complicated than ever, requiring qualified experts like CDFA (Certified Financial Divorce Analyst) as an important part of the divorce professionals team.
Probably most important to successful divorces are the mental health providers that assist in providing services to our clients (the DPs) as well as the courts. Even before COVID, our DP clients were coming to us with feelings of anger, betrayal and anxiety. Being bottled up and stressed out over a variety of factors where we’re feeling loss of control seems to be inviting more HCPs (high conflict personality) individuals, in clients as well as their lawyers.
Don’t get me started on the pressure that our family court judges are feeling. The difference between ‘in person’ court and video court has completely changed the landscape for judges. Since the court’s 2-1/2 month shutdown this past spring, the judges are struggling to get cases heard in a timely matter. Sadly, COVID has made it difficult for mental health workers to meet with families in custody cases, which results in delayed reports and evaluations.
Justice delayed is justice denied.
My passion as a divorce lawyer has always been to see justice in the family court system. I from litigation in 2015 because I saw the system as broken--not due to the fault of the judges, but the onslaught of people who felt the need to litigate their divorces instead of mediating them. Currently, the system has too many cases with not enough judges, which puts undue pressure on our judges. They’re expected to make important decisions in a 1/10 of the time that it would take in an ideal world.
My point in all of this? That, as the divorce professionals—we are all the experts on what DPs need. Mental health professionals are on the frontlines of the impact of divorce. In their daily practices, they see how families are impacted when courts cannot protect children and spouses against out-of-control behaviors of some DPs. Financial professionals see the damage that out-of-control spouses cause each other when they hire negative advocates (HCP lawyers who purposely take advantage of conflicted spouses). They watch a couples’ net worth rapidly drain and family lifestyles go down the toilet because of the ridiculous amount of litigation.
In writing YICOYD, my goal was to empower DPs. I am sickened by the amount of damage that negative advocates and their mentally ill clients do to their children, their spouses and the overall legal system. They drain us of the resources that are needed to properly adjudicate cases with disputes that need to be heard by our judges—and there are plenty.
On a personal level, there was something extremely empowering about sharing the wealth of knowledge from my 20+ years of being in the trenches. It felt good to rat out the bad lawyering—not just the negative advocates, but also good lawyers that get lazy, overworked or work for greedy law firm partners that make promotions dependent on exploiting vulnerable clients.
On a more positive level, I realized that the more educated and informed DPs are as to what makes a divorce successful—the cooperation of spouses in designing settlements that work for them—while preserving their individual rights and integrity, the less likely they are to fall prey to negative advocates.
I traded in the ‘don’t hurt your own kind’ mindset of keeping my mouth closed as to what’s wrong with divorce lawyers today to sharing the specific abuses and traits of negative advocates. I’m safe from being ostracized from my peers because I’m 63 years old and not working for a firm or otherwise tied to lawyers I might offend with speaking my truth. In other words, I don’t care that negative advocates won’t like me. They haven’t liked me for the 26 years that I’ve ethically practiced law in the San Diego Court system.
Except for a spousal fraud case that is currently stuck in litigation, all my clients are in mediation. As a mediator and consulting attorney, I see the difference that we divorce experts make in our clients’ lives. I don’t practice collaborative law, but all my clients are actively working on their own mental health issues. Many are in recovery from drug, alcohol or sexual addictions. These are also high net worth individuals and their spouses who have learned the hard way that the ‘American success story’ carries with it a dark side. Like me, many of them have Type A personalities and a variety of other ‘quirks’ that we professionals share.
I like it that as a group—my clients have a high level of self-awareness. They’ve worked hard on identifying their own issues and behaviors that have contributed to the ending of their marriages. They don’t chew up a lot of attorney and accountant time by rehashing, blaming, judging and other non-productive behaviors. As a result, they save time, money and most importantly, the mental health of everyone around them.
I have connected with other divorce professionals on LinkedIn and I suspect that irrespective of whatever part of the country your practice is in, that you have a wealth of information you’d like to share to help improve our respective professions. Or maybe you’re new at this and want to pick up tips that will help you maintain your integrity and professionalism while building a practice devoted to serving DPs.
Join me in forming a powerful community of DE’s (divorce experts) who ethically practice our professions in a way that helps the divorce community. We can speak out about the abuses in an appropriate way. We don’t need to practice in ‘silence’ by keeping our mouths shut about the abuses that are occurring in our workplaces. We can call out those behaviors by our colleagues who themselves are mentally unhealthy, egotistical and driven by greed. We don’t need to mention specific names or perpetrators to educate the public, even though we’d like to. Instead, we can show the public what ethical services look like and how to protect themselves against unethical practitioners.
How can you share your knowledge?
Watch for my blog to come out on the 9th of every month. If any of the topics resonate with you, kindly share your experiences by completing a feedback form. You can send it electronically or print out and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.