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Dear Robin: How Do I Deal With My Wife’s Ridiculous Divorce Lawyer?

Friday, October 17, 2014


photo credit: iStock

What's your problem? Write to Robin at [email protected].

Dear Robin,

My wife of 23 years recently filed for divorce when she left me for another man. From the moment she announced our marriage was over, every issue connected to the divorce has been a fight.

Her lawyer is well-known for unreasonable, unethical, and ugly tactics. At every turn this person has encouraged my wife to fight with me and involve our children in the disagreements, which my kids hate. When my wife and I were still able to communicate with each other, often we would agree on things, but now her lawyer has now told her not to communicate with me at all and every detail of our divorce has to be run through our attorneys.

I am at my wits' end and don't know what to do. I'm losing my focus at work, I'm losing weight and I'm losing hope that I will ever get through this thing financially and emotionally intact. How can I convince my wife that her approach to this divorce is detrimental to both of us and our kids, not to mention our bank accounts?



Dear Ted,

I welcome the opportunity to answer your letter, because it is the Perfect Storm of divorce-related issues: money, kids, resentment, hideous counsel, stubborn position-taking, etc. I feel for you, man. I truly do.

Divorce doesn't have to be like this, but a low-conflict dissolution cannot happen unless all parties commit to making it that way and insist that their lawyers follow that directive. Until then, every time you are faced with an event in your divorce, be it property distribution, spousal support or who gets the dog, you will suffer.

Fear not, I have some words of wisdom for you!

You know that expression "fake it 'till ya make it?" The sooner you both can move past the affair and other lingering resentments, the sooner you may be able to get your communication back on track.

Write her an AskRobin Litigation Control™ letter and use the following template:

  • 1 paragraph of Fond Memories
  • 3 paragraphs of Our Kids are Wonderful and You are a Great Mom
  • 2 short declarative statements of Regret the Marriage Broke Down
  • 2-3 paragraphs of We are Running out of Money, Let's Not Make the Lawyers Rich (include specific financial data)
  • 1-2 paragraphs of I Forgive You (even if that's not true) and I Want us to be OK, and
  • 1 closing paragraph of Let's Not Fight Anymore, it's Hurting Us and our Children.

Combine all elements above using a pen and paper (email does not work for this template) and follow up with an offer to meet and discuss how you both can facilitate a quick and fair  dissolution of your marriage.

I am an advice columnist, not a psychic. For that reason, I cannot predict your wife's reaction to your efforts to clear the air, although I hope she will be receptive because she initiated the divorce and has been acting like a bit of a naughty girl around town.

I can, however, predict her attorney's reaction.

Let's call him "Joe Dee."

Joe Dee does not want you and your wife to get along, because promoting and protracting acrimony and dousing the flames of your divorce with emotional napalm is a very effective way to make Joe fabulously wealthy as he romances the file with the passionate fervor of Pepe LePew.

Let's assume his billable rate is $450/hour in the following example:

If you and your wife agree off the bat that you get the rarely-opened Kama Sutra book and she gets the dining room set (you never liked it anyway; her taste is hideous), you just cost Joe Dee about 5 hours in billable time. Therefore, that's $2,250 that could have gone to his favorite charity, "Divorce Lawyers Need Bentleys and Gearhart Homes Too."

If you are able to get your wife to agree to work with you instead of against you, her lawyer has an ethical duty to abide by her wishes. If problems continue to crop up, your lawyer should take that up with Joe Dee and you should do your best to continue improving your relationship with your wife and let her know when her lawyer is acting unreasonably.

Your wife may be clueless to the reprehensible behavior by her lawyer.  She's busy getting busy with the new guy, after all, and all that hot sex can be distracting from the day-to-day details of tending to a divorce.

Sorry, was that insensitive? I'm working on that.

Even if you don't get the response you'd like from your wife, do what you can to keep trying to improve your relationship and carefully manage your own lawyer's time spent on the file.  If only one side in this mess can stay above the fray and conduct themselves with honor, let it be you.

Dear Robin,

I am in love with an amazing man and we are getting married early next year (this is the second marriage for both of us) but I have a problem.

My first marriage was a very unhappy one filled with financial struggles.  My husband and I engaged in some illegal conduct that later resulted in plea bargain agreements for tax fraud.  He served 6 months while I did not get time but was convicted.  This all happened 12 years ago and I have tried to forget about it all and move on.

I never told my fiancé about what happened and I feel like it's too late now to tell him.  I don't want him to be angry and call off the wedding over something so old and so small.  My gut reaction after reading some of your stuff is you will advise otherwise, so let me have it!



Dear A.W.,

I received your letter about four weeks ago and put it aside, but certain local current events sent me frantically digging for it this morning.

Golly gee, I can't imagine what could go wrong if you fail to disclose this mishap. Quick question though: is your fiancé seeking public office?  I surely hope not.

You owe it to your man to elucidate him on your past, and I think you know this. Your trepidation likely stems from a fear he will be angry this little tidbit hadn't yet been disclosed, but I would argue that becoming engaged is really the point at which you have a duty to share this information.

None of us can escape our past (trust me, I've tried), and the minute you become entangled legally and financially he is almost certainly going to find out about your conviction.  You need to be the conduit for this information, not a loan officer or a landlord as you fill out future applications together.

This is especially true since the statistics for divorce are staggering for second marriages: roughly 68% versus the typical 50% for first marriages.  Starting off with a huge lie on your side of the ledger will surely tip those odds even more against you.

Take him to dinner, buy him a really nice bottle of wine, and tell him what happened. If he is as great as you say he is, he will understand.  If he doesn't, you may have just dodged a bullet (although I wish him luck in the general election next month).

Former Portland lawyer and current Portland big mouth Robin DesCamp is the Velvet Sledgehammer of Truth, smashing through socially acceptable niceties to tell you how to live your life, and why. She blogs at www.askdescamp.com. Write to her at [email protected]

Banner Photo Credit: iStock 


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