Monday, October 18, 2010

I'll fight you 'till the day you die.

In an exclusively family law practice, it is easy to focus on the divorce cases.  They are parties' first bite at the apple.  All the issues are in play.  All the drama and all the strategies are brought to bear on resolution of these sometimes legally and always emotionally complex matters.

The other kinds of cases, usually modifications and contempts, cause less concern because they are usually more logic based.  Something needs to change in the agreement because life has substantially changed: Modification; or the other party is not doing something important that they were supposed to do based upon the Court's Order: Contempt.  Both are straightforward and, since they arise after the divorce, usually are far less vitriolic and emotional. 

However, there is a kind of post divorce case that can take the cake.  These contempt and modifications do not stem from logic but from need, some deep seated need to stay engaged, to stay embroiled.  They come from the party who never lets go.  In a sick sense, they come from the party who won't say goodbye.   It's as if they carry "till death do us part," to a whole new level.

We can identify these cases because the Complaint provides nothing substantive to sink your teeth into.  There is nothing hard and fast and objective, it is all innuendo, "hints and allegations."  We find a lot of pettiness in these Complaints.  It's a "she touched me first," kind of pleading.

And they usually come from just a few attorneys who are more than happy to stoke the eternal flame of post marital animus because they know that angry clients pay more.

There's a Don Henley song about this.  (Isn't there about everything?)  It's called, "Get over it."  Lord knows the judges wish the parties would. 

I was recently asked by a party defending yet another suit from an all too well funded ex-spouse, "Will it ever end?"  I had to answer that I didn't think it would.  So long as the Judge doesn't pop the Opposing Party, doesn't force them to some financial pain for continuing to inflict their anger on their ex-spouse, there is little hope that the offending party will ever stop. What would make them?  Boredom?  These people live to litigate.  This is what life is all about for them, staying in controversy.

So, judges, if you see a party bringing an action against an ex-spouse, and there's no real teeth to it, stop the madness, stop the destructive behavior.  Please charge the plaintiff with some fees for harassing their ex.  Make them think at least twice before they venture down this road again.

And parties, if you are in this never ending relationship with an ex-spouse who could never love but can always litigate, I'm terribly sorry.

Michael Manely

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