Generally there are two types of people in this world. There are those who look forward to February 14th and the option to spend time with their sweetheart, feeling happy and in love. Then there are guys like me, who prefer to spend this day in a miserable funk that, at some point tonight, we will transfer to other people. Maybe we go to a local bar and send drinks to one-half of a couple trying to stir shit up, or maybe we just sit behind a computer screen with a glass of whiskey, a pack of cigarettes, and a strong desire to suck every ounce of joy out of this holiday for people. In either case, it’s pretty goddamn clear that we aren’t fans of Valentine’s Day.
I’m not anti-love. I just present my wedding gift as follows to recently married couples: “Congratulations. In five years I’ll do your wills or your divorce for free.” I don’t get invited to dinner very much after that.
You know who must love Valentine’s Day, though? Family lawyers. All over the country tonight people are going to rush into a hastily planned engagement, leading to a hastily planned marriage, a soul-crushing series of mindless years spent wondering why you tolerate the son of a bitch in your bed, and finally the divorce. The long, drawn-out, bitter divorce process. Oh the hours you’ll bill when love turns cold.
Not me, however, because I don’t take family cases. Why don’t I take family cases? Well, let’s talk about this.
Family Law Requires Dealing With Sister Sob and Mother Fury.
I don’t take family cases for a couple reasons, but the most prominent among them is I can’t stand the clients it brings in. Family clients tend to come in two types: Sister Sob and Mother Fury.
Sister Sob comes into your office in tears and can barely make it through the initial consult. Male or female, you just know that Sister Sob is going to break down in tears halfway through the consult, looking for you to offer her a hug or a pat on the back. I don’t do hugs, I’m not a marital counselor in any sense of the term, and at the end of the day I simply do not care about Sister Sob outside of the legal issues present in her case. If Sister Sob breaks the fuck down in the middle of the consult and asks “Can you believe he did this to me?” my response will likely be “Yes, because people are shit, love is shit, families don’t matter, and the world is darkness and loathing. Now stop fucking crying, the clock’s ticking here and I have another meeting to get to.”
[Note: Years ago, in undergrad, I was originally studying psychology in order to be a therapist. I lasted a semester before changing majors to History. The reason I wrote on the form to switch majors was “I realized I just don’t care that much about other people’s problems.” This opinion has not changed.]
Mother Fury is full of righteous indignation. Mother Fury has been fucking wronged by some bastard with a wandering dick and now that asshole is going to pay. She wants the kids, she wants the house, she wants the car, she wants his balls literally sliced off his body and placed in a mason jar so every night before bed she can take them out of a drawer and cackle. Mother Fury will travel to the ends of the earth and back to get her reward for putting up with a philandering motherfucker for so goddamn long, and you are expected to be her foot soldier in the slash-and-burn campaign she will wage through the county courts.
While I appreciate and am somewhat impressed by the savage nature of Mother Fury, I fucking hate when you get on her wrong side, and you will get on her fucking wrong side because when you meet Mother Fury she has no “right side.” Mother Fury just alternates between “pissed off” and “fucking nuclear” with very little in-between, and eventually her wrath will turn on you. “You aren’t fighting for me,” she’ll say, “You laughed with the other lawyer!” “I know the other lawyer and deal with him all the time,” you’ll respond, “My close relationship with him is a benefit to you.” “I need a lawyer that’ll fight for me.” You are not a counselor or advocate to Mother Fury, you are a foot soldier in her fucking war. I don’t do that. If I’m going into battle, I demand the ability to be in command.
You Will End Up Talking About Butt Plugs At Some Point.
I already made it clear motherfuckers get nasty in family law, and the problem is you aren’t going up against someone who has to take you through depositions and discovery to learn all of your dirty little secrets. The opposing parties were married, they know everything there is to know about each other. Including the fact that your client likes to dress up in a leather pony outfit and have carrots shoved up his ass while being beat with a riding crop. If you think this shit won’t come up, Wesley Fenza of the Fenza Law Office would like to remind you that you’re ass is not only sore, but sorely mistaken.
He’s right, by the way. It doesn’t matter if she was all about dressing up as Princess Celestia and planting a carrot in your client’s mud garden in the bedroom, the second it can be used to get a little bit of favor in front of the judge all of that shit’s coming out. God help you if your kink is something that is even more shocking than that, and it never ceases to amaze me what people subject themselves to in the name of sexual gratification. Personally, I find it all disgusting and blame the internet. On an unrelated note, stay the fuck out of my closet.
So, when two people are getting down and dirty and you’ve made it your career goal to act as the advocate of one of them, there is little doubt that at some point you’re going to find yourself arguing their kink isn’t a danger. It can get even better in states that still maintain the fault-based divorce rules, as you could find yourself having to argue that the opposing spouse’s participation in the orgy was entirely consensual, as if it wasn’t your client could find themselves on the at-fault hook and facing some abuse issues. Look, I don’t talk about my sex life, and not only because it’s damn near non-existent. I don’t think I could bring myself to talk about the sex life of a client in a way that justifies their kinks.
You Will Deal With Unlicensed Attorneys.
Every person that comes into your office for a divorce will have a support network set up. This support network will consist of family and friends, and absolutely none of them will be attorneys. The family and friends will likely contain some veterans of the Divorce Wars who will offer their sage advice. None of them will understand that, more than any other area of law, family practice is very much focused on the specific circumstances of each individual case and their experience likely has no bearing. You will spend an inordinate amount of time explaining this to your client as they demand reasons why you haven’t done the things Cindy from Work Who Has Been Divorced 18 Times says you should do. You will stifle the opinion that someone with as much experience in divorce court probably shouldn’t be offering fucking anyone advice. This will be annoying as shit and very frustrating.
Case in point: My father does some family work. I’ll never forget a divorce case he had when I was his assistant. This lady came in, and Dad had been representing her diligently and competently the whole time, but she had recently joined a “divorced women” social group. The change was immediate, as all of the sudden she was questioning everything Dad did.
One day, she came in with a list of complaints. Each complaint started with the words “All my friends say that you should be…” and “All my friends told me to ask why you haven’t…” Dad listened to this for the better part of 45 minutes, letting her berate him and his practice. When she was done, Dad leaned over the table, folded his hands, and asked a question in response:
“Where did all of your friends go to law school?” he inquired, “Because I went to Harvard.”
A family lawyer has to not only counsel their client, but also steer their client away from following the advice of well-meaning assholes that aren’t lawyers. The client will listen to the well-meaning assholes because those assholes are family and friends, and the lawyer is, obviously “just out to make money” and “doesn’t care about the client.” Because family law is such a high-profit and low-stress area to practice in.
I don’t have the patience or the time for that shit. If a client does that to me in any other area of law, they will be promptly invited to take their file with them when they leave. Family lawyers must be some of the most patient motherfuckers in the world.
At Some Point, You Will Want to Kill a Client.
People are pieces of shit in general, but if you practice family law you’ll eventually run into a real piece of shit. This is the motherfucker who simply wants to make everyone’s life hell, and will do it at whatever cost. They don’t have kids, they have tools that can be used to make their partner miserable. They weren’t abusive, they were just intense. They didn’t cheat, they were only exploring options due to the stress their spouse put on them. I hate these motherfuckers with a passion.
At least in my little corner of litigation practice, I expect to meet people who are looking out solely for their interests. They’re folks who may be shitty, but nobody went into this with their eyes closed. But in family law, the assholes are a special type. Nine out of Ten times, the assholes are the reason for the divorce in the first place, but they’ll never admit that. Instead they present themselves as the put-upon party, and that shit doesn’t sit will with me. When you’re telling me your side of the story and I’ve already decided that I, as your attorney, likely wouldn’t stop to piss on you if you were on fire, that should say something because I’m not exactly a paragon of justice. As I’ve said before, I’ve evicted families the day after Christmas.
Quick Story to Illustrate this: On one of my very few family law consults, I had an asshole across from me who alternated between wheedling, demanding, and sobbing. He had gotten caught in the backroom of a bar with a transgender prostitute, and now his wife was getting a divorce. This wasn’t the first time, and every time before she had taken him back for the kids. As he continuously presented himself as a man who had been wronged and looked to me for approval, I naturally reached out to him in the best way I knew how.
“If you put half as much work into fixing your marriage as you put into fucking it up,” I said, “You wouldn’t be talking to me right now.”
See, I have a very low tolerance for the bullshit that a faux-victim will spout once they think they’ve been wronged or to garner sympathy. It takes a special type of person and a special type of lawyer to be able to listen to some of these stories and say “Yeah, this is a person I’ll represent.” I can’t do it. I don’t like people that get nasty or fuck up their relationships then start to play the “poor pitiful me” card. My opinion is “You broke it, motherfucker, now you own it.” That’s not the attitude a family lawyer should have because…
Family Lawyers Will Do Good
Yeah, I said it. Divorce lawyers will do good, both in the courtroom and out of it. A good family lawyer will talk an emotional client back from the edge of total annihilation. They will gently remind the client that the kids deserve a stable home. They will deal with opposing counsel to pound out a deal that can bring relative peace to their client. They will make the best out of a bad situation, and to some extent will help their client through the process with what appears to be genuine concern and caring for their client’s well-being, not only financially but emotionally as well.
When I was in law school, I had a professor talk about practicing family law as follows: “No family client is ever really happy, because at the end of the day what they want is to not be getting divorced. They want whatever series of events that led to the divorce to not be happening in the first place. To some point, the job of a good family attorney is to guide their client through the unhappiness to acceptance, and then release them back into the wild in the best position possible for emotional rebuilding and growth.” That requires far more involvement than I like, because it’s exhausting emotionally and mentally to take on the problems of so many other people in such an intricate area.
Plus, as I stated before, I just don’t give a shit about other people’s problems.
So there you have it, the reasons I don’t practice family law. Now, go hug a divorce lawyer today. If you are a divorce lawyer, however, let me say this: don’t be the asshole that runs a special on consults tomorrow morning.