A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Unholy Mediation: A Legal Nightmare for the Victim of Domestic Abuse

Post 2 of three-part series by our reader ‘Still Reforming’

The first thing I did when I set about looking for a lawyer was to do a simple on-line search for ‘divorce attorney in (my area).’ Oodles of names came up. So I called a friend who had recently gone through divorcing an abusive spouse, and she recommended one name, saying that although she hadn’t retained him, she liked him. I met with this attorney, and initially retained him based on two things he said.
(1) If I filed for divorce, he could file a ‘motion for temporary relief’ to ask a judge to consider removing  my husband from the house. At that point, my husband hadn’t yet left us and things were intenstifying at home to a degree I wasn’t getting much sleep.
(2) Based on what I had told him about my husband’s behaviors, the attorney thought my child and I might like to speak with a psychiatrist.

I jumped on that last one, because I desperately wanted to talk with someone who would say, “Yes! He’s a narcissist! Oh my! You’ve been through so much! Of course, I’ll testify in court for you. This is absolutely horrible what he’s put you and your child through.”

Again, my thoughts of what justice should be and what they actually are were not in sync. While the suggestion of talking with a professional psychiatrist wasn’t necessarily a bad one, that too eventually ended up with a lot of money being spent without reimbursement (as this attorney and the subsequent firm I hired had suggested it would be). The counseling also proved generally to be unhelpful (not unlike the three marriage counselors we went to).

The reason I decided to retain another attorney was something the first attorney brought up as his general modus operandi: “collaborative divorce.” This is a relatively new concept that bears resemblance to mediation in some regards. Essentially, the idea is that both parties work with their lawyers and other professionals (counselors, psychiatrists, etc.) with the goal of reaching an agreement and not going to court.

When I considered that there can be no collaboration with an abuser, I asked for my retainer back from the first attorney (which I got, minus some expense for his time) and started inquiring around again. The second firm recommended to me was a higher-priced firm. When I called, the legal assistant to one of the firm’s partners took such an interest in the details of my case and said it was so involved (with an abusive spouse, a special needs child, etc.) that the head of the firm would likely need to hear the details. So we set up an appointment to meet, with the head of the firm (at $400 an hour) and the main attorney with whom I would work (at $200 an hour) present. I spent more time sharing details of the abuse, in which they were both interested, than I did asking questions of them. This was the first of several mistakes I made.

In hindsight, I wish I had spent more time interviewing them than sharing the details of my case. Every detail I gave of my then husband shouting in my face within earshot of my daughter, or spinning the car around yelling at me as we both were in the car at his mercy — were met only by questions from my attorneys about what exactly he said. When I explained the terms he used were from Scripture, such as “nagging wife, dripping faucet, unloving, unmerciful, judgmental,” etc., I received deer-in-the-headlight looks back with only an “Oh” in response. Nothing crossed a legal line, not even spinning the car around.

The first red flag that should have stopped me in my tracks with this particular firm was that moments after I retained them — Mr. $200-an-Hour walked me to my car and said, “Men explode sometimes.” I sent him an email as soon as I got home that stated “it’s unacceptable behavior and indicative of suppressed anger that if left unchecked could put (child’s name) in a dangerous place someday if left alone with her dad.” After six days, he emailed back, ““I can assure you that I do not take angry outbursts lightly.” In hindsight, I should have left the firm then.

Don’t be afraid to jump ship from any attorney you hire if dissatisfied or if red flags arise. I wish I had. In my case, I had spent so much time emailing and calling with information that I thought would be relevant (and was never told otherwise by my attorneys) that I was emotionally and financially depleted by journey’s end, and I just decided to cut my losses and stay with the firm I’d hired (and with whom I’d already been before the judge once). But if I had it to do over again, I would have started all over again with interviewing attorneys until I was as confident as possible that I had someone I trusted.

As it turned out in my case, our first appearance before a judge in chambers was one week following the non-settlement meeting. My attorneys not only spent several hours of my time on the phone and in person trying to prepare me for the judge I would be facing — quite literally putting the fear of God in me because even though my husband had left us, not seeing our child by his own choice for months, I was told that this judge could very well decide to throw me out of the marital home and allow my husband to move back in at a moment’s notice — all to allow my husband time with the child he abandoned and for whom he no longer was paying a dime to support. It basically shut me up before the judge. At the end of the first preparatory meeting regarding time in court, as they placed this fear in me, I asked (as I always had to do — because they never brought it up) how much they’d seek in the way of child support. The head of the law firm casually remarked as he walked out of the room, “As little as possible.”

I  was already wiped out after more than an hour of prep time in his office related to my case, while my mind was still going over details related to our child’s schooling, would I still be allowed to stay in my house, what about reimbursements for all the expenses I was paying for her and me since I had been totally dependent on his salary prior to that time, etc. And I had just spent at least $400 that hour to be told they’d be seeking “as little as possible” in return for me. His later justification to me was that he was trying to be expedient in getting this case closed sooner rather than later, i.e., getting my husband to agree rather than fight on.

I thought that by paying more that I’d be getting more. Not so. They took one look at an inheritance I received from my father that I put into a trust fund for our child (a trust now greatly depleted) and cha-ching. It was my husband who had the bulldog attorney, possibly paid for by my husband’s employer since one day about four months into the process his attorney called mine irate that the employer was going to fire the attorney if my husband and our child didn’t get together immediately. I told my attorneys that I didn’t care if his attorney was fired by my husband’s employer. My attorneys told me that it would look like I was preventing my husband from seeing our child, and the judge might not look favorable on me if that’s the impression. So. . . in spite of the fact that he left us and didn’t make an effort to see her, it was suddenly my responsibility to hop-to and get them together.

It was my husband who landed the bulldog attorney. The only way I could have known that I wasn’t getting such an attorney would be had I either (a) interviewed more doggedly (so to speak) at the outset and/or (b) dropped the attorneys I had at the first red flag I noticed. I wish I had done both.

One week post-non-settlement, we met before the judge to discuss two motions my husband had filed against me. One motion was for “timesharing” (previously known as “visitation”). “Timeshare” to me smacks of a condominium rental in Bermuda, and when it comes to actual benefit to the child involved, time in Bermuda might be a better option than how courts currently divvy up the children equally between abuser parent and target parent.

The second motion was for a psychiatric exam, even going so far as listing among the reasons he was seeking it were that I homeschooled our child, something he had never contested — but also voluntarily never participated in — as well as the fact that I eventually put up curtains to prevent his sudden appearances at windows in the dark. The judge dismissed that motion as unnecessary, which was a bit of a disappointment to me as I had hoped that a psychiatric exam might be done on the entire family and reveal narcissism in my husband. Even then, however, the judge we had on the bench wasn’t inclined to take that to heart. I suspect that unless the narcissim crosses a legal line, many judges wouldn’t take that diagnosis into great consideration.

Prior to the first appearance in front of the judge, I ended up answering the motions for my attorneys, typing up very short replies to each point (some as simple as “1. False.”) and sending them back to my attorney. Sometimes motions have to be answered on paper; other times I was told they’d just be handled in court, such as motions three and four that were filed against me, which included a “Husband/Father’s Motion to Temporary Change Time Sharing Schedule” and “Husband/Father’s Motion to Enforce and Clarify the Terms of the Mediated Agreement.”

Much content in the third and fourth motions was redundant and frivolous, to the point I began to look for an email with an attached fifth motion to enforce and clarify if and when I’d have the right to breathe the same air as he breathes.

To be fair to the legal system, this experience did clue me in to what judges and attorneys must have to deal with on a daily basis with the number of motions my husband filed against me. Before the divorce was finalized in May 2015, he had filed four motions (along with several interrogatories and “requests to produce” — all financial disclosure ). All motions have to be handled by the attorneys, being read (at great expense to the target of abuse) and dealt with by the judge.

Since then I have heard of other cases where frivolous motions are likewise filed against targets, choking up the system of justice and causing endless pointless paperwork.

All of this is highly emotionally charged, and if I had it to do all over again I would handle it as I’m learning to handle my now ex-‘s ongoing emails to me. That is, to take a deep breath, sleep on it, pray, and recognize the source. I have learned that many of these things are just hot air. Although the issues themselves may be worthy, the substance of what the abuser throws out there is not. I wish I had just let those things go until my attorneys brought them up for discussion first, then I wouldn’t have ended up taking up so much time with things that in the end just blew away without consequence, except for my holding a hefty legal bill.

So if you receive motions filed against you, recognize the source. Your soon-to-be-ex- is untrustworthy, and unless he can substantively prove that you have crossed a legal line, it is likely that the courts won’t waste time on frivolous motions. They see too many of them these days.

Instead, put the motion aside until you’re ready for it (as I do with emails from the now ex-husband), and address them after you’ve had a full night’s sleep first. When I first read the motions filed against me, it was late on a Friday evening, which was when my attorney sent them. Bad timing. They were sent without any explanation from my attorney — just a cursory note from a legal aide, “Here are communications from (husband’s attorney).”

In addition to four motions, I had some other legal paperwork to handle, again filed by the husband — such as interrogatories to see exactly what finances I had where (which was ridiculous because he knew all this already, but it was a way of making me have to dig up papers for our child’s trust from my father’s inheritance left to me, get all credit card bills for the past year, tax records — which he had removed from the attic of our house the day after he didn’t come home, when he secretly entered the house knowing I’d be at church that weekday — so I had to pay $250 to retrieve tax records, for which my attorneys never asked for reimbursement).

It’s not that I didn’t hound my attorney about these things, but at a certain point it dawned on me that I’m paying an attorney $200 an hour to convince him to track down my husband’s attorney to get back $250.  I was trying to focus more on our child’s future such as where she’d go to school and where we’d live, and therefore I ended up letting a lot get away from me financially.

I just didn’t have the presence of mind or emotional stamina to remember every financial detail, even though I managed to send all of the credit card bills to the attorneys and to prepare everything I thought should be reimbursed in a spreadsheet. Things ended up getting away from me, such as having my husband pay half of the property tax bill or reimburse me for the tax records I had to get from the Internal Revenue Service.

We were assigned by the judge into mediation, for which we both had to pay, even though I came to the settlement meeting with options and fully prepared to settle. That didn’t matter to the Court because my attorney never addressed it with the judge, likely because he knew from experience that this judge wouldn’t grant it anyway. Each of our two appearances before the judge lasted only 25 minutes. The issues were handled pretty quickly without time for details.

When we reached mediation, it was fully five months after my husband had abandoned us. My husband and his attorney chose to sit in the next room and have the mediator waltz back and forth between rooms. The mediator brought her own forms used to develop the mediation agreement, and later my attorney told me that he preferred the forms their firm uses, which separates child support financials from the rest of the issues to be discussed.

What I didn’t appreciate was that my attorney just let this all play out that way — accepting the mediator’s forms — without taking the bull(dog) by the horns and fighting my corner. Instead, I’d get apologies after the fact or lamentations that “We should have gone with our own firm’s forms.” And for all of this, I paid dearly — as did our child.

Part of that mediation process that niggles at me to this day is that the mediator (a woman) admonished me at one point that men need our help to participate in the parenting. She gave the example of how men should be shown how to change diapers so they can do it more often. I don’t think she caught the glaze in my eyes that must have rivaled anything Dunkin Donuts puts on their shelves because I waited for her to finish before I uttered, “I would have welcomed that,” which effectively shut her up on that subject.

I learned that not only were my attorneys not interested in gaining much in way of child support for me (forget about alimony), but they also never brought up my expenditures over the months of abandonment. In addition to not receiving reimbursements for those months he was gone (as if we didn’t need to eat or have heat during the winter), I was imputed a minimum wage which I wasn’t earning (and still have yet to). Again I was told by the mediator and my attorney that it is standard practice. Never mind the fact that I remain unemployed to this day because finding a job that allows one to pick up one’s special needs child at 3 p.m. two to three days a week from public school in a highly agricultural county at least an hour’s drive from the nearest city isn’t that easy, even (perhaps especially) if one has a good resume.

The point of all that detail is that until you know how your attorney is going to handle things, it’s cost-efficient for you to try to discern or flesh out up front exactly what your attorney intends to seek for your benefit and how he or she proposes to go about it. I wish I had asked more questions up front before retaining the law firm that I did.

In the last post in this series, we’ll consider some possible questions you could ask if in the process of considering hiring an attorney for a divorce. These are based solely on my own experience, so the questions you ask may be specifically tailored to your situation. As they say, your mileage may vary.

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 [Go to Part 1 of this series]

20 Comments

  1. Anon

    Even the best attorney would be useless against the judge I have. I fear ever having to go to court again. I believe he’s just as narcissistic and misogynistic as my ex. My ex showed up an hour late to court and still got the royal treatment. I’ve pretty much been told to “sit down, shut up.” It’s in God’s hands. Even though there’s nothing in this state which allows my child a say at the age the child is (and the judge wouldn’t hear the child anyway), I feel that something’s got to give. My child even recognizes his abusive behaviors. I thank God for a strong, independent child.

    • Still Reforming

      Anon,
      Your child sounds like mine. By the grace of God, she’s been given to see abuse for what it is – at least at a child’s level of understanding. She was frustrated by the courts to not be allowed a voice in the courtroom – neither by attorney ad litem nor guardian ad litem. I thank God your child has been given eyes to see truth for what it is as well. There’s much value in that. And I agree – ultimately, it’s all up to the judge, no matter how good one’s attorney is.

    • Dear sister, for your safety we disidentified some of the details in your comment and changed your screen name.

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  2. Anewanon

    My 23 month long separation/divorce was similar to yours. I agree to interviewing as many lawyers as you need to (and early) until you find one you can trust. IN that process it also blocks the opposing side from retaining the bulldog. My ex did that do me…Once they even interview one or the other party then there is a conflict of interest for the opposing side. A very strategic tactic that abusers think of early on. So be aware.

    > I was told that this judge could very well decide to throw me out of the marital home and allow my husband to move back in at a moment’s notice — all to allow my husband time with the child he abandoned and for whom he no longer was paying a dime to support. It basically shut me up before the judge.<

    One this note it IS important to get the attorneys view and intentions in the interview on how they WILL FIGHT FOR YOU and your CHILDREN. And even if they do the bait and switch tactic, then drop them like a hot potato if its still early in the process. You don't need more stress from more betrayal. I said to myself, "Self, if God showed me ANYTHING in this marriage, it has to be HOW TO WALK AWAY FROM A LIAR and a DECEIVER.." My first attorney would not return phone calls within a weeks time when the contract that I Signed indicated that he would do so within 48 hours. BYE BYE. If you allow it to happen once, especially DAYS before a hearing, the rest assured that that IS their SMO and it WILL happen over and over and over. My second atty was a good communicator and that meant a lot to me in getting through this process.

    The whole thing is nothing short of treachery. A woman's heart was designed FOR HER HUSBAND and his dismissal of her and his utter disregard for what he is heaping upon her shoulders is agony to our Father.

    Ps 68:5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God, whose dwelling is Holy.

    I told my attorney point blank that I am FAR more afraid of the judge upstairs than I am of the one on the bench and that she should be too. I think that once she saw that I was a fighter for my children, it helped her fight a little more too in my behalf.

    Finding a lawyer is much like finding a car mechanic. You may not know HOW to go about fixing the car but you DO know what is WRONG with it – after all you have to drive it every day. You have every right to make sure he is in agreement with the WHAT NEEDS to be done even if you yourself are not the one turning the wrench. And if the money you pay him doesn't address the issue, then find a new mechanic. You have the right to tell your atty what you need to see happen. There is always room for dialogue if you are being too unreasonable, but to follow their advice blindly without dialogue is just too dangerous for the outcome. Remember, most lawyers are of this world.

    —–
    I had a friend who actually did mediation via her pastor. Their outcome was far better than any I've seen coming from court.

    • Still Reforming

      Anewanon,
      That’s what I didn’t do soon enough – walk away from the attorneys. I left the first one after a week or two, but it’s wasn’t for this kind of subtle non-representation. It was due to the “collaborative” approach, which I didn’t want. I should have left these attorneys that I retained, but I am glad that I got in and out of the process in six months, so that in itself was a good thing.
      Still, I learned halfway or most of the way through that the approach of my attorneys was “provide legal counsel” and not “advocacy,” which is what I thought I was paying for. I think I didn’t approach the process as thoughtfully as I should have.
      I hope these lessons learned the hard way from all of us here chiming in help others to get more out of the wretched experience – making it work for the benefit of themselves and their children.
      I greatly appreciate your “note to self” re: walking away from liars and deceivers. That goes for wolves in attorneys’ suits as well, just like you wrote.

      • Anewanon

        > I learned halfway or most of the way through that the approach of my attorneys was “provide legal counsel” and not “advocacy,” which is what I thought I was paying for. I think I didn’t approach the process as thoughtfully as I should have.<

        So true. We want a defender, but if they don't agree, the defense will be weak at best. Daughters of God seeking defense from worldly people just doesn't work very well. Which could be why God says to keep it out of the courts as much as possible. Even though God can still work THROUGH anyone, don't count on anyone for working for God.

        1 cor 6:4 …So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?

        My friend who had her pastor mediate their dissolution did very well for herself and for her children. The husband, in her case, was bent on maintaining his image with the church more than anything, and so he agreed to work with the pastor. If he didn't have that idol of "maintaining image with church", it may not have turned out the same. Granted, a pastor's goal is reconciliation, and rightly so. And thus the whole process took the better of FOUR YEARS to complete, but at least she was heard and validated through it all and can walk away knowing that she did her best to help him.

  3. a prodigal daughter returns

    Thank you for sharing this it is a good word of warning to be vigilant. I remember advising a relative that the judge could not possibly rule in favor of her ex about the necessary child support. She was impoverished, he was well off, he clearly abandoned his child, of course the judge would rule on a reasonable amount of child support. She tearfully called me and reported that the judge did exactly what everyone told her was impossible and honored the wishes of a shark female attorney that got the deadbeat father the right to pay very little child support.
    As far as this statement “I had hoped that a psychiatric exam might be done on the entire family and reveal narcissism in my husband.” I’ve worked in the mental health profession and observed there are narcissistic therapists and doctors that support other narcissists in their exploitation of their victims. It is a hideous miscarriage of justice when they do so, but something to be aware of. Additionally, patient/therapist confidentiality can be overridden in some areas It is good to be aware that an opposing attorney can subpoena’s your mental health records to use them against you in some states and in some situations. HIPPA and privacy laws carries some weight but its not an absolute protection. Here is an example of a legal discussion about this. http://www.tba.org/journal/privacy-of-mental-health-records-in-divorce-and-custody-proceedings
    If you’ve seen a therapist many places authorize you to get a copy of what the therapist is saying about you in your medical records, this is important information and if you disagree with their assessment you can add an addendum with another doctors opinion or your own. For example a non-Christian therapist that decides a client has religious delusions because they are particularly devout may not tell the client she things that but write it in her chart. Always be aware of what is in that document if you seek therapy.

    • Still Reforming

      A Prodigal Daughter Returns,
      That’s valuable information you share about the mental health profession and record-keeping.
      I took my child to see a therapist – eventually finding a pediatric counselor familiar with abuse and narcissism, but in the end, there was not as much value in the sessions as I had hoped. Perhaps there was in the sense that our child was able to get a few things aired, but… she and I have a good enough relationship that she was already able to do that at home with me. I don’t know why I thought a therapist could add something more.
      To some extent, the therapist was helpful in that she got my child to rate on a scale the fear level of her nightmares with respect to her dad. The therapist and I both took photos of that white board illustrating my child’s fear of her dad, but even when mentioned to my attorneys, that wasn’t relevant enough to make it to court. So my daughter didn’t have a voice in court. I fear that today children rarely do.

    • bright sunshinin' day

      APDR – excellent caution given here:

      I’ve worked in the mental health profession and observed there are narcissistic therapists and doctors that support other narcissists in their exploitation of their victims. It is a hideous miscarriage of justice when they do so, but something to be aware of. Additionally, patient/therapist confidentiality can be overridden in some areas It is good to be aware that an opposing attorney can subpoena’s your mental health records to use them against you in some states and in some situations. HIPPA and privacy laws carries some weight but its not an absolute protection.

      Some women’s shelters offer free counseling from those trained in domestic abuse…perhaps this would be a safer route to receive counseling.

  4. Survivor

    You have met and were mugged by thieves – the professional ones, the elite. The ones you sought out because they presented themselves as the ones who would help/save.

    You walk into it because you don’t realize what it is and where you are and so respond inappropriately, given the context. (The truth is far more fantastic than you could ever have imagined.)

    You keep going – with blind faith, by the way – according to the system’s protocol, thinking it has been sanctioned by God, thinking you are facing the right direction. It takes a while to realize that there’s no light there, i.e. it’s dark: the Slanderer/Liar is not only at work but has established himself/squatted so long that the people residing/dwelling there think it’s normal/right/good/what is real and can be trusted in. It is a liars haven. It is a snake pit.

    Dear StillReforming, no amount of interviewing would have brought you results, the whole thing is set up so they win regardless. You are a toy to them – and one willing to empty your pockets to “do the right thing” and/or “protect those you love”. They laugh with glee at their good fortune to have landed another catch – the fishing is so easy in their waters. They know all the tricks, the words to say, what not to say and how to navigate the law to serve their ends/bank accounts.

    During my “adventure”, one lawyer confided that everyone knows that “abused women” make up stories. Another told me off-record that once they find out how much money you have, that will be the price of your divorce/legal action.

    They know have honed their skills far beyond your ability. The games they play are far beyond your ken.

    They have no problems sleeping at night. They don’t have indigestion or the runs from the stress of facing threats of harm and/or loss of their lives, children and/or homes.

    Admittedly, the few who are honest and do care are few and far between and they face a massive institutionalized and revered set-up that pushes back at the scent of truth-tellers. Their power is severely limited so as to keep any threat to the security of their power neutralized (all protestations deprived of power and rendered background noise). Sound like a familiar dynamic?

    It’s a hard reality to face, I know. I’ve been through it twice. It will devastate you for a time, but you will recover – and be far stronger than you were before. The truth does set you free – into resurrection power. Look to the example of Jesus, always look to Jesus.

    It’s interesting that, when you lift marriage out of the context of religion, you will find that even the earliest records of marriage in the Bible are between the man, the woman and God – no lawyers ever enter the picture.

    You have sex together? You’re married.

    You exchange money for sex? You’re married.

    You perform a public ceremony in which you declare your lifelong allegiance to your intended? You’re married.

    Godly marriage has NOTHING to do with ANY world systems. Once you’re out of this trap, you’ll likely never, ever return to it. Oh, the simplicity that is in Christ! His burden is light, His yoke is easy.

    Let him go. Let it all go – except your life and that of your child/children (though the bastards may even succeed in taking them or turning them against you, their mother.)

    Remember that Jesus the Christ/Yeshuah Ha Mashiach alone will be the One who will restore what the locusts have eaten, the One who will redeem what has been lost – and the One who will exact vengeance on the ones who dared touch His beloved with evil intent to cause harm/loss.

    Rest in His SHALOM: His peace as you go through this very deep and dark valley. He is with you. Cast ALL your care on Him. Strong love is carrying you every moment. That everyone should be so blessed. You’ll see. Keep looking up.

    • Still Reforming

      Survivor,
      Thank you. I find it interesting what those attorneys said to you. It’s amazing how what abusers say speak volumes about themselves. At one point, I was relaying a story of abuse to my attorney when he suddenly said, “You would do well on a witness stand.” I was startled by his words, and so I asked, “Why?” And he said, “Because you come across as telling the truth.” That spoke volumes to me. I told him that I was telling the truth, but his words remained with me long after he spoke them. They suggest to me that he views things as “coming across” and not so much what the words or heart actually are. I think that may be part of why many of us who become victims take so long to realize what’s going on. We view others to be as we are – In other words, if we value true, we speak truth, and we expect the same. It takes a lot to prove otherwise – or it used to. As I get older and having lived through decades of abuse, not only from my now ex-husband, but my former church, and these attorneys as well – it takes a lot less to prove otherwise to me these days. It takes but one red flag now and I’m outta there.

      • Anewanon

        > It takes but one red flag now and I’m outta there.

        Hitting the LIKE button doesn’t do enough justice for the HUGE “AMEN” I wish to scream!

  5. Charis

    One thing I had to learn during this phase of divorce (and I had to KEEP learning it over and over) is that much of the language used in documents that pass back and forth between lawyers, courts and judges is “standard boilerplate.” When I got the initial filing – I had a strong knee-jerk reaction; NONE of that crap was true about me. How DARE he say such things. And then my lawyer explained that everything in there was boilerplate. It was expected. It is a “tit for tat” exchange. If my “boilerplate” legalese just so happens to be true about him – the court doesn’t really care. And so, it also doesn’t care that the rubber-stamped boilerplate fired back across the bow ISN’T true.

    I also had to learn that some boilerplate cannot be removed from the process. This is infuriating and can feel entrapping. For instance, the final decree has a LOT of boilerplate in it: things I never agreed to, things I assumed my ex asked to have in there (that felt like controlling tactics), things I absolutely thought were absurd and HATED. At one point I specifically asked to have those items removed. Delete them! My lawyer said it couldn’t be done: standard boilerplate. Case law. Processor’s Office will look for these tidbits and reject the decree if they aren’t in there. Wow.

    My ex pulled plenty of stunts and showed his controlling tactics. I also had to learn that the fine print in legal documents is FULL of language that is inflammatory. It’s supposed to be. It’s “boilerplate.” It adds fuel to the fire. In fact I am currently being sued over a car accident and my litigation attorney told me his job is to make things as difficult and bothersome as possible for the plaintiff – and as smooth/painless as possible for me.

    For my divorce, I was fortunate to have a lawyer who helped my learning curve and take some of the “heat” out of the process. He sent all court documents by email and attached a summary that explained the basic “meat” of the document. This allowed me to sift through the boilerplate to get to the true issue. This didn’t always work but that’s my fault. I am a detail person – and divorce is very emotional/personal, especially when divorcing a covert abuser/manipulator. To his credit, my attorney was very patient with me. So, when you get some of these documents and read things about yourself – pause a moment and think: boilerplate. Then, move on. It can help take the heat out. A little.

    • Still Reforming

      Charis,

      I got that same verbal answer too from my attorneys regarding the divorce decree – that certain things were “standard boilerplate,” but on one item I stood my ground and made them revise it. My version made it through.

      I just located the email to my attorney about that item and I’ll include it between asterisks below, with my attorney’s answer asserting it’s standard language. This was regarding the “final judgment” (ie, language of the divorce decree):

      * * *

      Me: I’ve looked over the documents, and I have a few questions and comments.

      I’m not comfortable with this language: “The Court, having reviewed the file and heard the testimony of both parties, the statements of counsel, and being otherwise fully advised in the premises, makes these findings of fact and reaches these conclusions of law:”

      Is there any way to make that more general? Maybe just: “The Court makes these finds of fact and reaches these conclusions of law.”

      My attorney: This is form language—if I delete it in its entirety, the Court will add it back in. But I can delete the “fully advised in the premises.”

      Me: This is (in part) why: Having been in front of the judge twice now, I’m not convinced he heard the testimony of both parties. I hardly got to speak and neither did my attorneys really. We were always on the defensive and the full story was never really heard. We were in court all of 25 minutes the last appearance and half of that time was formalities regarding whether or not I was pregnant (and such as that). So…. I don’t want to sign off on the court being fully advised in many areas. The judge never read the (state investigative) report since he asked if there was anything found, (My ex-husband’s first name) was to have paid his first child support payment on (date) per the mediation agreement, but that was handled between attorneys not with the judge; and we never brought up the security issues (listed here) in court, so I don’t want to sign off that the court (judge) is “fully advised,” because I do not agree that he is. He never heard about (my husband’s name)’s violations of the Standing Family Court Order, and when I started to state them, (attorney’s name) touched my arm or otherwise sought to stop my stating anything, even though (I listed legitimate justification here for verbally stating my now ex-husband’s transgressions of the order in court).

      * * *
      So you can see that the attorney wrote to me that it’s just “form language” and if deleted “the Court will add it back in.” That’s crap. Sorry, but I can’t state it any nicer than that. I had 20 years of playing games with my now ex-husband, and then six more months of similar behaviors (like this) with attorneys. The Court never added the language back in that I struck out.

      I’d be willing to bet that the Court doesn’t scour these things looking at every jot and tittle. Yes, they have to abide by legal standards no doubt, but I was NOT going to sign my name to a document that would absolve the judge or other legal professionals involved of all responsibility and accountablity lest something in the future happen that I had already told my attorneys about ad nauseum but they failed to adequately represent me in the matter. If something ever happens to my child or me in the future at the hands of my now ex-husband, I do NOT want a document out there saying the Court was fully apprised, because it was not. I think this leaves a door open for me to walk through to say that these men didn’t do their jobs.

      I went so far as to request and pay for written court transcripts for the same reason.

    • Anewanon

      I know what you mean. The first divorce papers that came to me wherein I read that I shall refrain from “molesting my children in any way” made my hair stand on end. Really? Now why didn’t MY ATTORNEY’S “boilerplate” use the word “Molest”? Having been a molestation victim as a child, I think that my-exs attorneys know exactly how to twist the passive aggressive knife into my back. My ex-spouse chose an attorney who was just like him. He wielded his words like a sword. Phew. I am SO GLAD that is over.

      I would advise that IF you are ABLE to settle via mediation – then give it a try. The courtroom is just a big money making reality show for the judges and lawyers who have no personal investment in your future.

  6. standsfortruth

    If I could offer any suggestions to the women here, it would be to find yourself a good family law bulldog “Woman lawyer”.
    At least if she is a woman she will relate to our gender, and will be more likely to understand and defend our vulnerabilities and concerns.
    I made the mistake of choosing a male lawyer who had a convincing facade.
    He stated in the beginning he hated to lose, and claimed to be aggressive and spoke good talk in the beginning, just like my abuser.
    He promised all sorts defending strategies when I first retained him.
    But in court he conceding in allowing the opposing counsels bull dog attorney to run the show much to my sacrifice and loss.
    Although I worked hard ahead of time to prepare timely evidence for my attorney in court so that he would defend my position, when it was time for him to speak up , he instead stood down.
    And then when I showed concern, he motioned with his hand to hush me.
    There was no way I could see any of this coming until it was there.
    I was blindsided by a male lawyer.
    All I can think now is in hindsight “I should have picked a woman lawyer.”
    I cant see a woman doing that because she is defending her own gender.

    I also think there may be a tendency when there is one bull dog attorney on one side, then both lawyers could work together and collaborate behind the scenes, to compromise the other party’s position, so as to shorten the proceedings.
    This is what happened with my lawyer, as he was retained as a flat rate and figured he had put in enough time.

  7. Still Reforming

    Standsfortruth,
    If I had to do it all over again, I would interview more female attorneys and maybe retain one, although I suspect the judge in my case could easily have a bias against female attorneys – judging by a few comments made to me by my attorneys about him (the judge) behind closed doors. I also think that in part may be why they dropped my last bill. I brought up several personal remarks they made about the judge and details of his own divorce that I think they didn’t want me to air in front of the bar association. That wouldn’t have reflected well on them, sharing his personal information to a client. At any rate, I have thought more than once that I wish I might have retained a female attorney.

    • Anewanon

      Agree to hiring a woman who can understand you and who also understand narcs. I hired a man at first, until he lied to me at which point i went with a seasoned female. My lawyer actually SUGGESTED that i read “the Sociopath Next door” which told me that she “got it” – whether I read the book or not. She turned out to be a good choice as I also had a female judge who was on the bench as long as my lawyer was a partner (>31 years). The two understood each other well without saying much. The woman attorney used a team approach and brought on another partner which I thought would cost me tons at 2 lawyer fees per hearing. But in the long run, they hit all angles and kinda tag teamed against my ex’s male bulldog. The whole thing was horrible drama, but when dealing with a lying narc, what else can you do when there are kids involved who are fearful of their own father?

      On one hand, I waited too long for his promises of change to kick in. But on the other hand, it allowed time for the kids to become old enough to defend themselves in the “system” and age out of it as the whole thing dragged out.

      There were many times that I genuinely thought I would not make it through, but i kept praying through it all and God allowed favor in the areas that mattered most to me, i.e., the kids. The judge tossed some bones (financial) his way, I think, because she knew she could not MAKE/ FORCE the older teens actually visit him.

      I believe my biggest help was to just stay in the Word WITH the kids – reading to them nightly so that they can understand GOD’s standard for righteous living straight from God. The only “brainwashing” going on is with the mindset that having “Jesus as Lord” begs.

  8. PEARL

    It looks like the “judicial” system is just part of the good ‘ole boys club to keep you where you are or to make you pay for exposing it for what it is. I’m sorry for what all of you have had to go through.

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