Divorce Attorneys Suffer Caregiver Fatigue
For those of you who know me – I used to be a lively spirited, extremely caring, energetic person. I probably still am DEEEEEEEEEP down inside, but I’ll admit, I’ve been swimming in chronic negativity for the past 5 years and I am super tired of fighting. And it’s due to caregiver (compassion) fatigue.
I have been a divorce attorney for nearly two decades. In these glorious 20 years, I have been the subject of ridicule among corporate and “smarter” type lawyers (in law school, it was often heard “You better study, or else you’ll end up a family lawyer.”); threats such as “I’ll report you to the State Bar if you don’t sign this extremely one-sided agreement”, “I’ll bury you alive,”, stalking, cyberstalking (from opposing parties who are representing themselves), treated like crap, denigrated, condescended and cursed out by opposing counsel (some of whom are just being mean to cover up their incompetency, or some who are just straight up assholes), owed over $500,000 from past clients (I literally can retire on the money I am owed from past clients).
Last week, there was a dead crow on my front door step. A few years ago, I received this lovely threatening note.
Oh, and the death threats! Those are always so much fun. Most family lawyers have experienced them. In fact, you wanna know which types of lawyers are murdered most often? You guessed it – family lawyers. Sara Quirt Sann was a divorce lawyer shot by her client’s ex-husband. Bryan Young, another divorce lawyer, was also shot and killed by his client’s ex husband. Divorce lawyer Antonio Mari – also shot by client’s ex-husband. This Arizona man shot and killed 6 people who handled his divorce case – 10 years after his divorce!!
It’s so funny when I hear people talk about their lawyers as such, “They don’t care about anything but money” – when they owe their lawyer $5,000, or $50,000. Can you imagine if you owed your babysitter even $50? Do you think they would keep babysitting your kids?
I am tired. Really, really tired. I wanted to take the time to write this post because maybe this post will change the world! Or at least stop me from up and leaving family law before I hit the Powerball lottery.
1. Family lawyers are not weapons of mass destruction.
Many people believe that paying 1 million dollars to the best lawyer in the world will prevent the other side (a perfectly good parent) from getting custody. That is not true. It’s so demented that anyone can actually believe you can pay a good lawyer to gain custody. Custody is based on the best interests of the child. Obviously if the other side is hoarding the children and not allowing visitation, you should definitely seek the help of a lawyer. But, no amount of money will separate a perfectly good parent from the child. And someone who is a cheater or a liar, or unemployed, or mean – doesn’t equate with being a bad parent. That’s right – just because your husband had weird sex with a prostitute…doesn’t mean he isn’t a good father.
Sure, there are many tricks of the trade. Angie used them on Brad. You can call DCFS. You can file restraining orders. You can pay a lot of money for a custody evaluation. But in the end, you can’t “pay” for custody. In the end, it is still believed by the Legislature that the best interests for your children is to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Yes, even if the mother is a crackhead banging a gangbanger. And yes, even if the father doesn’t pay child support and doesn’t feed the kids organic food.
The reason I keep such an updated blog is I hope it will educate the many of you going through a divorce. There are choices out there. When and if you hire an attorney, please use them as a guide – they are not weapons of mass destruction. You should never say to your spouse, “I saw a divorce lawyer today and they will take you to the cleaners”. Instead, you should say, “I saw a divorce lawyer today and I learned a whole bunch of stuff. But the most important thing I learned is to keep it civil for the sake of the children and try to explore mediation. You with me?”
The more society believes its own lies about what divorce lawyers do, the more it opens the doors for unscrupulous lawyers to prey on the vulnerable emotional people in our field.
2. Family lawyers are not therapists, nor life coaches.
Family lawyers are not therapists. That’s why we get more death threats than therapists do. No one ever thinks the other side’s therapist is out to destroy them. For some reason, many people believe the other side’s divorce attorney is out to get them, and targeting them. It simply isn’t true. Here is the truth, divorce lawyers don’t and should not get personally invested in the outcome of the divorce. It shouldn’t be and isn’t their life. It’s a paycheck , just like any job. And had your spouse consulted with him and retained him first, he would be representing your spouse instead of you. Therefore, do NOT believe that your divorce attorney wants to destroy the other side. (and do NOT believe they are capable of destroying the other side – see number 1 above – they are not weapons of mass destruction). They may advocate for you if the other side is being unreasonable. But the mark of a TRULY excellent family lawyer is that they also tell YOU when you’re being unreasonable. This isn’t a personal injury case – where you were stricken by a stranger who ran a red light. This is family law – where the other side is the one who formerly shared your bed. You share bank accounts. Homes. CHILDREN.
Again, family lawyers are not therapists. We do listen to a lot of stuff (most of my $500 consults which are suppose to be for the purpose of legal advice are spent listening to people’s stories, who frankly, can be told to a friend, a mother, or a therapist).
I am not sure what life coaches do, but I can tell you I’m NOT one. If I was capable of changing my life, I wouldn’t still be a family lawyer. (Just kidding! I probably still would be, maybe). I don’t advise people on their lives. This includes, should you marry this guy? Should you leave your wife? Should you stand up to your in-laws? Should you leave your kids?
3. Divorce lawyers should not take on the cases of family and friends
I am tired. So so so very tired. My every day is filled with initial consults with people in pain. Millions of deadlines from extremely boring discovery. Frantic phone calls replete with emotional outbursts and alleged emergencies. I’ll tell you – I did have one emergency once. My client had a court order, and the other side came and took the kid and kidnapped him for 3 days. That was really awful. The rest of the stuff: he withdrew 25,000! He threatened he won’t pay the mortgage! He took my car keys! He didn’t list me as the contact at school! The rest of this – isn’t an emergency.
At the end of the day, I am tired and spent. I probably skipped lunch and I haven’t called my husband or parents. After 8-12 billable hours (this means at least i am making money) of listening to people in pain, I simply don’t have it in me to listen to my friends or family in pain (for free). I know this sounds callous, but it’s true. And if I know the couple, it makes it worse. I want to shake them and say, “Work it out! Do you want to spend 200k paying attorneys? ” I want to say, “Stop drinking so damn much!” “Stop beating your wife!” “Start cooking!” “Start taking care of your family!” “Stop flirting on Facebook!” Family lawyers should never get involved in the divorces/separations of friends.
And people, please. If you have a friend who is a family lawyer, please treat them with respect. Don’t use them and abuse them like toilet paper. Understand that their time is limited and valuable and don’t spend hours torturing them with your horror stories for free. In fact, if you have a friend who is a family lawyer, the best thing you can do – is ask them to give you a good referral. Good fences make good neighbors – boundaries!
We are suffering caregiver’s fatigue. After listening to so many painful stories, and not having time to take care of myself or my own family, shutdown is inevitable. I don’t want to get involved in my friends or family’s divorces. I also don’t have the time, energy or capacity to offer “free consults”. No reputable family lawyer does. You can read more about NO FREE CONSULTS here.
Common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress
To those who owe me money – you are contributing to my caretaker fatigue and preventing me from retiring.
DO’s AND DON’TS ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER
Kelly Chang Rickert, Attorney at Law
California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist
Law and Mediation Offices of Kelly Chang, A Professional Law Corporation
Copyright 2000 – 2020
DO YOUR JOB.
- Tell me the truth. In order for me to be at my very best, I need you to tell me the whole truth about your legal matter, even if it is unpleasant, and even if you think it hurts you. Remember, our success depends on the accuracy of the information I receive.
- Return my phone calls and emails and promptly comply with my requests. During the course of my representation, I may ask you to do some things to help me help you. At such times, please do your part and promptly comply with these requests. Remember, you are paying for my time, which includes nag time.
- Ask questions. If at any time you do not understand something that is, or is not, happening, please ask questions.
- Pay your bill timely. Remember, in order to represent you, I rely on services and staff, whom I have to pay. I have a business to run. If you do not pay your bills, my services will be terminated, no matter how much I like you. It’s not personal – it’s business.
ALLOW ME TO DO MY JOB
- My commitment is to give you my best effort. I commit to give you all of my experience, training, and energy in my representation of you.
- To promptly return your phone calls. I understand how important it is that your phone calls be promptly returned. I will make every effort to return your call the same day, and at the latest, within 24 hours.
- To be honest with you. I will tell you the truth as I honestly see it.
- To keep you informed. I am aware that your legal issues are very important to you. I do not take your trust for granted, and I plan to keep you fully advised about the progress of your legal matter.
- To tell you what is going to happen step by step. I intend to tell you as best I can what to expect before it happens, so that you are not surprised or confused.
- To treat you with respect. You are my client, and as such, you deserve the utmost respect from your attorney.
What Your Divorce Lawyer Can Do For You
1. Explain the law in California on issues of divorce, annulment, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, property division, and restraining orders. What is an annulment? What happens between filing and Judgment? What is an RFO? What is the date of separation? How much support can you expect to pay or expect to receive?
2. Explain procedure of the court. How long will this take? What will the Judge be like? What can you expect when you make this particular demand? Is it worth it to go to court?
3. Represent you in court. They will be your voice. They will step into your shoes and tell your side of the story, convincingly and appropriately. They will speak the language of LAW for you. They will pacify a grumpy Judge who doesn’t like excessive verbosity.
4. Represent you to opposing party and counsel. You are a good person. You have reasonable demands. Your lawyer will be on your side, arguing for your demands.
5. Protect your interests. You have rights defined by the law. You need to know your rights, and how to enforce them. Your lawyer is your protector.
6. Creatively argue the FACTS to best support the LAW. We can’t easily change the law, but lawyers are gifted at spinning FACTS which can get you the most you need under the law.
What Your Divorce Lawyer CANNOT Do
1. Change the Law. Times change. Laws change. But let’s be realistic, will the laws change during your divorce? Probably not. The 401k you acquired during the marriage, with no prenup? That is community property. We can’t change that. Your wife isn’t working and hasn’t worked for 10 years? You need to pay spousal support. Even if she cheated on you? That’s right. You have to pay spousal support. We can’t change that. You are a stay-at-home mom with a law degree with 2 school-aged children and you never want to work a day in your life, and want to collect support forever? You will eventually need to find a job. Child support terminates at age 18, or 19 if in high school. Spousal support – depends on many other factors. But unless you find another source of support, you WILL need to find a job. We can’t change that.
2. Make Your Personal Decisions For You. I can always give excellent advice and counsel on legal issues. For example, is $2500 a fair amount of support to pay, for 10 months? Is your parenting plan reasonable under the circumstance? Can you move to Hawaii? However, I can never tell you to get divorced.
3. Speed Up the Process. You can trust me to deliver prompt service. However, I cannot control the other side. Or their lawyers. It only takes one party to drag out a case. I promise you that unless it is due to strategy, I will not purposely prolong your case. Also, I do not control the courts. I promise that I will get you the earliest mediation and court appointment. However, I can never promise you’ll get a trial date by January 2018, or an RFO date by January 30, 2018. I do not control the court calendar.
4. Predict the Outcome with Guarantee. I have a lot of experience with the court system, and family law. It is my job, and I do it well. However, I am not God. I do not have a crystal ball, and I don’t have sixth sense. I am human, and I err. So do NOT rely on me to tell you, to absolute perfection, what will happen if we go to court.
5. Understand my role and do not take me for granted. I am your lawyer. Some of my clients – I even consider my “family”. But I am NOT an on-call robot, and barring true emergencies, I cannot respond to your calls after-hours, or on the weekends. I cannot give you my cell phone number. You have my email, and during work hours, you can expect a response, same day. There are times we may look at and answer your email over the weekend, but this is generally the exception and not to be relied upon by you that we are accessible on weekend.
6. Finally, We Cannot Be Your Personal, On-Call, 24/7 Advisor. We understand that your case is important to you. And we honor that. You have our word that we do not take our clients’ trust for granted. Please understand – there may be other clients in a similar situations. If I am in court on the day of your emergency, I simply cannot tend to you immediately. I am very fortunate to have very competent staff, who are always here to respond to your needs. However, if you need to talk to me, you will need to make an appointment. I will do my best to get to you ASAP.
When you hire us, you can expect reliable, competent, and hard-working lawyers. But we aren’t perfect. And likewise, we can expect that you are truthful and dependable and you will pay your bills. And we also know you may not be perfect.
Knowing this can help us build a solid relationship, prevent divorce lawyer burnout – a step towards world peace.
A lot of excellent divorce lawyers are quitting. We risk our LIVES to do this miserable job.
Soon all that’s left are bad divorce lawyers. You don’t want that, do you?