Is being a divorce lawyer miserable?

Is being a divorce lawyer miserable?

Miserable? Can be (and is) for some divorce attorneys, but for me it’s chronically discouraging.

Sure, the human pain and betrayal to which we are exposed is saddening, as is the toll divorce takes on innocent children.

It’s sad to see a nuclear family ripped apart and to witness the different, but inevitable short and long-term consequences for every member.

It’s annoying to see who should be mature adults wasting their precious time, resources, and emotional reserves on anger, conflict, and oneupsmanship.

What makes it discouraging for me, however, is the way courts still treat fathers generally, i.e., as second-class parents and sources of financial support but not as important to a child as a mother, not as crucial an emotional and psychological component of a minor child’s upbringing. While it is true that fathers are gradually being treated more fairly, it’s still discouraging how often courts presumptively write off the father as unequal to the mother, how they presume fathers don’t love and care for their children as much as the mothers, how often the courts will, in some cases, literally analyze what the physical custody and “parent-time” award will be by asking “what’s the minimum the kids really need with their father?”

I’m frankly amazed that courts in my jurisdiction (Utah) refuse to give joint physical custody so much as a losing chance when courts can easily test it during the pendency of the case before making a final determination. Instead, some courts retain the services of “custody evaluators” to predict what’s best for the kids without testing the hypothesis. Why? There is no good reason why.

Imagine you want to buy a new car. Imagine it’s going to be a major investment; you’ll be driving it a lot each year for many, many years. It needs to be the right fit for you and your family. The car you ultimately get won’t be perfect (nothing is), but you want your choice to be as good a fit for you and your family as possible. Like everyone else in your position.

Now imagine you’re told that of the cars you’re considering you are allowed to test drive only one of them. Indeed, while you’re contemplating which car you’ll ultimately buy you will be restricted to test driving only one of the possible choices.

There’s no compelling reason why you can’t test drive each of the three or four cars you’re considering, no reason why you shouldn’t (in fact there’s every sensible reason you should).

But the dealerships simply dictate that until you make up your mind, you won’t allow you test drive any car but one. When you ask the dealers why (if they give you any answer at all), it will be something along the lines of “these cars are not lab rats” or “test driving a car might harm the car, so it’s not worth the risk” or “test driving more than one car may confuse and upset you.”

When you ask the dealers, “How can I make the best choice of car, if you deny me and my family the most useful and meaningful way to choose (i.e., test driving)?,” the dealers will then tell you that either they will choose for you and that a “car choice evaluator” may be appointed to help the dealers (not you) decide what new car you will buy. It makes no sense, but the dealers will tell you, “We’ve told you how our customers’ cars are chosen, so the matter is settled.” That’s how child custody has been determined for as long as I’ve practiced law.

No matter how many times I ask courts to test competing custody proposals, to compare joint custody against sole custody, so that the court and the family (and that includes the children) can experience the different schedules and learn what is best, I have NEVER had such a request granted. Not once in 23 years of practice. Nor have I ever heard of a court doing such a thing in any other child custody case where I practice. That makes me miserable.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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