Thursday, February 23, 2012

In Re Marriage of Falcone and Fyke (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 23, 2012)

My father was a small-town attorney who took almost everything that walked in the door in order to put food on the table for his five children.  Wills, real estate, litigation, tax returns; whatever.  But he refused to do divorce cases.  When I was a child, I didn't really understand why.  Those people needed lawyers, right?  They paid fees as well.  Why not take those cases?

As I got older, and especially once I became a practicing lawyer myself, I had more insight into his decision.  And cases like this one exemplify the types of cases with which my father feared he might potentially become embroiled if he ever took on a divorce matter.

In this particular case, in the end, it actually all turns out fine.  Yes, one of the parties frivolously mucks up the litigation and makes it a disaster.  But she gets sanctioned, ends up having to pay the attorney's fees of her former spouse, and gets declared a vexatious litigant.  There's still massive disruption and inefficiency, but it's not an unmitigated disaster.

But that's only because she has money.  If there weren't assets there, this would be a terrible case.  And, sadly, cases like this are both far too common as well as exceptional.  Common in that frivolous litigation in family law matters is pretty routine.  Exceptional in that, most of the time, the frivolous litigant doesn't have any substantial assets, and so there's very little that a court can do.

Which is a deadly combination.

One big upside of hiring a lawyer is that they tend to take an objective look at things.  Or at least more objectively than you might during a contentious divorce.  If you have the funds, hire a lawyer.  At least as compared with the alternative, it'll save you money, stress, and potential disaster.

And, for the record, I don't litigate divorce cases.

Like father, like son.