A big part of a lawyer's job is figuring out how to nicely tell you what you don't want to hear. Much of the time we are trying to subtly (or not so subtly) tell you one of the following three things and, much of the time, you don't get the hint. To help you avoid getting stuck in a never-ending divorce, you should know the top three things that lawyers wish they could tell you, but probably won't:
1. We have to assume you are stretching the truth (okay, lying).
I have had a client tell me straight to my face that she was not addicted to prescription drugs and then watched as her child was taken away from her in the courtroom because the drug test, positive for pain killers, was sent straight to the judge. It's not just addicts -- people lie about how much of their personal expenses are being run through a business, how many times they picked their kids up from pre-school and any number of other things. Fear and stress can make people skew the facts to match up to what they want to be true. Until I see a clean drug test, bank statements with cancelled checks or a copy of the school sign-in sheet, I'm going to take any "facts" a client tells me with a grain of salt.
2. We don't believe that Mother Teresa married Genghis Khan.
The more you insist to your lawyer, the court and everyone else that your ex-spouse is the spawn of Satan, the more we assume that you must have some major issues yourself (particularly if you were married for a long time). Of course, you might be suffering from a genuine Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but that just makes the court more worried about whether you will be able to keep your kids safe in the future. Whether you were married to a person who lied on their taxes, used illegal drugs or was emotionally or physically abusive -- the first question you will need to address with your attorney and the court is what are you doing differently now. Be ready to prove that you can keep your finances in order, that you don't also abuse drugs and that you have learned how to recognize the signs of abuse early enough not to let it happen to you or your kids again.
3. We can't give your ex a personality transplant.
There is no court order that will change the person that your ex-spouse is. If you had children with a bully, you will be co-parenting with a bully. We can create orders to keep a physically abusive person away from you, but we can't create orders that will make someone speak to you politely. No matter how specific orders get, a manipulative person will find the way to gain the advantage. Your lawyer (or even the judge) can't change the other person, but you have the power to change how you react and how much you allow their behavior to impact your life. While I wish I could turn a mean, vindictive turd into a sweet, generous co-parenting partner, I don't have magical powers.
Here's the good news.
You don't need a fairy god-lawyer to get through your divorce.
Hire a lawyer that will tell you what is a realistic outcome, not just what you want to hear. When you call your lawyer, focus on listening for at least as much time as you spend venting and when they tell you they need documentation, get it sooner rather than later. If possible, work with a therapist or a life coach to start rebuilding a life that is all about the happiness and security of you and your kids, regardless of what shenanigans your ex is up to. As they say, the best revenge is a happy life.