I recently re-watched the movie "The War of the Roses." I actually hadn't watched it since I became a lawyer and I had forgotten most of the movie. In the movie, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner star as a couple embroiled in a bitter divorce. It is supposed to be a dark satire on the divorce process and the extreme lengths some people go to when involved in divorce litigation. Danny Devito plays the husband's divorce attorney and attempts to be the voice of reason before Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner's characters wind up dead under a giant chandelier at the foot of the staircase of their contested home.
As I sat there watching this movie, I realized that I had encountered several similar situations. One spouse gets rid of another's prized pet? Been there. Damaging the other spouse's treasured car? Done that. Dividing the house in two sections because neither party will move out? Got the T-shirt. Honestly, the movie should probably be required viewing for anyone going through a divorce, especially those with children because the screenwriters and directors never let the audience forget the horrible toll the main characters' antics take on the kids.
The fact of the matter is that acting rationally is not something that is easy to do when going through a divorce. Everything becomes emotionally charged and everything starts to feel like a battle you want to "win." Sometimes people develop this twisted sense of right and wrong. For example,
"He's five minutes late to pick the kids up; no visitation for him. I win!"
"If they want me to pay child support, I'll just quit my job. I win!"
For the record, neither of those are "wins" and will usually wind up with a contempt sanction from the court. Further, the children wind up the real losers in both of those examples. Nevertheless, it is indicative of the type of insanity that can sit in during a divorce.
Because of this twisted sense of morality that sometimes sets in when people get divorced, it becomes extremely important to choose your lawyer wisely. While you want a lawyer who can empathize with you and understand what you are going through, the worst thing a lawyer can do for their clients is to identify with their clients and become emotionally invested in the case. You need someone who will maintain his objectivity and keep his head when you are losing yours. Your lawyer is not your psychotherapist; he's not your preacher; and he's not your best friend. He is there to advise you and guide you and your family through a difficult time and help you watch out for falling chandeliers.