Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Advice to Miss Piggy and Kermit: Watch out! Those sharks in the water aren’t ordinary Muppets. They’re matrimonial lawyers.

Miss Piggy and Kermit in happier times. Now they're food for sharks.
So I was brushing my teeth after breakfast  with the TV in the next room tuned to the CBS This Morning show. Suddenly I heard somebody — was it Norah O’Donnell or Gayle King? — announce that Miss Piggy and Kermit The Frog were calling it splitsville after 39 years of marriage.

So to hell with the work on my schedule. As soon as I sat down at my  desk, I  googled the big news of the day. Good Lord! “About 3,860,000 results,” in .51 seconds, Google informed me, rolling out an overwhelming list of publications carrying the nearly identical story, from Newsweek to Jewish Business News

Of course, when so many of the stories are just about word-for-word the identical, you begin to wonder whether our trusted news media these days are simply printing press releases instead of actually reporting the news. But that’s a matter for a different blog post.

The last long goodbye kiss isn't to each other.
It's to the money you've worked and scrimped for.

I think I’d better warn Kermit and Miss P: the minute the lawyers take over, you can kiss a substantial portion of your fortunes goodbye. Both of you.

Is this Miss Piggy's divorce lawyer?
I’ve seen it happen to far too many friends. And to me, personally. The lawyers aren’t there to get you quickly and economically divorced, with a fair deal for both of you. The lawyers are there to milk you dry.

They’ll play with your emotions. They’ll get you worked up by telling you what rotten things your spouse is doing to screw you. Between you and me, they know this because both lawyers are doing the same thing.

As for your hapless spouse, she or he is  simply trusting his or her matrimonial lawyer, who is also orchestrating as much conflict into the situation as possible. And the lawyers play the same games with regularity. In fact, they’ll probably have a good laugh about you over martinis at the next convention of the Matrimonial Lawyers Association. 

“From Day One, both lawyers usually know to the penny what a case should settle for,” an attorney in my family once confided. “Then they keep the case going for as long as they can, because as long as it goes, it’s generating $400, or $500, or $650 an hour for them, or whatever they’re charging.”

Let the skinning alive begin

And rest assured, the lawyers will get their money. If they fight as fiercely as they know how, it won’t be for you. It’ll be for the right to skin you alive. A case in point, from the New York Times some years ago:
Broad guidelines intended to protect divorcing clients from being exploited by their lawyers have set off an acrimonious debate in New York State over whether lawyers should be held to the kind of consumer regulations that other businesses must abide by. 
Lawyers and bar associations have expressed such anger over the rules that Judge E. Leo Milonas, the state's top administrative judge, has modified some of them and put off implementation till the end of this month. Even with the changes, the rules still amount to the toughest in the country. 
A client, for example, is to be given written guidelines that explain new rights like binding arbitration in fee disputes. Divorce lawyers are banned from having sex with clients, from demanding nonrefundable retainers, and from foreclosing on mortgages to get paid. In one hard-won modification, however, lawyers no longer have to advise a client how to file a grievance against them.
…the matrimonial bar was vociferous in its opposition to the rules. Indeed the matrimonial law committee of the Nassau County Bar Association voted to file a lawsuit if major provisions were not changed.
There you go. I mean, heaven forbid lawyers should be banned from having sex with their vulnerable and emotionally fragile clients in a time of personal crisis. Or from foreclosing on your house. How the hell is a matrimonial lawyer supposed to get laid? Or get overpaid? Maybe he should slip something into his client's drink.

But back to that Times story. It turns out that matrimonial lawyers don't pity you, their clients. They pity themselves.
"What other kind of lawyer regularly gets this kind of aggravation?" said Sanford S. Dranoff, president of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "One Christmas morning I got called to the police station because my client refused to take the bowl of spaghetti off his head till I walked in.”
O, the poor baby! In the first place, Dranoff , now deceased, was Jewish, so Christmas wasn’t such a big deal for him. In the second place, there was no law compelling him to come to the police station. (But do you suppose he billed his client for it?)  In the third place, the story is totally irrelevant to the issue of lawyers treating their own clients unethically. But it does tell us a lot about a matrimonial attorney's willingness to mock his own client.

For years, matrimonial lawyers were signing up female clients, then slapping liens on their homes. And the best defense Dranoff could come up with was that a male client of his had a bowl of spaghetti on his head?

Heed this warning

Miss Piggy, you seem to have been the initiator of this case. So I think I’d better warn you, Miss Moi, that you're about to get financially slaughtered for money.  Plus be very careful of your attorney’s sympathetic arm around your shoulder. 

Kermit, poor guy, if you think it isn’t easy being green, wait until you see how it is when the matrimonial lawyers skin the green right off your back.

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