NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

December 21, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In my last two posts, I took on the outrageous and in some cases downright untrue claims of divorce lawyers Henry Gornbein and Diana Raimi in their opposition to the shared parenting bill currently before the Michigan Legislature. Among many other things, I remarked that sole/primary custody sets parents at each others’ throats and, in the process, increases lawyers’ fees. Shared parenting, by closing that winner-take-all arena, reduces conflict, makes divorce easier and quicker and of course reduces the take-home pay of lawyers. That’s why no family law section of a state bar has ever supported a shared parenting bill, regardless of how worded. It’s naked self-interest.

As if to draw a line under my comments, this arrived (Sydney Morning Herald, 12/13/17). Of course the case and the judge reported on are part of the Australian family court system, not ours in the U.S. But, when it comes to Justice Robert Benjamin’s comments, he could have been talking about any family court in this country. Indeed, he could be talking about the courts in which Gornbein and Raimi practice their craft.

A Family Court judge has delivered a blistering judgment on the "culture of bitter, adversarial and highly aggressive family law litigation" in Sydney and blasted two law firms for charging "outrageous" fees.

In a judgment published on Wednesday, Justice Robert Benjamin said he regularly heard cases filed in the Sydney registry of the Family Court and was "increasingly concerned about the high levels of costs charged by the legal profession in property and parenting proceedings"…

The Hobart-based judge took aim at the "win at all costs, concede little or nothing, chase every rabbit down every hole and hang the consequences approach to family law litigation" he had observed in Sydney.

Sound familiar? “Bitter, adversarial and highly aggressive family law litigation?” Check. “Win at all costs?” Check. “Outrageous fees?” Also check. Again, the system of sole/primary custody that both countries cling to essentially guarantees that parents will fight like cats and dogs to keep from being chucked out of their children’s lives. Shared parenting promises that, except in unusual situations, both parents will maintain meaningful relationships with their kids. So what’s to fight about? Lawyers like Gornbein and Raimi take that fear of losing the children straight to the bank.

Of course most people don’t have the money to enrich lawyers even if they wanted to. They’re the ones who agree on custody and property, submit an order to the court and go their separate ways. They need little if any assistance from a lawyer. But the few couples with money to spend are considered fair game and many lawyers are happy to fan the low fire of animosity into a roaring blaze. I’ve seen it happen too often to pretend otherwise.

Justice Benjamin, it turns out, isn’t kidding around.

He asked the Legal Services Commissioner to investigate whether the fees charged by the solicitors acting for a former couple fighting over parenting arrangements and property could constitute professional misconduct.

The feeding frenzy has gotten that bad. Plus, in the latest case, the parents seem to have been far from wealthy when their divorce began. And they’re a lot less so now.

Justice Benjamin said the couple, given the pseudonyms Mr Simic and Ms Norton, had spent an "eye-watering" $860,000 in the proceedings and "these amounts are, on their face, outrageous levels of costs for ordinary people involved in family law proceedings".

My guess is that everyone reading Benjamin’s remarks has been shocked at the figure quoted – everyone, that is, except family lawyers. I suspect they consider that $860,000 fleeced from ordinary people to be less “eye-watering” than mouth-watering.

And lets’ not forget that lawyers like Gornbein and Raimi want us to believe that their concerns are only for the children. Really, they do. Well, Justice Benjamin has something to say on that subject too.

"The children of these parties depend upon the income and assets of their parents to support them," he said.

"Yet, in this case, the costs of the proceedings have taken a terrible toll on the wealth of the parties and consequently their ability to support and provide for their children."

Yes, the same family lawyers who regularly shout to the heavens about children’s need for monetary support don’t bat an eye at taking as much of their parents’ ability to do exactly that as they can get away with. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling, even for lawyers.

It’s always instructive to see, “up close and personal,” just what the lawyers who invariably oppose shared parenting actually mean by their opposition. In the case Justice Benjamin reported to the Legal Services Commissioner, it meant years of bitter animosity, stratospheric legal fees and a crippling blow to the parents’ ability to support their children. And all so the lawyers could make their Lexus payments.

Remember all that the next time a divorce lawyer inveighs against shared parenting.




National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#divorce, #sharedparenting, #lawyers

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