Archive for December, 2014

2014 in review

December 31, 2014 Leave a comment

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 920 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 15 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Categories: Uncategorized

Magical Thinking Redux

December 21, 2014 Leave a comment

I mused out loud about this, recently, but in the wonderful world of me– my “why?” Is there no cure or remedy?” –brain, I still ponder. (I suspect role playing is a powerful remedy but it’s never done in law. I did it in mediation training. Good stuff.)

It occurs to me that our society is awash in magical thinking and distorted thinking. A large part of our economy is fueled by convincing people that ____ will make them happy. Booze, a new diet pill, a fancy car, a relationship. Money. If you watch any TV the ads bombard us until we don’t even  notice the lies they promulgate. Happy cows live in California? Have you ever driven past the feedlots on the 5 freeway in Northern California? (see

Happy cows? I have SEEN happy cows. They live in Vermont–whose dairy products are incomparable. OK–this may seem an odd “beef”–but it just struck me one day and won’t leave.

So we have been taught to think poorly. We are inured to the disconnected between these myths and the facts.

But for some of us… it’s a painful thing to watch. What will happen to the generation of children whose parents, fighting every step of the way in court battles can’t get along at all? What will happen to the children born of short term sexual relationships wh0 never really had two parents?

Oh yes, I know–I am showing my age. (When I grew up, we had no “pill” and no abortion–and getting pregnant in your teens a was unthinkable. Sex was so far from our daily lives that on the sitcoms of the day none of the perfect parents parents slept in the same bed. Happy Days broke that mold.)

Now these cases abound and they all think they can use the internet to wend their way through the whole mess. Lawyers? Lawyers?  We are all greedy. (I am told that more than you would think.I cant post these remarks as they are privileged. =)

We are not affordable– and why we don’t often take plans plans is a mystery to the public. Which is a magical thinking symptom, as we get stiffed– a LOT. That was true even before people got really hit by this economy–and it’s worse now. I have been foolish enough to trust the wrong people– repeatedly– this year.  Stiffed almost as many times–and the folks who have treated me as a non priority all feel utterly justified. I am supposed to put their whining excuses front and center–even as they break their promises to me. Yeah– that bugs me.

Yet I continue to do what I do, as I see a societal need.

And yes, I worry. I do. I really do.

Magical Thinking-The Bane of Divorce

December 9, 2014 2 comments

I know every attorney who does any family law knows this. Spouse A comes to us complaining of the behavior of Spouse B. Or we get the golden opportunity to respond on Avvo ( to an indignant spouse that has to pay support to a soon to be ex wife who has never worked during the marriage. God FORBID he now discovers he can’t just walk away and tell her to “bugger off.” (More polite in America—not so polite in the UK.)

Yes, I got JUST such a person calling me, a week or so ago. I refused to discuss this on the phone, suspecting just what this scenario would be. Demanding that I do something—for free—to correct this HUGE injustice.

He condemned wife for not working, and I suggested maybe he should have known her character prior to marriage. He countered with “false advertising”—I countered with “then you didn’t know her Character for falsehood.” (I was not mincing words as it was clear he was never going to be a client. Plus if people ask me for advice I tend to shoot it straight, even when I KNOW they will not want to hear it.)

As the lament unfolds it turns out he makes solid 6 figures—so of COURSE there was a substantial award of “pendente lite” spousal support, plus arrearages, plus some attorneys fees. He now says the court is taking “his entire livelihood.” Clearly, this is untrue, but I guess he owes a good bit. However, his attitude was so bad, I began to suspect I knew why the court went slightly over “guideline” support. (Arrearages had accrued whilst he refused to pay… because it made him mad… but that, if course, was the fault of–well anyone but the guy himself.)

By the end of this thrilling exchange, he was telling me I knew nothing of his character and none of his (false advertising-prone, lazy etc. ) wife’s. Uh huh. So I accused him of… magical thinking.

He had informed me the purpose of contacting me was so there would be “reform” of this terribly unjust system. Actually, I think the real magical thinking was “I can get this person to tell me, for free, how to change what the court ordered.” (He had an attorney through all this situation, mind you.) I love when people contradict themselves rather then cop to the truth. And they do–oh they do.)

The award of attorneys’ fees no doubt came from his magical thinking– “this is not right because I don’t like it”– and the escalation in  fees on both sides made necessary by his refusal to pay without a court fight. Of course, the sad fact is,  his own attorney probably egged him on, seeing a fat paycheck. (This is unethical—and is based on pretty magical thinking by the attorney, too, as unhappy clients ALWAYS stiff you. But magical thinking is very common.) I even pointed out that if the shoe was on the other foot–he was the lower power spouse– he’d think the “level playing field” purpose of these laws was pretty fair.)

But what I ultimately wrote to him was: “You want legal reform. From me. For free. Magical thinking.”

I think that finally shut him up. But I had carried out this dialogue because I am so intrigued by the overwhelming pull of magical thinking on people. It seems intensified in divorce, but I could be wrong. Maybe it just seems more common here because I spend so much time watching it on Avvo. But I read about why people believe things that are false, such as “On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not”– (I highly recommend this book.)
I see even a dear friend dismiss science when it  pokes her in her biases. Sigh.

Another case of magical thinking I will never forget is a meeting I had, with a fellow mediator (male) with a couple looking as collaborative divorce and/or mediation. Wife wanted a divorce—and to move to Hawaii. With the kids. (Her magical thinking–that this was gonna fly, without World War III). The husband/dad was a physician—a cardiologist, if memory serves. The man was a robot. I could see what wife might want out. But in frustration, at one point I asked him; “what do you think the worst case outcome will be if you litigate this?”

His response, which I will never forget, was as follows: “I will tell my story to the judge and there will be a fair order.” (Magical thinking. That might be the less than 10% probability BEST CASE outcome.) That was so not going to happen. I mentally wished the wife well and we adjourned shortly thereafter. I am sure there was a bloodbath.

What to do with/about magical thinking? I wish I knew. Comments welcome.

Categories: Uncategorized