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Truth or Troll? (OrBoth?)

I figured out two decades ago that while a court battle is not about truth. I even wrote a column called “It Ain’t About The Truth” where I opined on various court cases, including the OJ trial, and the (in)famous McDonald’s coffee case.

But also decades ago I figured out that divorce was not about “what happened”? It is all about emotions and people and relationships. I realized battles were bad for about emotions and people and relationships. I didn’t need to figure out they were bad for kids—that I knew from losing my fatter due to the way my mother acted out her disappointment in my father.

He didn’t cheat on her—he didn’t drink. He didn’t say mean things. As far as I could see, he didn’t do anything wrong. He just did not, could not, fill up her emptiness.

No one else got divorced in those days. I just know that my mother had problems with men. She dated married ones a lot, and she wasn’t real good at friendships with women either. I didn’t see my father much after the divorce was finally over. Or in the YEARS between the day he left and the day he remarried in the 60s. (Then, I got him back in 1985. He died in 1990. I’ve learned more abut him from my baby half sister then I ever led when he was alive. But that’s a good thing.)

So seeing the mess that came from the clash of courts and families was not rocket science to me. In the early days (California had been no fault for decades in 1983) many lawyers seemed to feel the same way, so we settled every case. Even though I was pretty new, I was always good at negotiating and settling cases (remember that first case I wrote about?) so I did well. REALLY well,

But right about the time I came into law civility was on the wane, and by the time my consulting career came to a crashing halt, I could see there was a real need for divorce practice to change– so I set abut changing it. In the mid 90s I started my mediation practice. In the 2000s I had started a collaborative group in Orange County. I kept doing good work for couples who knew that court was bad …until the economic collapse of 2008.

But despite all slow but steady change in divorce practice, it just “wasn’t done” to say that court was flat out bad for families. I mean, I said it in essays on Divorcenet, but not to other lawyers or even to the public. From the first day I placed my bio on Divorcenet I had calls—many of the public seemed to know the courts were not the place they wanted to be. But when I said this to a Family Court judge on legal setting, her face went frozen in shock. When I tried to tell other lawyers not everyone wanted to fight they scoffed—or worse.

But now this fact is being stated and HEARD—thanks in part to Mark Baer, with whom I had become friends, thanks to social networking. (and with whom I am now not friends—thanks also to social networking.) I am even now—-seeing attorneys speak up on Avvo—and have been told I started it. (!!)

So I find it disheartening that so many people are hearing him and thanking him… but all attorneys. Not the public. The he public still loves in wishful thinking land.

I also find it disheartening that so many anonymous “askers’” on Avvo call me a troll for saying the same thing. I also find it disheartening that when we got into a nasty misunderstanding, Mark opined—ON SOCIAL NETWORKING—that I was all wrong and he was all right. (This is never the case —and we both know it.)

I find it disheartening that no matter what different ways I try to explain things, I often cannot be heard by people who 1) ask for my help and 2) are so invested in the way they see their problem that they find any suggestion that there is any other way to approach to be, or feel like, an attack on their entire being.

I find it disheartening that one of my stubbornnesses is I keep trying—and almost never get paid.

So I guess we humans are all pretty stubborn. Study after study has shown that people think OTHERS are off course but they are not….others are wrong but they are not… still. Decade after decade. What seems obvious to me—that in any dispute BOTH sides think they are right—and in a certain sense they both ARE right—seems to be one of those things where I am in a minority.

Is this because I am an “HSP”? (A real anomaly of 20% of humans and decidedly mixed bag… see http://richawriter.hubpages.com/hub/Its-Good-To-Be-Sensitive-25-Wonderful-Aspects-Of-Highly-Sensitive-People)

I don’t know. I DO know… this is a truth. (Two truths). No one starts out out expecting to be Bad and Wrong, and yet someone they married says they are. Judges seem to agree half the time. (All the time?) And…courts suck for families. 99.9% of the time.

An Inconvenient Truth

November 9, 2013 Leave a comment

I am active on the highly market-effective but (IMHO utterly toxic website Avvo every day. Yes, I climb it because it is there.

It is populated (I have been able to discover) by people who go looking for an answer to a legal question and up there due to heavy SEO action by the site. Their SEO really is that good. Some of the googlers could find the correct answer to their question if they were better researchers, but many (probably most) don’t know the words that fit their situation. But if it involves a family member they go to “Family Law’ and there they are in my feed.

If it is something I don’t know (The details of loss of parental rights, for example) I can always fin the answer in seconds using Google—but I know the magic words. Being a lawyer, I do. The public does not.

So for the vent portion of this blog I will point out that once I Avvo they are met with responses that in a majority of cases are self serving—lawyers are on there trolling for paying work. Their responses are not designed to provide service to the public. (Yes, Virginia lawyers are asked to provide our expertise “pro bono publico”). These responses are often simplistic—“file for a court hearing”—or wrong. (”Your judgment may have expired.”)

Others just don’t know anything but the few things they have picked up doing whatever they do. Litigated divorce, mostly. But family law brings in tax issues, real estate issues, bankruptcy issues, immigration issues (fraudulent marriage), collections (Family law judgments are “evergreen” and never expire) and many other areas of law.

Silly me, I have always made it a point to know stuff. Especially stuff that is relevant to the practice of family law—and any other area that keeps people out of court, like prenuptial agreements and trusts.

As I say—silly me.

But the one area I am still passionate about, although I have moved out if California and have VERY FEW paying clients is getting the word out that fighting a court battle is not helpful and that alternatives exist. (I have not seen a single other attorney inform the “asker” of this fact—EVER. Recently a few have chimed in after I did, bless them.)

So my new mission is to help the many people who find them selves entangled with what Bill Eddy, problem solver extraordinaire, calls the “High Conflict Personality.” These are the bane of courts and all around them,

A brief bio:
“William A. (“Bill”) Eddy IS CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF HIGH CONFLICT INSTITUTE, LLC, IN San Diego, California, AND Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is a Certified Family Law Specialist in California with over FIFTEEN years’ experience representing clients in family court. Prior to becoming an attorney in 1992, he was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics.”

He is very clear that this—the “HCP” is a common obstacle to courts and litigants alike.
“An Observable High Conflict Pattern
High-conflict people (HCPs) have a pattern of high-conflict behavior that increases conflict rather than reducing or resolving it. This pattern usually happens over and over again in many different situations with many different people. The issue that seems in conflict at the time is not what is increasing the conflict. The “issue” is not the issue. With HCPs the high-conflict pattern of behavior is the issue, including a lot of:
All-or-nothing thinking
Unmanaged emotions
Extreme behaviors
Blaming others

All-or-nothing thinking: HCPs tend to see conflicts in terms of one simple solution rather than taking time to analyze the situation, hear different points of view and consider several possible solutions. Compromise and flexibility seem impossible to them, as though they could not survive if things did not turn out absolutely their way. They often predict extreme outcomes if others do not handle things the way that they want. And if friends disagree on a minor issue, they may end their friendships on the spot – an all-or-nothing solution.”

But it gets better- he has tools for helping courts, ex-spouses and even governments deal with this pattern of behavior.

I downloaded and am internalizing his book “Biff: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns [Kindle Edition]” available here:

BIFF is an acronym for Brief, Informative, Friendly, Firm.” The trick to making headway with these people is to have, wait for it… empathetic listening skills. I full understand that most people who have been enmeshed with this conflict for what seem like forever will have a tough time with the empathy—I count myself prone to this myself. But the tools for communicating in the way Bill describes are learnable. And, in my opinion, this the only hope for the ex spouse and co-parent of such a person. (It also works with obnoxious friends and family too, of course.) It takes practice, as this review by a lawyer acknowledges: By David J. Spellman
This is an excellent book.
Bill Eddy, an experienced lawyer and LCSW, is an expert on “High Conflict People.” In fact, the chart on Axis II on page 15 is alone worth the price of the book! Bill advises that we respond to communications from High Conflict People with BIFF…a response that is Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm.
I see the wisdom in Bill’s approach. But it is a challenge to my lawyerly instincts, because of the old legal maxim that “silence is assent” I tend to be sure to address and refute each allegation, point-by-point. But that just feeds into the dynamic of the High Conflict Person with whom I am communicating! This is a very wise and helpful book.

The hardest part (after mastering the tools) is that the system—courts—is do not yet begin to grasp that there is no hope that punishing these people will reform them. So I have Bill’s blessing to blog my heart out in hopes the PUBLIC will get the word.

Finding this quote yesterday inspired me to FINALLY write this first such blog:

“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained. “
o Mahatma Gandhi Young India 1924-1926 (1927), p. 1285

You see, some lawyers are High Conflict People too. And one of those was my tipping point. He lives to insist I am wrong– it matter not what I say, it is wrong. He is blind to irony, humor or EVEN BEING AGREED WITH. He will find a point to argue. Happily for me another women lawyer has begun to call him out. (He is unfazed but it tickles me. But I digress..)
o
It is an error to think and act as though punishing an HCP will stop their flawed thinking and bad acting. (Reasoning also does not work.) Heaven help this lawyer’s clients.

But in any case, if you are wondering why your (ex) wife wants to make an issue of some book fines from school, even when you did nothing to incur them, or in any way bring them about—like a frustrated dad I spoke with via Avvo… this may restore your sanity.

I dare hope so.

Left Brain Right Brain

February 19, 2012 6 comments

Yesterday I did a play day. No papers to grade, no research to do—sunshine all day. I went for a hike with a friend and her two dogs, then we just did whatever we felt like all day.Of course, my left brain fired off a few “shoulds” but I told it to shut up. It mostly did. One of the benefits of hanging out with a friend is my left brain leaves me in peace.

Today I did some things I “needed” to do but they did not take all day. Naturally, that left my left brain—aka the Rational Mind—a lot of time to criticize. I “should” at least blog. Or jog. Or DO something. Anything, really.

Today I had an epiphany. Right brainers don’t live in the same strait jacket. If a sculptor isn’t sculpting on a given day there are not 2 gazillion “success” coaches telling him he (or  she) SHOULD be sculpting every day to achieve the “goal” of creating.

Writing is “creative”,  but there are so many people who think they “should” write every day. (I never did believe that, and I still don’t—but my writing has never been “normal”. I do very little editing. What I want to say comes out, either done or mostly done, most of the time. And if I don’t do it for a year it is still just fine.)

But law—law is all about the left brain. Geez—no wonder lawyers are bloody miserable. Left brain all the time.  The left brain is the prime source of the “lie that has to die.” So I shall be an artist.  For now, photography. Next? Dunno. It will be fun to see!

But  here’s the strange part: even in law school was not doing the whole thing “left brained.” For instance, one of the things you must learn in law school is legal research. (Never mind that most lawyers end up doing boring, repetitive mundane tasks that require NO research whatsoever.) I liked this. I have the mind of a sleuth—I love solving mysteries, solving puzzles–and doing legal research is puzzle solving. (EUREKA MOMENT- no wonder I like “House”!!)

Is there case law on this? What does the case law say? Does it help or hurt my client’s position? Had  that case law been periods or amplified? Many question MANY books. State law cases, federal cases —circuit courts, Supreme court—a veritable wonderland of clues and meandering labyrinths. Did I shepardize it enough?

Most law students agonize over knowing when they have done enough research. Lawyers do too, if they are working in a case.

I didn’t. I just knew that I knew when I had done enough. Of course, I never said this. I knew better. I am not sure how much  of this—of so much that I see now—is pure “intuition” (the right brain—see Jill Bolte Taylor video here) and how much is the “guidance” …about which more later.

Bu I do NOT regret learning law or doing law…but I think I will change hemispheres now.

The Lie that Needs to Die

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

I tend to think deep thoughts when I am outdoors hiking or just going for a walk… alas I cannot jog right now as I have a knee problem. One usually suffered by adolescents! The irony. So this afternoon this is what I did.

I have thought a lot about all the masks lawyers wear and how they are stifling, and (having just escaped Southern California) I also think about all the masks we all wear. One of my boon companions, Ai-Ling Logan and I talked about this one day too I think there are fewer here in Sedona—people seem content to just be who they are.

But in any case these masks are lies and a lot if what we live in this frantic life of today’s society is lies—and the court system is lies (more on this later) … and long story short I had a thought suddenly.What if when we want to shift something in our lives—as I shifted my life when I decamped from the USAF to go to law school—what if there is a lie that has to die?.

The lie I had lived off of most of my life until I applied to and got accepted to law school is that I was a loser. I knew I had high IQ—I was tested in second grade and thy thought I would be harmed if they told me (!!) So they never did tll me– but they suggested I skip second grade. THIS they told me. (Boy was I bored in second grade. This-this shift– I wanted.) But “they” decided I was too maladjusted too manage it. (Duh—if my mental age was older than my calendar age I’d have done BETTER in a higher grade!!!!!) Hey-it was the 50s. We were stupid.

Probably I was just shy—it’s an HSP thing. (You can read about this here or here, but I got the message I was not OK. I got that message a lot.) I had asthma- they said it was “psychosomatic” which back them was not a good thing. It meant you were not really sick you just thought you were… you were… “Not OK.” I was bright and shy and being told this all made me not OK.  I lived that lie for a LONG time.

So I decided to shift my life and went to law school. The lie that had to die was “I am a loser.” But it didn’t die easy. I did graduate and I did pass the Bar Exam. After the LONG wait for the hand grading and the mail…. But I went to the Human Potential Movement group called Summit in there somewhere.  Actually it was March 17, 1984.

I had this GREAT hair dresser in Sierra Madre–Lisa Andreoni. I always talked to her about how much human behavior fascinated me so she had invited me, but beige in a fast track law school I had said no but she asked again after I had passed the Bar and I said “yes”—and she drove me over there and I signed up.

I never regretted it. In fact I just looked her up and found her here . Bless her for that invitation! Summit was pretty big on getting past the lies that had to die although they didn’t call it that. I’d have had a MUCH tougher time navigating being a newbie lawyer without all the interesting ways they gave us to learn about humans—and ourselves. It was like Landmark with humor. So I finally killed off THAT lie… the lie that had to die. The lie that I was a loser.

Now… I am working on what the next one is! Something to do with using creativity in the healing and growth I want to–WILL– share, based on my legal adventures and my adventures in truth land…

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New Life–in Paradise!

February 6, 2012 2 comments

OK campers!I have escaped the clutches of too many cars, too many malls and too much pollution and everyone in a rush. I am in the slower, kinder the CLEANER magical town of Sedona. I am moving into my dreams. I am happier than I have been in — gosh, I don’t remember how long! yes, the tough stuff DOES pay off!

STAY TUNED!!

110 Words That Should Never Appear On Your Website—or Your Resume!

Seen on the Internet–good advice—don’t  blow smoke at someone you want to impress.

“Adjectives are great but only if specific, descriptive, and directly applicable to what you do.  Use plain language, avoid generalities, and skip the hyperbole.” http://www.linkedin.com/news?viewArticle=&articleID=683758455&gid=3727071&type=member&item=65012449&articleURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bnet.com%2Fblog%2Fsmall-biz-advice%2F10-words-that-should-never-appear-on-your-website%2F966&urlhash=iNJ_&goback=.gde_3727071_member_65012449

In the society we live in, we are constantly being bombarded with hyperbole.  (And flat out lies, if the truth be told.)  “Happy cows come from California.” First off, the happy cows in  California live in vast, unholy feedlots. But second, how  on earth would it follow that the cheese is better  based on the fake happiness? Lies–so common we think nothing of them. Almost any ad is based on some lie that you will be sexier or richer or happier if only… if only you BUY THIS ITEM. Except you won’t. You will still be… you.

Dishonesty seems to be on the rise as competition heats up for jobs, college seats, etc.  “Statistics show that cheating among high school students has risen dramatically during the past 50 years… 73% of all test takers, including prospective graduate students and teachers agree that most students do cheat at some point. 86% of high school students agreed.” http://www.glass-castle.com/clients/www-nocheating-org/adcouncil/research/cheatingfactsheet.html

So, it may seem natural to do the same things—lying and puffing up your qualifications—when  it comes time to seek that job. After all “you” isn’t good enough, right? You need a nicer car or aftershave to be OK.  And if the above statistics are representative the large majority of you will. But this blog is not for the large majority—it is fort he few who wish to bring something they possess into the workplace, to serve the well-being of their own souls (and the rest of us)  in some way.

So here’s the skinny: tell the truth. Be descriptive. Be detailed. Be passionate. If you are like me, you may have taken some of your best skills and abilities for granted—because they came easy to you. Own those. Inventory what you have done in your life, paid and unpaid, and make sure you have the big picture of what you have to offer the world.

Then tell it like it is. No holds barred, no apologies… no BS.