Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is My Spouse Cheating on Me?

Is my husband or wife cheating on me?  If you're asking the question, the answer is likely "maybe."  What to do about it is far more complicated.

Cheating's not always the death knell of a marriage.  Spouses with the ability to move forward can overcome the heartbreak of betrayal, but it'll take major work by both partners.  Still, it's hard to be rational when faced with treachery.

As a divorce lawyer, I keep a list of good marriage counselors in the top drawer.  It's surprising, but sensible, that I'd receive a few calls each month for advice on how to fix a marriage, rather than end it. 

Cheating is rarely the lone culprit in the demise of a relationship. It's often preceded by indifference, distraction, entitlement or impulsivity.  Rough waters, but at times navigable.

Resist the urge to react with haste unless the pecuniary estate is imminently in jeopardy.  Take a very deep breath.  Do not let the avarice of another determine the future of your family.  It's your decision, without manipulation. No matter the outcome, a clear head is needed for the emotional and financial issues which loom ahead.  Meet with a professional. Don't try your case in the court of public opinion.  Once your business is on the street, it's impossible to get it back.

Unsure if it's happening?  The physical signs haven't altered in the past three decades.  Sudden change in grooming and appearance, short trips to see old friends or cousins whom you've never met or not heard from in years.  Far more late night meetings.  Complaints of needing space. Long walks with Fido, cellphone in pocket, distracted texting and the need to take emergency calls on Grandma's deck during Christmas dinner.  "It's not you, it's me!."  No kidding.

Gather as much information as possible but keep the brakes on.  The details are only hurtful once the affair is confirmed.   With the tracking ability of cell phones it's nearly impossible to obliterate the trail of communication.  For heaven's sake, don't hack in.  Cell data is carefully catalogued by the provider whether or not your statements are itemized.  An experienced lawyer knows exactly how to legally get the information.

Anger is unavoidable, but it's destructive to the potential of reconcilliation, and moreso to your children, no matter the age.  It's not fair, but the blame is rarely unilateral.

Adultery is the emotional equivalent of a grenade toss into the center of a  family.  It exacerbates strained relations and places focus on the symptom rather than the cause of marital distress. The cheating spouse may have travelled a long, lonely and agonizing road prior to their daliance, but the wronged half is now forced to make complex financial, legal and personal decisions whilst reeling from betrayal.  It's like drinking a fifth of whiskey then operating a bulldozer. 

Hot coffee and a night's sleep don't help restore order, either.  It's nearly impossible to find a friend, relative or confidante who's far enough removed from the mess, or without a personal agenda or bias.

Thus, rely on the advice and counsel of well trained professionals during the maelstrom.  Don't react violently or irrationally; do not sit the kids down and reveal all gory details; don't try to shame him into submission; don't hack her email; don't drunk dial the rogue's spouse; don't take out a billboard and don't stomp over to the hussy's home for a cleansing confrontation.  The fallout will only reflect badly on you, and it won't be impartial nor pretty. 

A good life is the best revenge, with or without the wayward partner, so let the forgiveness begin.  

Related Articles of Interest on Divorce and Custody:

The D Word -- Should I File for Divorce?

The Toxic Spouse and the Accomplice Lawyer

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Toxic Spouse and the Accomplice Lawyer -- The Perfect Storm

There's no magic wand in my business.  I can't conjure up a way to accelerate the process nor make a spouse settle, and I can't always get the judge to see your point of view.  If I could pick one magical power, besides the ability to fly, I'd make those lawyers who exacerbate the already agonizing process disappear.

But I can't.  I can explain the dynamics to allow a realistic assessment of the potential damage, I can empathize, I can rail right alongside, I can even get snotty with them, but I cannot make the rogue go away--although eventually many do.  Just not soon enough.

The accomplice lawyer takes hold of a vulnerable, angry or simply disturbed client and for reasons percuniary or personal, runs the litigation like a tangential trainwreck, to a family's great expense.

A word of caution.  Trying to explain to the spouse who is also the opposing party in litigation that their attorney's costing both sides excess time and money--only makes the reprobate far more attractive.  The litigant who allows their lawyer to poorly run the show may be getting some sadistic satisfaction, but likely just doesn't know who to trust.  Most folks in domestic litigation have never hired a lawyer nor seen the inside of a courtroom.  A charming scoundrel may upsell their abilities and fluff up the outcome.  Bad combination for the vulnerable litigant.

One good lawyer told me of an "aha" moment he experienced while in the midst of battle with a particularly onery opponent:  "He was like wrestling with a pig in the mud, when I realized that the pig was enjoying it!"  That happy bovine may be your spouse, the attorney, or both.

What to do?  Keep your eye on the ball, and don't try to control the behavior of the opposition. 

Avoid that which will worsen the circumstances-- bad behavior of your own, allowing the offender to push you to the point of frustration which manifests itself in physicality, threats or avoidance of orders--because then they've GOTcha.  And believe me, they'll exploit it, embellishing at each opportunity a silly solitary incident, thereby negating their own bad acts--all because of a drunk dial in the middle of the night, or tipping over his curbside garbage can in anger.

Let the process just happen, don't try to control or manipulate the other side, even if they seem not to have everyone's best interest at heart.  The good news is that these rascals are rare.

Eventually, everyone gets through it.  Hopefully a bit wiser, but poorer.

Thus, chose a captain wisely, and if something just does not feel right, trust your gut and jump ship.