There are few professions more vilified than that of the divorce attorney (except maybe used car salesman.) Insulting lawyers is practically a sport. We hear lawyer jokes in line at the grocery store. There are comics and Facebook pages designed to malign attorneys.
The interesting dichotomy is that if you listen to our clients, you hear exactly the opposite – that we were there for them during one of the hardest times of their lives. We supported them. Answered their questions. Advocated for them in the courtroom and genuinely cared about them. We gave them their best chance at moving on and healing their lives after family trauma. We have been complimented for being “caring”, “compassionate”, “considerate” and “responsive.” Attorneys’ reputations can be a matter of perspective.
Even though we try hard in our practice to disprove the cliché about divorce lawyers, we get why the attorney stereotype persists. There are two primary reasons. One is cultural, the other emotional.
Decades ago, divorce left many men without custody or the marital home and paying outrageous amounts of child support and alimony. It was expected that women would continue living their lives and men would move into a tiny apartment and never see the kids. That was the case when women were not working outside the home. At the time, it was also assumed that if a couple was divorcing it was because men were philandering and mistreating their wives. As a result, men often emerged from divorce financially and emotionally battered.
That stereotype endured until the 1980s or so when women “ventured” into the work-world and men “started” changing diapers. During that time, there may have been a lag between the cultural shift and the courts’ response. Some would say it resulted in unfair settlements for men who were involved and loving parents but stripped of custody during divorce. Offices like ADAM sprang from a push-back by men who wanted help fighting for their parental rights. The ADAM tagline reads, “ADAM has been protecting men from unfair bias in the courts since 1988.”
The other explanation for the evil divorce attorney stereotype is emotional.
There is a psychological term called “displacement.” It’s a defense mechanism used when an individual is under emotional duress but can’t fight back (or recognize) the source of the emotional trauma. “Displacement is the redirection of an impulse (usually aggression) onto a powerless substitute target. (A. Freud, 1936). The target can be a person or an object that can serve as a symbolic substitute,” according to the article “Defense Mechanisms” in SimplyPsychology.
Since attorneys are already portrayed as monsters, it’s easy for divorcing parties to displace the negative feelings about their ex-spouse to the opposing attorney.
When marriages break, sometimes the parties try to handle things amicably at first. Typically, attorneys are brought in when an impasse is reached. That’s when the true contentiousness sets in. But because the hard feelings escalated at the same time that lawyers were hired, it can be easy to mistake attorneys as the source of the animosity.
“I’ve been doing this job for more than 20 years so I’ve had to develop a thick skin to insults,” said experienced South Lyon Divorce Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler. “Some of the jokes are even a little bit funny but I have a heart and truly care about my clients.”
Fighting the “evil” attorney stereotype
Wayne-Spindler hopes that people realize that the world of divorce has changed drastically. Women file for divorce at greater rates than men. Alimony has evened out with many women paying men spousal support. Judges are encouraging, and ordering, equal parenting time. And compassionate divorce attorneys are encouraging mediation, collaboration, and amicability.
“The tagline on my website is Aggressive Attorney, Compassionate Counsel because I fight for my clients’ rights while supporting them in an empathetic way,” said Wayne-Spindler.
The bond between many divorce attorneys and their clients is supportive, encouraging, and stable. For many in disastrous marriages, the divorce attorney may be one of the only truly dependable people in their lives. To the other side, divorce attorneys may seem like an enemy but for our clients we carry tissues, respond to frantic emails and call when it’s all done to check in.
Contact the Law Office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 to talk to an aggressive and experienced but compassionate attorney. We help divorce and child custody clients throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Genesee, Livingston, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. Our attorneys also handle cases in the Mid-Michigan Counties of Clare, Gladwin, Ogemaw and Roscommon. The attorneys of the law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates help clients in Milford; Highland; Hartland; Wixom; White Lake; Commerce Township; Walled Lake; Waterford; Grand Blanc; Holly; Flint; South Lyon; New Hudson; Brighton; Howell; Ann Arbor; Burton; Fenton; Northville; Novi and many more local communities. In Mid-Michigan, we handle family law cases in Clare; Gladwin; Grant Township; Harrison; Higgins Lake; Houghton Lake; Midland; Prudenville; Roscommon; Rose; St. Helen; West Branch and other nearby communities.
Written and posted by Christine Donlon Long, Communications’ Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates