There’s a common theme in family law: people who used to love each other become each other’s nemesis. I often hear comments like “That witch is doing evil things to my children,” or “I’m going to put a stake into his rotten heart and end it all.”
I don’t think such clients are serious with the witch and vampire talk. They’re venting, that’s all.
As their lawyer, I don’t add fuel to the fire by condemning their ex’s sins myself. Understandably, some clients will think I’m not quick enough to take their side. They may feel disappointed or even hurt.
The fact is that vilifying the ex does little to resolve the legal issues. When clients get worked up during our meeting, the emotional charge can send our productivity into a nosedive. While denouncing the ex may make the client feel better, if only for a moment, it inevitably makes him/her more positional and less inclined to consider options available for resolving the case. Contributing to that would be a disservice to my client.
In response clients’ ex-bashing, I always explain to them that my job is to help them manage the difficult legal issues as they go through separation or divorce and to help them move on. It’s not my role to create more difficulties by participating in a trial by fire.
Rather than jumping into a venting session with the client, I acknowledge the client’s difficulties factually. I may characterize the other side as being difficult or unreasonable, but never evil or malicious. I lay out the options available to the client and advise him/her which one I recommend to get the case moving.
Thankfully, most clients, while upset, understand that I have their best interest in mind, and I manage to calm them down. Until the next time.