Being gratuitously hurtful to your spouse could backfire if you have a dispute over the custody of your children, writes matrimonial litigator Michael Stutman
I’ve been practicing matrimonial (divorce) law for over 30 years. As you can imagine, I’ve seen some pretty amazing things. Some are amazingly good and some are amazingly bad. Forgeries, kidnapping, stalking, abuse of all sorts. There are times when I wonder if there is any bottom to the pit of possible misbehavior.
Most, if not all, of the poor choices are the product of anger, the desire for some level of vengeance — getting even. Each time I see it I am reminded of what I was once told: “Nothing done out of anger ever works out well.” I think that is true, basically, every time.
The woman who returned her husband’s mail marked “deceased” ended up with creditors hounding her. The man who drained the gas out of his wife’s car prevented her from getting their child quickly to the doctor. The delivery of a dozen dead roses in a box that was opened by a child who asked, “Why did mommy send you dead flowers?”
These things might feel good for the moment, but there are longer-term and unintended consequences.
The same is true for using Cameo for delivering your break-up message. You’re not going out to eat, not going to the movies, not going on vacation so you have a few extra dollars in your pocket. So you think that blowing $100 or so having Kevin from “The Office” deliver your divorce notice would be entertaining and viscerally gratifying. I think it’s a mistake. [Editors note: Sugar Ray singer Mark McGrath says he has been hired to do 15 Cameo breakups.]
First of all, if your goal is to incinerate thousands of dollars in fees in litigating because someone is so angry that they can’t separate their hurt feeling from their legal position, then this is the way to go. Using Cameo to deliver a message so painful, perhaps so unexpected and so life-changing compounds the hurt of the rejection in a stupid and callous way. You are guaranteeing that your soon-to-be former spouse will have an added layer of anger that will make it all the more difficult for the mature and calm discussion you need to have.
I have litigated thousands of cases over my career and many of the knockdown, drag-out, bankrupting court fights occurred because people were so hurt and so vengeful that they just couldn’t help themselves. They believed they were seeking justice when all they were really trying to do is feel better. The courthouse will not make you feel better and starting off your divorce with a Cameo announcement almost assures you of a one-way ticket into court. If you want to truly feel better and hang on to your hard-earned resources for the benefit of yourself and your family, you should try to keep the temperature down and not throw gasoline on the fire.
Secondly, being gratuitously hurtful could backfire in the event you have a dispute over the custody of your children. Deciding which parent is the best custodian for the children is probably the hardest decision a court is going to make. There really isn’t much science to it and there’s rarely any independent evidence. Judges are left to look for small nuggets which they will use to base a decision. They look to find something that will tell them which parent will be best able to support the children’s relationship with the other parent. Which parent will be sure that the children maintain a positive and loving relationship with the other parent? Which parent has the most respect for the other parent?
Do you think that the judge will pick you after your spouse shows the Cameo video of the first statement you made — a joke that you used to tell your spouse, the mother or father of your children — that the marriage is over?
These cases often turn on the discretion of the judge. Why would you load the proverbial gun and aim it at yourself?
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