(drawing by Chasity Fincher)
Today we continue our book excerpt from Chapter Two:
Choosing Your Lawyer: Beware the Pit bull!
If you missed the last two blogs start here: Pit Bull: To Hire or Not to Hire?
Then go here: Pit Bull, Part II.
How Hiring a Pit Bull Hurts Your Children
(regular readers will be familiar with a portion of this excerpt)
Take a moment and imagine the unimaginable: you are faced with the choice of your own death or the death of your child. If you have more than one child, use your favorite for this exercise, or as they call that person in my family, “Robin.”
Imagine you’ve decided to picnic at a park near the train tracks, and you lose sight of your child for a moment. When next you spot your child, she is playing on the train tracks with a locomotive bearing down upon her.
Why did you choose to have a picnic in such a dangerous location? That was dumb.
Your poor picnic location selection, along with your daughter’s similarly poor decision-making ability, leaves you with a choice of running to push her off the tracks and becoming the human version of flying tomato bisque soup or watching her die via a combination of speed, velocity and Darwinism.
I realize this is an unlikely scenario, but please bear with me. I’m getting to a point and it’s a really good one.
So what do you do?
For most of us the choice is crystal clear. We immediately rush to the tracks and save our child. We die and go on to our great reward (or not, depending upon how naughty we’ve been) as we deliver to our children the gift of ultimate sacrifice in exchange for their safety.
My use of this outrageous hypothetical began about a year ago when my friend “George” was unexpectedly faced with a divorce. His wife Martha had cheated on him and he was, in a word, pissed. As many of my friends do when they are pissed off and needing to vent about marital problems, George called me.
“I hate her,” he seethed. “I’m going to take the kids and the house and leave her with nothing, but not until I publicly humiliate her in court. I need a lawyer who can destroy that bitch. Who do you recommend?”
“This is not a telephone conversation,” I said. “Come over and I’ll pour you a big tumbler of vodka and we can discuss.”
(any chance to work in a Hamilton reference and I’ll take it!)
It’s important when delivering information that can change someone’s life that you do it in person and with vodka. The personal touch is to ensure your message is clearly received. The vodka is because it can lubricate difficult conversations and also, vodka is wonderful!
George arrived soon after we hung up. We sat down to talk. I let him rant for a while because that’s what friends do, plus it was somewhat entertaining. I could actually see smoke coming out of his ears and that was a first for me.
George was adamant. He wanted the nastiest lawyer available to help him destroy his wife personally, professionally, financially, and parentally. He had heard that one attorney in particular fit the bill and so he came to me for advice. After he settled down a bit and was elbow-deep into his second drink, I told him I was going to ask him some very simple questions. His answers to those questions would guide him in his selection of counsel.
“George,” I asked, “do you love your kids?”
He looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.
“Of course I do–you know that. What the hell, Robin? What kind of question is that?”
“Simmer down, pot roast,” I warned him. “I’m not through with you yet.”
Then I trotted out my Train Track Picnic hypothetical from above and asked my now-fuming and half-drunk friend, “So? What do you do?”
At this point George was sputtering and clearly exasperated.
“What any parent would do!” he shouted. “I would die to save my children! What does that have to do with who represents me in my divorce?”
“It has everything to do with it,” I told him firmly. “If you go nuclear in this divorce and hire that lawyer, a woman whose terrible reputation would precede her if it could squeeze past her in a doorway, your children will suffer. Not just a little, but a lot.
“Just for a moment, assume that I am absolutely correct because I assure you, I am. Now go back and remember you just told me you would die for your kids. How can you possibly tell me your love for these children is great enough to give up your life for, but not great enough to give up your anger?”
Then he cried.
There are numerous ways the Pit bull can have significant negative effects on children of divorce. Thanks to George’s love and good sense, his kids were spared the worst of it.
People forget in the chaos of divorce that once upon a time they loved this person enough to take a vow and make a family together.
Hiring a Pit bull ensures that the kids will be constantly subjected to negative chatter about Mom or Dad. You may think you are speaking in hushed tones when you rage into the phone as the Pit bull whips you into a frenzy over who gets to keep the Williams and Sonoma Christmas Creamer, but you aren’t.
Children are incredibly intuitive, and even more so during a catastrophic life event such as divorce. Parents who purposefully engage in behavior and tactics drafted by the Pit bull end up creating self-doubt, confusion, and fear in their kids.
Pit bulls purposefully delay the divorce process to make more money. This increases the period of uncertainty for kids, which prevents them from accepting the divorce and starting over in their new family structure. If you want to give your kids serious trust and stability issues, ruin them for their future partners, and knock their GPA down a few points, go to the legal dog pound and get yourself a Pit bull.
While I will address fees in detail later in this chapter, it is worth noting the effect that money problems can have on kids.
Unless the family is spectacularly wealthy and immune to financial difficulties, excessive legal fees put enormous strain on the household budget and cause a host of related difficulties. Remember that a divorcing couple is almost always faced with the sudden shock of supporting two households rather than one. That in itself can create a crippling financial burden. The Pit bull’s billing and litigation practices add to that burden and can make it unbearable.
We can all agree that money problems are extremely stressful for adults. They are also quite troubling for children, especially children of divorce.
These kids are already facing turmoil. They are frightened, vulnerable, and shell-shocked by the rapid changes occurring in their home. Throwing financial uncertainty into the mix is a sure-fire way to raise their anxiety and throw them off-balance.
In addition to the anxiety kids feel about financial problems, the practical results of such problems can be difficult for them. If Dad hired the Pit bull and remains stubborn during the litigation, Dad may lose the money needed for Billy to play soccer at best or the family home and Billy’s college fund at worst.
In all the years I have been giving people advice on divorce and referrals to attorneys, I have yet to lose someone to a Pit bull. However, if I am ever unable to convince someone that this is a bad way to go, I will tell them I understand and that the Pit bull may be a good choice for them.
That is: I understand their decision if they hate their children. In that case, the Pit bull makes a great family pet! Hiring a lawyer whose goal is to secure the utter and complete devastation of the other parent is an excellent way to punish kids for the unforgivable crime of having been born.
So if you look at your kids and think, “I hate those little fuckers,” by all means get yourself a Pit bull. However, please be aware that although they will certainly maul your ex and your kids, they have been known to turn on their masters as well.
Coming up next week:
How Hiring a Pit Bull Makes You Broke as a Joke
Have a great weekend!
If you or someone you know is thinking about hiring a Pit bull, please consider this instead: