Family Law Blog

How can a lawyer help me deal with a spouse who is controlling, uncooperative and withholds information because they don't want to get a divorce?


Family lawyers can make a huge difference when your ex spouse is being difficult or aggressive.  Having a lawyer does a lot more than allowing you letting avoid interaction with your difficult ex by having the lawyer do it.  A good familylawyer will explain all of your options to bring your spouse into line, and advise which choice is the best for you.  Also, good family lawyers can make the fight “worth it” because they know how to handle difficult, bitter or angry ex-spouses so that that their clients get what they really want.  The law offers several alternatives for protecting a good spouse and bringing a bad one to justice.

The most difficult ex-spouses try to convince a family court judge, family arbitrator or mediator that they are the heroes and the innocent spouse is the villain. It is very important that a judge or arbitrator see things the way they are.  Judges spend little time with family court litigants.  They often have to make important decisions based on first impression or on written materials.  Saying the wrong things, or complaining about a bad spouse in the wrong way, may give the judge the wrong impression and allow a nasty ex-spouse to come across as an angel.  Good family lawyers know what judges want to hear, how to persuade the judge and make sure the judge sees what is really going on.  If the judge sees what a terrible person your ex-spouse is, the judge will want to help you fix the problems what you’re ex causes.

Good, experienced, family lawyers have seen all the tricks the bad spouse would use.  They know how to turn them around.  Good family lawyers know where to find the hidden money or the hidden income, the best way to deal with spouses who refuse to provide information, which may include convincing a judge to base decisions on the assumption that a spouse who is hiding information must have a good reason for doing so.  When it comes to children, good family lawyers cannot only help you to be a better parent after divorce, but they will also know the strategies for correcting the harm that the other parent may have caused.

If you ask almost any family court judge they will say that one of the biggest mistakes that separated spouses makes is not having a lawyer help them.  Not only do family lawyers know how to protect your rights, but they also can reassure you that you are taking the right position and doing what is best for yourself and your family, even when your ex is trying very hard to convince you otherwise.  That knowledge that you are doing the right thing and the ability to get you to the right resolution are the biggest benefits that a family lawyer can offer you.

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Tips on How to Settle Family Law Matters - Sometimes It's Not About the Nail

Disagreements between family members, whether they be in an intact family, in a separating or divorcing family, or in estates matters are very different from other types of disagreements.  In commercial disputes, a cost/benefit analysis or the "bottom line" can drive how parties to a dispute behave. That usually means that matters can be resolved on the basis of reason, or at least a considered analysis of the facts causing the dispute.  However, in family disputes or disagreements, people's feelings and emotions are as important as any fact or issue.  Good family lawyers understand that and use it to help their clients get the end result that they want. 

When I mediate a disagreement between a separated couple, or when I represent a persona as their family law lawyer, the most "sensible solution" is often obvious.  However, that is not always the solution that makes the most sense to the parties.  Often, feeling appreciated, or respected, or understood, is more important to one or both sides than any thing else - money, the kids, a quick resolution or anything else that would be logically important.  So, the first step to resolving any family dispute is to listen to the other side, or when mediating, to listen to both sides, to hear what is important.  Often someone will take less money, or less of something else, if they get what is important to them - even if what is important is driven by emotions rather than logical reasoning.  When two people take the time to listen to each other, they may find that what each of the really wants is not necessarily incompatible with what the other person really wants.  Family Law does not have to be a "zero sum game."  It can be a win-win game. That is the whole basis of Collaborative Practice and Family Mediation.  But, to get there, parties have to invest the time, energy and emotion in understanding the other person (which can be very difficult to do after a break-up). 

All of this may sound complicated, or confusing, or impossible to achieve.  However, the video below, called It's Not About the Nail, illustrates the situation exceptionally well.  If you are in a family dispute to disagreement, watch the video, and then think about what you have to do to meet the other side's expectations.  You may find you can meet those expectations while also achieving all of your own.  Good family law lawyers know how to help their clients do this too - that is one of the biggest benefits to having a lawyer help you at mediation and the role for lawyers in Collaborative Practice.


Carolann Mazza • John, I have watched your video a couple of times. I think it is brilliant!

Mark B. Baer • So true!

Susan. Buniva • I have just posted this wonderful piece. I so appreciate the combination of your deep truth and creative video. You certainly make the "point"

Judith (Judy) Walsh • John, as a family law lawyer and Collaborative Practitioner, I agree 100%; the clip is hilarious.

Karen Peper • Great video!

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