Saturday, April 19, 2008

Have You Heard About the Divorcing Wife on YouTube?

I saw a bit of this the other day on MSNBC. If you do not know what I about talking about, see Using the Web for Personal Revenge in Divorce Only Backfires, Experts Say. The video is here.

As a friend of mine used to say, I was appalled. Definitely not the sort of thing any attorney wants to see from their client. Family Law Prof finds the video has possiblities as a teaching tool in You-Tube as Teaching Tool.

What exactly is so bad about this, what makes it appalling? I doubt many lawyers will disagree with this from The Chicago Tribune's YouTube divorce video released by Tricia Walsh Smith:

Does that mean divorce-by-YouTube is a true revolution? Rabin, the matrimonial lawyer, sure hopes not.

For one thing, she said, this could come back to haunt Walsh-Smith. "Judges make decisions partly on (a person's) judgment," she said. "She could hurt herself with this." Not to mention the threat of a defamation case from the other side.
(Thanks to Family Law Prof for the link to the Chicago Tribune story). Robert Kisselburgh down on the Mississippi Family Law Blog makes the same point Mad wife takes her complaints to the airwaves as does the South Carolina Family Law Blog. Daniel Clement at New York Divorce Report in his Details of Divorce in You Tube Video thought about the same thing as I did - custody cases.
If this type of public broadcast of martial differences ever caught on, I would expect it to be negatively considered in decisions awarding equitable distribution, maintenance and, most certainly, child custody.
Child custody cases turn as much on questions of judgment as anything. Luckily, this divorce did not include child.

The prenuptial agreement gets mentioned in the video. Which had me wondering why she did not know what was contained in the prenup.

Chicago Tribune story gives us some idea of why she was surprised by the prenuptial agreement:
Felder explained that his client was "acting out of passion." He also called the prenuptial agreement she'd signed with her husband, who is a quarter-century older than her, "stupid."

So why did his client sign? "Why do women sign these things? Love is blind, and sometimes it is deaf and dumb, too," Felder said. The video, he added, was the act of a powerless person, and "revolutions are made by powerless people."
I think that statement includes a lot of spin. I interpret it to be that the woman did not consult an attorney of her own before signing the agreement or she did and chose to ignore the attorney's advice. Oops.

Indiana Family Law does have a good point that I have not seen made elsewhere:
The moral of the story here is that if you decide to behave in a totally contemptuous manner toward your spouse, don’t be surprised if he or she does something equally awful in an effort to get even. Rather than “slamming the door” on your relationship, try closing it quietly.
At best, however, this probably leaves the judge thinking about a plague on both sides and does little to advance the videotaping spouse.

I started out with a much older lawyer who had been a Superior Court judge and then also a Circuit Court commissioner. He always that if a person cannot say something good, then shut up. That probably goes double with videotape and YouTube.

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