How Was Your Day … Divorce Attorney?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
By Libby Coleman
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
Queens, New York
It’s been busy. There’s a lot of divorce filings. That tends to happen right after the holidays.
I like to say [that] any day is kind of like an episode of Seinfeld. We’re in an office in Queens and nothing is really happening until a client comes in and drops off his wife’s standard black panties. This isn’t CSI, but people sometimes think we should be able to have them tested for DNA samples. We did some research — in New York, you’re not supposed to do that, but in New Jersey, you can. [The panties are] still in a file in one of my filing cabinets. And yeah, we took that case.
You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve had someone across a conference room table show me an iPad full of pornographic pictures of their spouse. You know, pictures of their husband getting a blow job from another woman. One time I said, “Are you sure that’s your husband?” She said she knew “it” like she knew her left hand.
As a divorce attorney, it doesn’t matter where you are — a party, your kid’s baseball game — people will start telling you some crazy story about the most intimate things in their lives because they need advice or don’t know what to do. Since [I started] focusing on divorce law in 2010, I’ve seen a few changes. The courts I practice in are moving toward the idea that both parents are equal parents; mom doesn’t have the advantage she once did, and dad is viewed as a competent parent. Plus, they’re moving toward the idea that both parties need to be financially independent, so mom might not be looking at getting as much alimony as she used to get.
Being around so much divorce, it makes you feel like this is all very human.
I’m actually divorced, with kids. I’m very lucky, my ex-husband and I have a good relationship to co-parent; we live in the same neighborhood and are flexible in our communications. I’m living with somebody and we have a child together. He has a child from his former spouse too, so we have a very full and hectic schedule. My parents are still married; they’ve been married 50 years. They’re best friends. They once divided the alphabet: My dad got the second half, so he does the “Y” [chores], like yardwork, and my mom was the first half, [so] like “D” for dishes, she’ll do it.
With my clients, helping them establish a schedule, I can tell them, “You don’t want to do this,” or “You do want this,” because I’ve been there. You’re getting someone when they might be at their lowest. It can be very powerful.
Being around so much divorce, it makes you feel like this is all very human. We all can suffer these things and be hurt badly by people we care about. Sometimes we need a hand. I had a client who seemed so depressed. We talked about looking forward, to the future of his life, and how his cousin owned a vineyard and how he had always wanted to open a bed-and-breakfast. He started smiling more, coming to life. That’s really why I do this.