As a family law attorney, I know that I’m going to be dealing with people’s emotional issues. After all, when these people come to see me, usually their lives are in turmoil. They may be newly separated. They may be struggling with financial stability. Parents living in two different homes may be battling over children who clearly can’t be ripped in two. I get that.
Really, I do.
We spend a good deal of time dissecting those situations and doing the very best we can to get people through those gauntlets in one piece, and hopefully arrive as close to their original goals as we can.
What really makes me crazy are the people who must create more drama for their lives, because they love it. It makes them feel important. These people will have their cell phones at appointments with me and answer every call, because if they don’t, the world as they know it will come to an end. Now I don’t know Uncle Harry, and I’m sure his bowel issues might be very significant to him, but if you’re paying me in excess of a hundred dollars an hour, is it really worth discussing his condition with your mother and deciding whether he needs to take his medicine for ten minutes on my clock? No problem. I’ll just check my email while you’re busy.
Then there’s the extremists. “I”m taking this all the way to the Supreme Court!” they exclaim. That’s all well and good, and I appreciate that determined spirit. Of course, the fact that the Supreme Court/other federal courts don’t handle a lot of family law cases might be relevant. But there’s still a Superior Court and Supreme Court here in Pennsylvania, if you’re not happy with the order entered by the county court. None of which matters if you don’t return my calls, don’t provide me with the documentation I ask for, and you yell at the judges during our hearings because you ‘just have to be yourself.’
And listen, people. When you have a spouse, long-term partner or a teenaged kid, there’s one rule that applies across the board: any of these people have lived with you long enough that THEY KNOW HOW TO PUSH YOUR BUTTONS. This shouldn’t be news after all this time. Seriously. So when he or she does that ONE thing you can’t stand–whether it’s call you twenty times a day, shows up to pick up your kid ten minutes early every single time, or has their new boyfriend call to negotiate custody arrangements–you don’t have to call and tell me a hundred times. I cannot repair the person that you aren’t going to be with any more. I mean, that’s why you’re not with them any more, right? Just learn to ignore them. Planned ignoring, our therapists call it. It’s a real tactic. Read about it here. It’s free. Use it.
I’ve said it before: Breaking up is hard to do. (Actually Neil Sedaka said it before me. And got paid better for saying it.) Some people deal with the stress by making themselves into the victim to gain sympathy from everyone around them. Some people try to prove that they’re in control by running roughshod over anyone they get a chance to crush, including social workers, court staff and other people trying to help. Some people just grasp at anything they can find to hold on to as though it were a life preserver, because they really have no clue what’s going to help.
I blame a lot of the need for drama on the current trend for reality show circuses. When you watch Big Brother or Jersey Shore or Wife Swap or Celebrity Rehab or Survivor–any of them, you get a fabulous lesson in how to manipulate people, how to portray yourself. how to make yourself more important by how you deal with everyone around you.
But as far as I’m concerned, you’re hiring me to do a specific job: to get you through your life crisis with as little damage to your life as possible. I’m not here to deal with you while you’re waiting for your close-up. If that’s what you’re really after, please call me after your fifteen minutes is up. That way, I can preserve my sanity as well as yours.