Blogs > The Law Blogger

The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
For more information email:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Should Your Divorce Go To Trial

On Friday, I was sure that I was going to spend the entire day in a divorce trial; my first in a quarter century of practice. Didn't happen.

Why? Because trial in divorce rarely makes sense. This case, in Genesee County, had it all: a GAL for the minor children; a joint bankruptcy in the middle of the proceedings; two [failed] mediation sessions; motions from each side, jousting for the entry of temporary support and parenting orders.

The case was positioned for trial because both sides held onto rigid positions on many of the issues important in any divorce proceeding: custody, parenting time, child support, alimony and debt apportionment. My law clerk, a third year student at Wayne State, prepared an excellent trial brief; she had compiled a trial notebook, and we were prepared and ready to go.

As the case was the oldest on Judge Kay Behm's docket [18-months], I knew it was going to resolve one way or another.

The case did resolve, after 8-hours in the courtroom, because each of the parents made common-sense, strategic compromises. In the end, the parents each looked past their own personal wounds, and their self-centered agendas, and took into account the best interests of their minor children.

Don't get me wrong, I would rather conduct a trial than spend the entire day as I did Friday, painstakingly going over, discussing, negotiating, and resolving every aspect of a failed marriage and the flotsam that goes along with it. But as a divorce lawyer, I keep the best interests of the client in mind. Trial almost never makes sense.

So it may be that when I finally retire, I will have never conducted a divorce trial. Actually, that is a client-service goal of mine.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, February 25, 2012

RadioShack Stung in Privacy Suit

Say it ain't so.  RadioShack may have hacked.

In an interesting privacy rights law suit being prosecuted right here in Detroit, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Radio Shack just lost its motion for Rule 12b(6) summary judgment. 
The case, pending before Judge Victoria Roberts, now heads to trial.

The claim is that a RadioShack customer purchased a new cell phone and had his data transferred at a RadioShack store; the old phone was to be recycled.  A RadioShack employee allegedly accessed the images on the customer's old phone, saw some apparently objectionable pics from the customer taken at his place of employment, and in a "Big Brother"-like maneuver, sent the pics to the customer's employer.

The customer was fired and he is now suing RadioShack for violating his right to privacy and for breach of RadioShack's own cell phone disposal privacy policy.

Noting that very little discovery has been conducted in the case, chastizing RadioShack's counsel for raising two seminal "sufficiency-of-the-pleadings" cases in a reply brief, and intimating that questions of fact for a jury may exist, the Court denied RadioShack's motion for summary judgment.  The complete order is here.

One of the fact questions spotted by Judge Roberts was the scope of the consent the customer may have given to the store in accessing his images on his old cell phone. 

Imagine going into a RadioShack outlet to simply transfer your cell phone data [i.e. your digital life as you know it] to a new phone, and you wind-up getting fired because some entry level employee decides to police the content of your data, and forward selected portions of that data to your employer.  My guess is that this case will probably settle, and confidentially. 

In my humble yet professional opinion, RadioShack has some significant exposure on this claim.  At least they would if I was on the jury.

If you think your right to privacy has been compromised on-line and would like a free consultation to assess your potential claim, contact our law firm.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Social Media Presentations for Lawyers Are In Demand

With Lynn Krauss, President
Midland County Bar Association
Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to address various bar organizations and industry groups on the topics of marketing and legal issues emerging within the social media context.  Lately, my bookings for such presentations have increased.

Lawyers now want to know how to market their wares electronically, and how to avoid the pitfalls.

Yesterday, I presented to the Midland County Bar Association.  They hold their monthly meetings in the spacious, and just-built, clubhouse at the Midland Country Club.

As bar association meetings go, it was a well-attended event.  The MCBA's Treasurer, Eric Larsen, attributed this to the topic he arranged: social medial marketing for lawyers.  Of the nearly 40 attendees, there was an even mix of general practitioners and Dow corporate attorneys.

The discussion focused on how to stay abreast of the constant wave of information; how to manage that information; and how to disseminate select portions of that information for a lawyer's prospects.  Hyper-local marketing was explained.  Tips were imparted on how to rise above the ever-present clutter that always seems to accompany search engine results.

The message in Midland was consistent with my other presentations: to get noticed on the Internet [i.e. Google, Yahoo, YouTube], lawyers marketing on the web need to frequently post relevant content that your target audience will find useful.

Now doing that, while managing a law firm, and actually practicing law, that is the challenge for the modern general practitioner.  More and more, lawyers and catching on to the social media wave.  For many, the good ole "yellow pages" ad is a distant memory.

Upcoming presentations on these topics will include a webinar sponsored by Thompson-West on Thursday, 02/23/2012, at 11:00 am EST.  Also, I will be on a panel of other practicing attorneys at the "Avvocating 2012" seminar in Seattle, WA in May.

Stay tuned as this is an ever-evolving topic.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Narcissus Gets a Divorce

Narcissus admires his reflection.
In my decades of divorce practice, I've encountered folks who, if a psychological evaluation was completed, would be characterized as having narcissistic personality disorder.  A few of these peeps have been clients; others have been on the opposing side.

Either way, everyone involved is in for a rough ride.

Over the past several years, "narcissism" has also taken on a connotation-du-jour.  The diagnosis being made by dime-store psychologists (i.e. parties to family court litigation) whenever the object takes an opposing or contrary view. 

What is narcissim, really?

According to the Mayo Clinic, narcissistic personality disorder is "characterized by dramatic, emotional behavior, which is in the same category as antisocial and borderline personality disorders."   A person with this personality disorder may exhibit some of the following characteristics, according to the Clinic:
  • Believing you are better than others;
  • Fantasizing about your success, power and attractiveness;
  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents;
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration;
  • Ignoring other's feelings and emotions;
  • Believing and acting like you are really, really special;
  • Taking advantage of others;
  • Expecting others to go along with your often super-sized schemes and plans;
  • Exhibiting jealousy toward others;
  • Believing others are jealous of you;
  • Unable to maintain healthy inter-personal relationships;
  • Easily hurt or rejected;
  • Fragile self-esteem
If you know someone with more than a few of these traits, run.  If you are married to such a person, get ready for the inevitable divorce proceeding when you finally throw in the towel, realizing that your spouse will never change. 

If you are a lawyer representing such a person, affix your chin strap and bring a lunch.

In the divorce context, the narcissist fares quite poorly.  The above-listed features of this personality disorder are routinely identifed and rigorously addressed by family court professionals. 

In this process, the personality flaws of the narcissist are forced itno the lab for a full-on forensic evaluation.  Many of the tools in the family court professional's arsenal will be brought to bear upon the conduct of the narcissist in an effort to force short-term modification, and to achieve a stable platform.

Some red flags that I've gleaned over the years: a narcissist will change lawyers often, blaming the status of the case on the mistakes of prior legal counsel.  Also, the register of actions in the case of a narcissist will often be a mile long, peppered with hearings, motions, and more hearings.

When a narcissist is embroiled in a divorce proceeding, the children are used as pawns.  Any input from the Friend of the Court [either via a referee, family counselor, or social worker] or from a therapist, is rejected; the narcissistic parent must be dragged to court, kicking, screaming and cursing.

In the years leading up to such a divorce, the other spouse will often report being chronically verbally abused and bullied by the narcissist.  In fact, this dynamic will set the initial tone of the proceeding.

The process will next feature a series of attempts, which will take some time, where the professionals try to arrest the insidious and pervasive conduct of the narcissist.  Arrest, but not change; this person will not change.

The other spouse many times will exhibit classic signs of emotional abuse during this painful process: low self-esteem, exhaustion, a desire to give up or give in.  This person needs a strong focused divorce lawyer.

And counseling. 

During the divorce process, the other spouse is well advised to minimize the face-to-face contacts with the narcissist.  If children are involved, then communicate through emails and texts. 

If you feel threatened at home or during parenting exchanges, seek exclusive use of the marital home.  If you are separated, use a neutral transition point for the parenting exchanges; most family court judges will grant such a request simply to err on the side of everyone's safety.

Finally, stay focused on the process knowing that the process will eventually come to an end.  The Michigan Supreme Court has mandated that county family courts conclude divorce proceedings within a year.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Nagging Outstrips Adultery as Primary Engine of Divorce

Toward the end of last month, you may have noted the stir that a WSJ article caused over the issue of nagging and its toxic effect on marriages. The article concluded that nagging may have more potential to bust apart couples than adultery.

As a divorce attorney in the third decade of practice, I’ve witnessed many clients complain about their spouse’s nagging; and about their cheating.  It is impossible to say which is more toxic to a marital union.

Nagging, as a relationship dynamic, is all about a breakdown of communication, and an attempt to reassert control.  The article clearly stated that it was women who did the nagging while men were on the receiving end.  The “experts” interviewed for the article opined that this was because of a woman’s role as a “manager” of the family; meanwhile men tend to, “feel like a little boy being scolded by his mother.”

For their part, women complain that, when they ask about something, they just want it handled. 

Problems arise, however, when a couple takes it to the next level, and begin to argue about the nagging, rather than the root problem.  Communication breakdown.

If a couple, even a committed couple, does not learn how to cope with the dynamic, they often wind up divorced in the long-run.  Professor Howard Markman of the University of Denver, cited and quoted in the WSJ article, says nagging is the “enemy of love”.

The real barometer here is the 400-plus comments on the article; they are hilarious.  Take a look for yourself.

Labels: , , ,