Why I don’t do divorces

I’m a criminal defense lawyer. I don’t do family law. I’ll be glad to refer someone to a good lawyer who can handle a divorce or custody/child support case, but I don’t do them myself.

When I started in practice everybody told me: “You have to do family law. Or else give up a lot of business when you need it most.” The funny thing was that the same people who told me I should practice family law would quickly admit that all their biggest headaches flow from family law practice.


If I walk by another lawyer’s door and overhear angry words, it’s probably a family law case.

I am sure there must be a study out there proving that 87% of lawyer swearing is caused by family law.

Family law mostly involves unhappiness and trouble of some kind.

Yeah, OK. OK. Adoptions are happy.

The irony is that as a criminal lawyer, my clients have just as much (or more) reason to be unhappy, troubled (and troublesome), but mostly they are not. People accused of a crime tend to retain a remarkable degree of common sense when it comes their case.

Perhaps the prospect of a prison sentence focuses the mind.

They understand that only certain issues are important and that they will not be able to avenge a lifetime of complaints in one case.

When I was a new prosecutor, I expected that defendants–seeing me as their adversary– would really hate me, but most of them seemed to understand that I was just doing my job. I appreciated that. I still do.

But there is just something about divorce/custody cases that turns normally nice, reasonable couples into a couple of lunatics. Mostly, I think it’s the kids.

Like I said, I know some highly-skilled divorce lawyers. A tip of my criminal lawyer hat to them. They perform a particular, necessary service, so I don’t have to.

4 thoughts on “Why I don’t do divorces

  1. JR says:

    I am doing divorces right now, but I would prefer not to. I do family-law work because it’s money, and I need to eat and my landlord likes me to send it a rent check each month. So, I do family law. I admire you for sticking to your guns. Criminal law rocks. Hopefully, some day before long I can say: “I only handle criminal-defense work. My associate handles the family cases.”

  2. KV says:

    Family Law was the number one reason why I got out of private practice. It is a miserable practice area and I couldn’t get paid enough money to make it pleasant.

  3. Jamie says:

    I met my wife in first grade and have no reason to believe I’ll ever personally experience divorce (not that there’s anything wrong with that…) but

    I can’t help thinking some people don’t turn into lunatics during the divorce process. I’m guessing though that these folks just go buy some sort of $20 how-to-do-it-yourself divorce book, or don’t take up very much time with a lawyer because they agree on everything.

    So, yeah, I bet if you need a divorce lawyer, that’s already a sign that there’s a problem…

  4. Jim Crow Laws Family Law Law School Rankings…

    I didn’t agree with you first, but last paragraph makes sense for me…

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