In the practice of matrimonial and family law, commitment to the Bounds of Advocacy distinguishes a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers from other practitioners to successfully counteract the “divorce rage” phenomenon. The Bounds of Advocacy represent standards of professional conduct a step above the traditional Rules of Professional Conduct adopted by the American Bar Association and most state bar associations. The Bounds of Advocacy are specifically designed to address the unique challenges indigenous to family law matters to most effectively represent the client.
A perfect example of the how the Bounds of Advocacy are tailored to family law is expressed in section 7.1, with comments:
An attorney should strive to lower the emotional level of marital disputes by treating counsel and the parties with respect.
Some clients expect and want the matrimonial lawyer to reflect the highly emotional, vengeful relationship between the spouses. The attorney should explain to the client that discourteous or uncivil conduct is inappropriate and counterproductive, that measures of respect are consistent with competent and ethical representation of the client, and that it is unprofessional for the attorney to act otherwise.
Ideally, the relationship between counsel is that of colleagues using constructive problem-solving techniques to settle their respective clients’ disputes consistent with the realistic objectives of each client. Examples of appropriate measures or respect include: cooperating with voluntary or court-mandated mediation; meeting with opposing counsel to reduce issues and facilitate settlement; promptly answering phone calls and correspondence; advising opposing counsel at the earliest possible time of any perceived conflict of interest; and refraining from attacking, demeaning or disparaging other counsel, the court or other parties.
One of the greatest dangers a matrimonial attorney faces is adopting the emotional agenda of the litigant. Practitioners commonly refer to this phenomenon as “divorce rage.” Divorce rage may lead to a complete collapse of communication between the litigants and any ability to co-parent or chances for conflict resolution leading to an early settlement. Adopting the emotional agenda of the client will also significantly increase the cost of the divorce. Divorce rage causes a practitioner to abandon objectivity and to ignore the legal principles and constructive tools utilized to most effectively resolve disputes. As the old adage says, “he who represents himself has a fool for a client.” By adopting the emotional agenda of the client, the litigant now has a fool for a lawyer.