Kelly McParland: Lawyers move to defend divorce gravy train



Aren’t lawyers great?

Here’s an item from Tuesday’s paper.

It’s about divorce, and how ruinously expensive, time-consuming and agony-inducing the legal system is in dealing with it.

Anyone unfortunate enough to have been caught in the horrors of divorce law knows the reality of the system. It takes an unhappy situation and does everything it can to make it worse. It can be hideously costly, mind-bogglingly unfair and callously apathetic to the pursuit of justice. But it’s great for lawyers, because the longer and more bitter a case, the more they can bill for it. If either of the parties is even slightly inclined towards payback, it’s the easiest thing in the world to encourage that bitterness into a drawn-out war of attrition that is disastrous for the client and wonderfully profitable for the law firm.

The Ontario Bar Association is not blind to the defects of the system. This week the association delivered a report to Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley addressing some concerns. And one of its big concerns? Making sure lawyers get paid.

You see, the system can get so expensive, it might ruin a client and threaten his or her ability to pay. Well, we can’t have that, so the bar association has come up with a novel plan: Put a tax on marriage licences, and introduce a provincial lottery to ensure no divorce lawyer has to go without.

Bentley came to the first session, [co-author Tom]  Dart recalled, and was “pretty blunt” there wouldn’t be much government funding available, so summit participants would have to come up with “creative” ideas for financing reforms.

Channelling a portion of marriage licence fees to fund divorce services may not conjure up the happiest of images, but similar schemes have been implemented in Indiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Connecticut, where marriage licence surcharges have been used to fund rape prevention and victim assistance programs.

Being “creative” is something divorce lawyers can do. It’s amazing how long a case can be dragged out, while the unhappy couple sinks deeper into financial ruin. A lottery is just the thing: even after both parties are broke, there would still be a way to squeeze cash out of the case!

Of course, an alternative would be to change the laws and legal practices so they weren’t so skewed towards prolonging and inflaming an already rancorous situation. Reducing the opportunities for confrontation, rather than encouraging and nurturing them, would do a lot of good, both emotionally and financially, for the aggrieved parties.

But nah. A lottery is better. Gotta keep those cheques coming in.

National Post

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