Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

> What caught me by surprise, and forced me to seek emergency loans from friends, were the enormous legal fees I had to pay my ex-wife's divorce lawyers. In a California divorce, the wealthier spouse must pay both sides of the battle even if they are not the aggressor.

> The legal and accounting bills for the divorce total four million dollars so far, which is an average of roughly $170,000 per month for the past 24 months. Journalists were quick to mock the poor "broke" guy that had $200k a month expenses, failing to note that legal fees constituted the majority.

That's utterly despicable - Grellas, can you help us put together a plan to disbar and exile everyone involved in the divorce racket or something? Talk about a destruction of wealth, energy, time, and life - it's embarrassing that we let this happen to people in the United States.

Our family/divorce courts and the associated personnel are destructive, vindictive, and capricious. This needs to change. Why do people stand for it? What can we do?

There are even worse stories.

My parents divorced two years ago. I was paying my mother's attorney bills because she had no money and hadn't had a job in 35 years.

After the first bill from my mother's attorney, for $15,000, I asked the firm to cap expenses at $5,000. I explained that I was just a kid and didn't have $15k per month to spend. They agreed, in writing.

Then they didn't invoice for 4 months, and at the end of that 4 month period (when nothing really happened in the divorce), they invoiced for $175,000.

Yes, $175,000.

It's currently in arbitration with the Virginia State Bar, two years later. Hopefully we'll prevail, but it's not looking good.

Divorce attorneys are the lowest, most predatory "profession" on the planet. Exorbitant divorce fees are not just a plight of the wealthy.

I have no solutions, and hope Grellas can weigh in on this thread.

My ex-girlfriend's story of her divorce was similar. It was an extremely hostile, nasty divorce with custody at stake and accusations of mental health issues on both sides, but she and her husband managed to agree on one thing: after many months of legal fighting, they agreed that they were being systematically bled by the lawyers. The lawyers were concocting reason after reason to drag everyone into court and file ungodly amounts of paperwork. They were nowhere close to being divorced, and it looked like it would take years.

Her lawyer (an older, grandfatherly gentleman) treated her in an apparently very caring manner, repeatedly calling her at night to see if she was okay and discuss minor issues of the case, always managing to get her upset and then spend a couple of hours comforting her and giving her advice. Then she found out he was billing for that time, so she stopped answering his calls after five o'clock.

Her husband had a similar realization that the case had turned into them against the lawyers, so they agreed to simultaneously fire their lawyers and hire new ones. Then they went back to hurling neglect, abuse, and mental illness accusations at each other and fighting over custody. Years later, having lived in separate states for many years, they can barely stand to talk on the phone three or four times a year to coordinate on the daughter going to see his side of the family. But in the middle of a nasty divorce, they managed to agree about the lawyers.

I know it's considered gauche on HN to say "thank you" for upvotes.

But thank you.

(I'm assuming the upvotes are a way of saying "I'm sorry dude, I feel your pain". If so, they are much appreciated.)

What can we do?

Abandon the institution of marriage entirely. Nuke it from orbit, as it were. It's the only way to be sure.

The legal end of it is a mere wealth-redistribution mechanism. The social end of it is made of community who loves to witness people getting into marriages, but they scatter during the demise. So what function does it perform? From my perspective, it only serves to weaken commitment by trying to offload the responsibility of staying together to a legal framework.

Can anybody make a good case for continuing the charade?

Actually, yes.

Many marriages are entered into by two parties with the agreement that one party will be the primary caretaker of the children (home-maker), which is a profession that is unpaid. The other party will work outside the home and provide money for the family. In that case, the years of work that the home-maker has put in should be recognized as valid work, and in the event of a break-up of the marriage, the home-maker should continue to receive monetary support from the other party, as they (often) have no viable other professional skills. This needs to be enforceable in court in the interest of people whose profession is home-maker.

This is also why gay marriage (and gay divorce) should be legally codified like straight marriage is. People need legal recourse to persist their own standards of living.

If someone entering into a marriage does not want to take on the lifetime of responsibility of providing for the person who is promising to take on the role of home-maker in their household, perhaps they shouldn't enter into a marriage.

This is an argument for marriages as contracts, but no more. I don't read an argument in what you say in favour of a government involvement in defining what a marriage is. Contract law should be sufficient.

I agree. Good point. There is a strong argument to be made for defining a prenup for all marriages, just as a contract would have a dissolution agreement. That way, the negotiation takes place when the people are on good terms and not trying to screw each other over out of spite.

commanda, you're correct but you answered the wrong question, the poster wanted to know why have marriages at all and not why alimony exists :)

Agree completely.

The question (probably similar to patents,) is: How can we protect the spirit of why this law is in place (to recognize the contribution of those who may not be directly compensated and give them their appropriate share), without letting people completely exploit and abuse it.

Looked at it that way, its an extremely hard problem with a myriad of economic and social issues along with a bunch of vested interests. Sigh...

> In that case, the years of work that the home-maker has put in should be recognized as valid work, and in the event of a break-up of the marriage, the home-maker should continue to receive monetary support from the other party, as they (often) have no viable other professional skills.

That's a valid point, but do we need a one-size-fits-all approach, i.e. all marriages are the same contract? Arguably, we do not, so why not just let the parties directly involved decide what terms to have for their own marriage contracts (which might include inter alia some provision for cheap arbitration rather than expensive predatory lawyers if things break down).

I'm not convinced that abolishing marriage would end the wealth-redistribution system.

I'm not worried about the external social part of it, but the personal part of it is that many people (including myself) enjoyed both getting and being married. Obviously, YMMV.

I guess that marriage has some "legal framework" but I've never even thought of it in that way. To me it is a personal declaration of two-way commitment, made in front of friends and family, and it's worth as much, and as little, as how you live by it. Same as any commitment, I guess.

I like being married. It's not a charade to me. If you don't like me being married, because you don't like divorce lawyers, so be it.

If you live with someone in a committed relationship for more than two years, your automatically entered into a common law marriage, even if you don't realize it. It's hard to avoid it if you want a relationship! How do common-law divorces work?

I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that entering into a common law marriage typically only happens if you "intend" to be married. For example, cohabitation alone is, generally, not enough to create a common law marriage.

I don't know about other countries, but most states in the US do not recognize common law marriage.

It's a British law thing so most commonwealth countries have this.

Direct from the UK government's website:

Most people think that, after they've been living with their partner for a couple of years, they become 'common law husband and wife' with the same rights as married couples. This is not the case. In fact, couples who live together have hardly any of the same rights as married couples or civil partners.

There is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’.


British law != UK current law but those laws that in the distant past were direct descendents of UK law at the time.

British law vs say Roman law.

Because of the widespread nature of the British empire remnants of these laws (and remnants of the Empire, such as the Queen being formally the supreme being in Canada) are still found all over the world, even if a lot of those laws have been abolished in the UK itself.

> British law vs say Roman law

I think you mean English common law. There's not such thing as "British law" as such, because Scotland has its own legal system (which incidently is partly based on Roman law).

Ah ok, I read that as "Those crazy Brits still have this" and waded in to correct ;)

Those crazy Brits abolished it in 1753 according to WP:


So maybe they're not that crazy :)

The law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but here in Ontario, common law status has very real consequences. Not all of them are bad and in fact if you read this FAQ on property division, it sounds like what people would expect when two people break up (e.g., joint assets are divided in half, each person keeps what belonged to them solely, etc.). Common law partners are also eligible for spousal support upon separation. People think I'm weird for not wanting to live with a girlfriend, but common law status creeps up fast and often before people have had the time to realize if the person is right for them in the long run.



According to wikipedia, 13 states do. I wonder whether these marriages qualify for federal benefits?

Marriage is a way to call a guys' bluffs. Plenty of guys will say they are in love and committed forever to keep a relationship going. But the reality is they would move on to a younger girlfriend every 5-10 years if they could. Marriage makes men put their money where their mouth is.

This is what you get for voluntarily involving the government in your personal matters.

What bugs me most about the entire gay marriage debate is that it implies that the government should have control over the institution of marriage. The solution to the gay marriage debate is not to make it legal for gay people to get married, but to make it so that the government doesn't decide who can get married.

There are far-reaching effects to be considered.

For example, immigration sponsorship. As a gay man with a non-American partner, this comes to mind first.

Currently, spouses do not have to testify against each other in court. This isn't codified in any law but British Common law (afaik). There are a few of these pleasantries that would have to be figured out.

Then, there are over 1,000 legal rights codified into contract law. Some of these can be emulated (power of attorney), some cannot.

It's a hard problem.

What politician wants to be "anti-marriage?" So, it's politically infeasible to discontinue marriage (or more specifically the government's involvement in marriage).

Reforming marriage laws to apply equally regardless of sexual orientation or to simplify divorce, on the other hand, do seem more like near-term achievable goals.

When Canada was still arguing about how to handle gay marriage, several Canadian politicians (both gay and straight) did, in fact, argue in favour of abolishing marriage as a legal institution. It was seen by many people at the time as a compromise position.

I'm not implying anything about the achievability of the abolition of marriage, I'm just speaking about it from a theoretical point of view. I completely understand that the social conservative movement is too strong in America for anything like this to happen in the forseeable future.

You're not a marketer are you? It's not an anti-marriage platform, it's anti-government platform.

Are you willing to campaign to remove government-sanctioned marriage? Do you think it is a feasible position?

> In a California divorce, the wealthier spouse must pay both sides of the battle even if they are not the aggressor.

Don't tell me, let me guess: it was lobbying by lawyers that created that law, right?

If the wealthier spouse ceases to be wealthier throughout the process (hypothetically, because of astronomical lawyer's fees), are the tables turned?

>What can we do?

The equivalent of the flat tax for divorce: some very simple, predictable rules that require little or no arbitration. Suppose the rule was that Elon gives x% of his assets to Justine within y months of the divorce, plus $z/month, end of story. No lawyers or court fees need to be involved.

Change countries. However, I've noticed that boycotts don't have the desired effect, when the market is too big. This probably applies to countries as well, so look out for number one, and get out anyway.

Of course it is - it is marriage in California - properly the most loopsided situation outside family court.

How is it a racket if he entered into the marriage contract of his own volition?

It may be a rigged game but he played it voluntarily.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact