Trouble In Splitsville


As matrimonial law grows ever more complex, getting out of a marriage requires a very good lawyer. Someone who can keep you out of the tabloid glare — or put your spouse in it. And someone who can understand your suffering. New York’s top divorce lawyers feel your pain. And they’re crying all the way to the bank.

An excerpt from here:

Sitting in his office high above Madison Avenue, surrounded by art, tchotchkes, and other signs of his prodigious wealth and (not always good) taste, Raoul Lionel Felder, the best-known, if not the best, divorce lawyer in Manhattan, wriggles his toes in one of his hundreds of pairs of monogrammed slippers (he also collects Nazi memorabilia, fountain pens, and defused hand grenades) and says that divorce and associated actions over support, temporary custody, visitation, relocation of children, exclusive occupancy of residences, stopping a spouse from spending marital assets, protective orders, paternity, palimony, and contempt generate about $200 million a year for local law firms.


“You’re sitting at your desk and in walks a famous artist, an actor, the chairman of a company, and in fifteen minutes, you know their every deep, dark secret.”


There are big profits in pain. A 1992 study pegged the price of a relatively simple middle-class divorce at $50,000. The biggest fees — $1 million and up — are earned at trials (there were 138 of those in New York County in 1998) and from contested divorces that end before or at trial (1,003 last year). But legal fees aren’t all that’s at stake in Splitsville. Divorce is a cottage industry, employing legions of guardians, social workers, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, evaluators, appraisers, actuaries, accountants, and private eyes, to the tune, Felder guesstimates, of $50 million more a year. That doesn’t include all the judges, court reporters, law secretaries, or public-relations counselors — or, just for the record, those recently revealed payoffs by high-volume divorce mills to courthouse clerks.


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