MAD in Divorce

By Attorney Gregg Herman
April 11, 2014


During the cold war, the threat of nuclear war was called “MAD” or Mutually Assured Destruction.  The same concept applies in divorce and is well illustrated by a recent case in New York as reported in an article in the on-line ABA Journal.

According the article, a judge reduced the value of the husband’s law partnership because of the wife’s public criticism of her husband.  The court said:  “In essence, the wife chose to bite the hand that fed her.

At least one of the wife’s allegations, if true, would justify her criticism: She accused her husband of refusing to pay for their daughter’s $12,000 hearing aids even though he paid $215,000 for an engagement ring for his Playboy model girlfriend.  I could do a whole blog on that alone!

But, let’s stick to the topic of MAD in divorce.  According the judge, Janice Schacter raised legitimate concerns about domestic violence, but her negative online posts about her husband went beyond any reasonable discussion of this very serious issue… At a time when work in his field was in decline, any negative publicity, even if not directly related to the husband’s legal acumen, could potentially scare away clients.”

Frequently in divorce (as in intact marriages) the better the wage earning spouse performs, the better for both parties (and the entire family).  Put simply, a rising tide lifts all boats.  Therefore, in the typical gender situation (not by any means as typical as it used to be…), the wife should want the husband to be very successful and make lots and lots of money.  Simply put, the more he makes, the more he has available to pay her.

Since divorce publicity is never a good thing, other than scratching the emotional itch to trash her ex, going pubic with such allegations is MAD.  Perhaps some divorcing parties find the cost to be worth it.  But not only did she choose to marry him, but the person she is trashing is the only father her children will ever have.  Now is the cost worth it?

In such cases, I have tried to communicate the importance of avoiding such publicity to my clients.  More people, I suspect, will respect the dignity of keeping private affairs private than will agree with wronged spouse.  Those who enjoy the trashing are gossip mongers or engaging in schadenfreude (enjoying the suffering of others).  In an article which I wrote a number of years ago, I referred to parties who trash their spouses as “Suicide Bombers.

I wish I could say that all of my clients have followed my advice.  Unfortunately, sometimes raw emotions control common sense.  The result is unfortunate for both parties – and even worse for the children who are innocent victims.

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman, LLC in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.