Evelyn Thompson, Family Law Clerk
All of us knows a personality like the one whom Mr. Trump is trying to portray in his run-up to the Presidency. (I am ever hopeful he is not the person who he pretends to be). Experienced family law lawyers have seen many like him. I am also sure that some of us may have experienced arelationship breakdown with someone like him.
Strong, unyielding, biased and opinionated personalities are not only difficult spouses but they are also difficult personalities for judges, family lawyers (even their own lawyer), family mediators and arbitrators. They won’t do what they are told to do. They won’t “play fair”. They play only by their own rules. They hide assets; intentionally hide income and will do whatever is necessary to avoid giving their partner that to which they are entitled.
The family law Donald is sure about what is right. He will do what he thinks he has to do, come hell or high water. Even Judges don’t have much persuasive power over someone like him. They can make orders, they can award costs, they can order him to pay, but will he? Will he accept accountability for his actions? – Not very likely or very easily.
Personalities like that increase costs for everyone at every level: emotionally, financially and spiritually. A spouse who will stand up to them risks a great deal – they have to retain additional experts at huge expense, they worry about whether or not these experts will actually find any of the missing assets or income, they worry about going bankrupt in the course of following their lawyer’s advice.
Mediators may be asked to become involved in family disputes by the Donalds of the world because they think the confidentiality of the mediation process and the power they hold over their partner will win the day. They are sure that they can browbeat the mediator and the other side into doing what they want. Mediators have to figure that out soon and terminate the mediation as quickly and as safely as possible.
Only Courts have enough authority to deal with the Donald like personality. So we have to leave it to the court to hold someone like him accountable. Indeed, the Donalds of this world can be held accountable, just like an election may hold Donald Trump accountable. A Judge in a family law case does have the power to jail them if they continuously flout court orders. But the court won’t do that on its own. Courts can only act if the weaker party takes a stand and asks the court to hold him accountable. When you have been beaten down in a spousal relationship, it is very hard to find the emotional and financial resources as well as the courage and the strength to stand up for what is right. When they do, they need a Judge who is willing to listen carefully to what is going on in the case, who can understand the nuances of a relationship involving the Donald like personality and who has the courage to make the Order holding him accountable.
We up in the North Country hope that the American electorate has the willingness to listen carefully to the relationship Mr. Trump wants to establish among the American people, to understand the nuances of what Mr. Trump brings to the stage and then has the courage to stand up and hold him accountable. Thankfully for us northerners, Iowa is a promising start!