It is Worth Taking Advantage of an Ex?

June 12, 2010 | Family Law News, Legal Perspective

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

A New York Times columnist, The Ethicist, recently published a question from a divorcing spouse, pondering whether it was ethical to keep quiet about errors that a judge or opposing counsel had made in her favor, apparently unnoticed by her ex-husband’s lawyer:

My ex-husband and I could not revise our child-support arrangement ourselves, so we took it to court. At the hearing, my lawyer, a specialist in family law, was better prepared than his, a generalist who made numerous mistakes in preparation and presentation. The hearing officer’s recommendation included several large calculation errors, most in my favor. Each side has 20 days in which to report such errors. Am I ethically obligated to do so? NAME WITHHELD, PENNSYLVANIA

The newspaper columnist, who consulted with a legal ethics expert, indicated that the spouse had no legal duty to report the error but might want to notify her ex anyway. Taking advantage of the situation might destroy any mutual respect or trust left between the ex’s, which would make all future dealings more difficult and expensive.

It’s not easy to take the high road when dealing with an ex, particularly after a hard-fought divorce. Still, it is important to consider the “costs” of a bellicose relationship with an ex. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but often a small concession can melt the ice just enough to save legal fees and mental anguish.

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