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Divorced from Justice:
The Abuse of Women by Divorce Lawyers

Karen Winner

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Format: Hardcover, 352pp.
ISBN: 0060391847
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, Incorporated
Pub. Date: April  1996
Healthy Living members. - Allanae says of this book:  Excellent book with tons of info through a survivors memories. Very powerful forward written by former Los Angeles district attorney, Christopher Darden. (prosecutor in the OJ Simpson case).  A. Orca’s comment: Some mixed reviews on this one. Because of the differing points of view, I’ve used more space than usual for reviews on this title.
From the Publisher:
WARNING!!!! Contact with the divorce court system may be extremely dangerous. You may lose your children, your home, your life savings and your health. Before you enter a divorce lawyer's office or courtroom, read this book to protect yourself and your children. "Provides a vital road map through the treacherous landscape of divorce." --Christopher Darden. A full-fledged assault against women and children is under way in divorce courts across the country. Women are losing their economic security, their homes, their child support and even their children because of corrupt divorce proceedings. In Divorced from Justice, Karen Winner explodes the myth that divorce laws were created to protect women and children financially and reveals how all women -- from poor and working-class women to professional women of affluent means -- are all too often at the mercy of divorce lawyers who deal in dirty tricks and judges who flagrantly violate the laws they are supposed to uphold.

Female clients are often financially defrauded by their own attorneys, who put profit before all other considerations. Winner describes the dirty secrets of divorce lawyers who pad fees, double-bill, refuse to show clients itemized bills and hold clients' files hostage if they can't pay. And many of these practices are legal. Abraham Lincoln wrote, "Some things that are right legally are not right morally." Sadly, ethics are not a concern in the divorce industry, as women are losing their homes, life savings and, most distressing, their children. Contrary to public belief, 70 percent of all litigated custody trials rule in favor of the father. Winner skillfully renders the culture of the courtroom, where biased and uninformed judges play God and make arbitrary custody decisions that are harmful to the mother and child. Every woman who goes through a painful, financially draining divorce thinks her experience is isolated. In Divorced from Justice, Karen Winner says to women everywhere: You are not alone. This book should be required reading for all women -- a lesson taught by women who have been hurt by the ugly war tactics of divorce courts and have become fighters to survive a system that is alarmingly cruel and broken. Divorced from Justice dismantles the divorce-court system brick by brick and overwhelmingly proves the painful truth of the maxim: Justice is for sale. Winner demonstrates how divorce is big business and generates several billion dollars a year.

An investigative reporter and former policy analyst, Winner exposes the corruption at the heart of the American legal system and demonstrates exactly why divorcing women -- more than half a million in the U.S. per year -- face terrible economic hardship after being processed through the legal system. This landmark expos,, based on years of painstaking research and documented with compelling, real-life stories, paints a vivid picture of a divorce industry fueled by greed, favoritism and self-interest, and a judicial system that claims to value the sanctity of family yet allows unethical judges and attorneys to exploit and manipulate the laws for their own benefit.

Other Reviews 

The Nation:  {Both this book and Still Unequal by L. Dusky}, meticulously argued, are filled with horror stories of ordinary women who got screwed by the legal system. Winner goes too far when she says that mothers nearly always deserve custody because they have a stronger bond with their children than fathers do. But her point about the double standard in custody cases remains valid: Mothers who work outside the home are frowned upon by judges, who generally award custody to their husbands--who work outside the home. When Winner worked for the Department of Consumer Affairs, she wrote a report cataloguing many of the deceptions related here. She also suggested policy reforms adopted in 1993 by New York's Chief Judge, Judith Kaye. . . . These reforms are an important step, as is the concrete advice Winner offers to divorcing women.

Library Journal:  Women in divorce cases experience abuse, not justice, from the judicial establishment, states Winner, journalist and former investigator for the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. She guides readers through the inner dynamics of divorce court proceedings and uncovers the too-common scene of unethical lawyers using the fee-for-profit system for self-enrichment and insensitive judges misapplying community property, equitable distribution, and no-fault divorce laws. Wives fare worse than husbands because they lack adequate financial resources for competent legal defense; face gender discrimination from the mainly male legal profession; and, after the divorce, descend in economic status, if not into poverty. Winner provides examples of wives who fought for their rights and won, and she advocates citizen activism and government intervention to discipline the legal profession and insure justice. This readable and timely book is recommended for public libraries. Charles L. Lumpkins, Bloomsburg Univ. Lib., Pa.

Publisher's Weekly:  In 1992, Winner, a consultant on women's rights in the courts, wrote the report "Women in Divorce" for New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs, and this study is an elaboration of that account. The gist of it is that when a divorce is not amicable, the woman is usually treated unfairly by the courts. Ironically, some of the legislation passed since 1970 to aid women in divorce cases, such as equitable distribution, community property and mediation laws, has had the opposite effect, because it allows lawyers to rack up hours chasing down assets. Winner considers lawyers a major factor in the many injustices divorcing women suffer, largely because many lawyers, in her view, are interested not in fairness but money. Winner offers several valuable solutions "to shift the balance from a lawyer-centered system to a consumer-driven system." This book will be important reading for women contemplating divorce.

From Kirkus:
A useful if somewhat na´ve assessment of the labyrinthine divorce system. In the early 1990s, Winner, now a private consultant on women's rights and the courts, investigated complaints filed with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs by women who felt that they had been abused by judges and lawyers in divorce court; many of her recommendations for reform were later adopted by the state. She found rampant overbilling, clear instances of conflict of interest, and repeated failures to disclose information on the part of lawyers, particularly those representing the nonprofessional women least likely to have the resources and sophistication to cope with such conduct. Winner also discovered what she considers to be persistent failure by family court judges to follow the law. The result of this pattern of malfeasance, she argues, is that well-off men find it easy to take advantage of the women they are divorcing. Most of her proposed reforms are debatable, but plausible: reducing judicial discretion, creating citizen review boards to monitor judges and lawyers, applying rules requiring clearer disclosure by lawyers of what they have done to earn their fees, and bringing lawyers under the authority of consumer protection agencies. An outsider to the legal profession, Winner has sharp perceptions of some strange lawyer customs, such as failing to itemize fees and having young associates perform the work for which a high-profile partner has contracted. She also, however, underestimates the degree to which bad judicial and legal practice are caused by sloth or incompetence, rather than avarice or cruelty. She seems shocked that lawyers share the general population's regard for profit, and she ignores the rapaciousness of many clients, including abandoned wives. That said, however, this book has much good advice on protecting oneself from unscrupulous or sloppy lawyers.

Divorced From Justice or Divorced From Reality?
Karen Winner’s expertise in consumer affairs is readily apparent in this book (4 stars), as is her overwhelmingly anti-male gender bias (1 star). While Ms. Winner gives good, solid consumer advice on things to watch out for when dealing with lawyers and judges, she relies heavily on Lenore Weitzman’s highly flawed and discredited studies to make anti-female gender bias points, none of which real data backs up. This is the 1990’s version of Hitler’s big lie. For instance, after reading Divorced From Justice, one would get the impression that women face uphill court battles in divorce, child support and custody. If this is true, why do women initiate divorce 3 times that of men? Why are over 90% of child support orders issued to women, even when they don’t have custody? Why does the Census Bureau report that, in single-parent households, over 87% of children live in mother-only homes compared to 7% for father-only households? Further damaging Ms. Winner’s credibility is the fact that she offers no real solutions, other than consumer affairs-type information on lawyers, which is useful (she does offer so-called solutions- all which would increase the amount and intensity of litigation and create a much more complex and expensive process). What’s the core problem? It’s an out-of-control divorce epidemic. So what advice does she recommend - ending no-fault divorce? Punishing the party initiating the divorce? No. Get a better lawyer. Provide more free legal services to women. Allow divorces to be filed in Federal courts. An obvious real solution is shared parenting - which would eliminate custody disputes and child support. But does Winner recommend shared parenting? Hardly, she argues that not only should fathers not get custody, but she’s mad that fathers who get remarried will now have a better chance to raise their children since they can offer their children a traditional family instead of a broken home. Interesting. To get a balanced picture, make sure you read 1) Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths by Dr. Sanford Braver, 2) Fathers’ Rights by Jeffery Leving and 3) The Custody Revolution by Dr. Richard A. Warshak. Then you will wonder, as I did, how this book ever got published. John Smith, Research Analyst, Alliance for Non-Custodial Parents’ Rights, 1/99.