Divorce, from the desk of a lawyer

By 9th Jan 2019Apr 8th, 2021Family and Matrimonial Law

People often ask me whether being a divorce lawyer puts me off getting married. My answer is always the same: No, but it does put me off getting divorced!

We see the best and worst of people in this profession and as a good psychologist friend of mine always says, “you don’t know someone until you divorce them”. Whilst I would like to think this isn’t always true, I believe the point being made is that if you ever want to test someone’s bad side, serve them with divorce papers.

One thing I have noticed over the years is that there are certain themes that are consistent amongst prospective divorcees. I thought I would share two of these with you here. Some of you may relate, some may disagree, but I am quite sure that if you have experienced a divorce, you will nod your head to a lot of what is contained below.

The narcissist:

If there is one consistency, more consistent than gravity itself, it is the certainty that all   prospective divorcees view the other party as a narcissist. I’m not a psychologist, and I am not saying that they are wrong, but certainly, much like the often misdiagnosed ADHD ‘disorder’ in children, it would seem that either we are surrounded by a world of narcissists or this has just become an overused label. Furthermore, this diagnosis does not know gender. I have heard husbands accuse wives of this, and wives their husbands.  However, when one looks at the ‘standard traits’ of a narcissist or at least of someone with narcissistic tendencies, it becomes apparent that there may well be good reason for spouses accusing their other half of being a narcissist.

For example, people   with narcissistic tendencies (which does not mean they are a clinically diagnosed narcissist), exhibit a lack of empathy and an exaggerated sense of self-importance (I know quite a few lawyers like this!). They also display feelings of entitlement and are often selfish in relationships. Besides this, they are often arrogant and judgmental (this reminds me of a few people too funnily enough), they need excessive attention and are envious and suspicious of others. That’s not all though, they are also known to insist on associating only with other ‘special’ people, those that they perceive to be equal   to them and they are preoccupied by fantasies of great achievements, power and recognition (I believe there is a president with an impressive mop of hair across the pond, in a north westerly direction, that may fall foul of this definition too).

When you start to analyse the traits of a narcissist, you can see how easily people can classify their spouse as being a narcissist. Does it mean that they are a narcissist? What are your views?

The age gap phenomenon:

I may be alone in noticing this (us divorce lawyers seldom gather together and exchange client related insights), but it has happened so often that it bears mentioning. Ordinarily, and it is the norm (without putting anyone in a box, myself included), in most relationships the husband is older than his wife. Stats SA in fact reports that 76% of  grooms are older than their brides.

Stats SA further states that 16% of marriages are where the husband is younger than the wife, and only 8% of marriages are where the spouses are of equal age.

However, there is certainly a disproportionate amount of divorces where the wife is older than the husband. I am certainly not suggesting that you as a younger husband or you as an older wife stand a greater chance of getting divorced, but if one were to go on the stats, then a figure of around 16% of the divorces we encounter should be where the wife is older than her husband. I have experienced this figure instead to be as high as 30 – 40% of divorces. I have absolutely no explanation for this. However, it would be interesting to hear your opinion for this phenomenon?

I wish you all a prosperous 2019 and my advice to you is ‘don’t get divorced’. If you do plan on divorcing however, try not to get a narcissistic lawyer to represent you. It would be a travesty if your lawyer feels you are not a good enough client for them.


Richard Wands specialises in family law, and is a managing partner and the co-founder of HJW Attorneys, a bespoke law firm based in Bryanston.