13 Years, 16 Lawyers, 10 Judges, No Divorce Settlement

In 2001, a Florida court awarded Marlene Forand a $240,000 divorce settlement, plus $6,000 per month in permanent alimony and attorney’s fees, from ex-husband Bob in 2001, 6 years after their marriage ended. So why is she living with her mother and taking public support? The St. Petersburg Times reports that the lawyers who botched enforcement of the claim in Alabama, Bob’s new home state, somehow ended up with only a $162,000 judgment from her ex and took more than half that in legal fees, leaving Forand, after paying off some marriage debts, with nothing at all.

But wasn’t the ex supposed to pick up the bill?

No, her lawyers said. She signed contracts with them. She owed them. If she wanted Bob to pay her legal fees, she would have to sue him. Of course, that would mean more legal fees.

Marlene was famous for her fiery e-mails. She sent one to Haas:

“Why should I suffer and have to pay attorney’s fees to make him pay for what was already ordained in the Florida court? I’m still left holding the debt from the marriage judgments for 20 years and he walks free. This I will not tolerate. What’s the next move?”

Forand kicked Haas off the case (for the second time) in 2006 and is now representing herself. “This is not the end,” she told the Times. “If I’ve learned anything about the law, I’ve learned you can always file another motion. You can always object.”

But after 13 years of litigation, the Florida judiciary has a less rosy view of Forand’s prospects. Responding to Forand’s motion to compel Bob to swear that he had no documentation of any of his assets, a Tampa judge despaired, “Even if I rule 100 percent in your favor, I’m just going to add another piece of paper [to your casefile] — the next page of Volume 13.” (“A Divorce, Unsettled,” St. Petersburg Times, Jun. 22).


  • This is exactly why I tell my readers and audiences, that they need to protect themselves by learning about the laws in the state where they live and in this case, the one where she is now living. There are ethical and caring attorneys out there but in my opinion, they are few and far between these days. This is not an uncommon chain of events. The only difference, as I see it is that 13 years is even long for a long divorce process. I would guess that this woman was enticed by her first attorney’s telling her that she had a strong case and that he or she could get her the moon and the stars. He or she didn’t mention that would only be in her dreams after she paid the billable hours due.

  • PS. Had she checked out the laws in Alabama, she might have chosen to move elsewhere.

  • I stand corrected on my PS since it was not she, that moved to a different state.

  • The problem is that getting a judgment is not the same as getting the cash. You become a judgment creditor and can use the tools of the court to collect your judgment like attachment of assets and garnishment of wages. But if your spouse is unemployed or without assets, he is said to be judgment proof and you can’t collect. I’m a divorce lawyer, and I wish I had a nickel for every noncollectable judgment in my file cabinet. http://www.mddivorcelawyers.com,

  • So what do you suggest?

  • “Collaborative Law” is supposedly, the new trend for couples facing divorce. For those of you, who are not familiar with this process, please permit me to explain. The theory is that the husband and wife, who are facing divorce, have their own attorneys. The couple and their attorneys work toward a cooperative agreement, prior to going through the brutally heavy and expensive doors of divorce court.

    I give my accolades to Stuart Webb of Minneapolis, who initiated this process in the 1990’s. Mr. Webb, in my opinion, is one of the few attorneys who actually cares about the clients and abhors the combat that takes place in divorce court. He tried to offer an alternative which, in a perfect world, would be encouraging.

    In the “Collaborative Law” process, the husband and wife, together with their attorneys, select experts if needed, to assist in various aspects of the settlement. These experts might be psychologists, financial advisors, accountants, etc. The goal is to negotiate a settlement and satisfy the needs of each, as well as any children involved, more quickly. The hope is that the couple will spend less money and avoid being ravaged by the divorce system.

    One of the many problems of the “Collaborative Law” concept, in my opinion is that, if the couple is unable to reach an agreement, their troubles are just beginning. Why? Well, for obvious reasons, this process requires that the couple cannot use same attorneys, to go with them to divorce court. They must begin at square one and the money spent on the “Collaborative Law” process is virtually “flushed.”

    There are many advocates of this legal divorce option. Those who are in favor of this alternative prefer a means by which a divorcing couple can avoid a costly court fight. Here is the rub. How many attorneys REALLY want to involve themselves in a scenario where they will earn less money? Allegedly, there are groups of attorneys across the United States, who contend, that they favor this concept. For the most part, I don’t buy it. I do know several ethical and honest attorneys who truly care about the welfare of their clients but they don’t help them gratis and why should they? I also have come in contact with far too many lawyers who seem to thrive on the bloody skirmish that occurs in divorce court. These manipulative and greedy attorneys are not unlike man eating sharks, during a feeding frenzy. They slash at the preexisting wounds of the husband and wife. With each strike at their opponent, they taste victory. They triumph, in their minds, is because they have multiplied their billable hours. The heart breaking part is that it is at the cost of the couple and their children. I am not speaking of a monetary cost although obviously, that is an enormous part. I am speaking about how these attorneys maim any chance that the couple will ever be able to have an amicable relationship after the final decree is reached. Too often, the wounds that are inflicted do not heal.