The Law and Irrational Behavior

This is a post about how my husband’s ex-wife is irrational, but not unreasonable and only sometimes illogical, and how this helps her to get away with everything short of murder. Yes, these are the kinds of distinctions I enjoy spending time thinking about and which are holding me above water while we wait for rescue. . .

We often have difficulty distinguishing between the law and ethics, which is understandable, because of course we would like them both to be the same. If something is unlawful, it ought to be unethical and vice versa. Thrashing out at others and causing them pain is unethical, and so we often feel that the law ought to stop aggressors. People shouldn’t (a moral edict) be allowed to file lawsuits out of spite that cause others grief and money. But we all know that’s not how it works. At the onset, the law doesn’t even distinguish between an irrational lawsuit and an unreasonable one. You are left to fend for yourself.

I haven’t written in a while because while there has been much stress, there has been little progress. This is because the law tolerates irrational behavior to an unnerving degree. Irrational behavior is some of the most unethical, because it denies that you, the accused, even have a place from which to speak. The law can’t even begin to address this. So if you are irrational enough, if you make just incredibly outrageous demands, you might see some success, at least in the short-term. This has been my experience so far and defines the holding pattern we are in. In other words, if you get paid in child-support and alimony more than most people make in a year and sue for a raise in alimony and luxury items, the middle ground that can be achieved there would be something like a small increase in one or both of those, which neither side finds acceptable. If you deny that your ex-husband’s annual tax documents are a sufficient record of his financial state so that child-support can be figured per the guidelines, than you can draw things out long enough to make your ex-husband pay an exponentially inflated rate longer.

How can these shenanigans really be permissible, you ask? I have revisited this question ad nauseam. I circle back for ration and reason over and over again–in her behavior and in terms of the process–and find so very little. Perhaps it is because the law deals with unreasonable people, but not irrational nor illogical.

According to moral philosopher Kurt Baier, my husband’s ex-wife  is and isn’t illogical, because the word means “doing something that anyone can see will not lead to success.” Attorneys are the first to concede that, yes, she can get away with certain crazy claims or behaviors. For example, on the one hand, calling me an agnostic paramour will not lead her to success in terms of her case because the name-calling is not germane to her case and will not lead to her success. So she gets away with all kinds of stuff like this that logical people just dismiss but which causes immense hurt to those around her, especially her children. She is not held accountable for illogical behavior. She doesn’t believe herself some of her illogical claims, but she has learned that she can muddy the waters unhindered. She experiences some level of success with this behavior, even while logical people dismiss her illogic out-of-hand and set it aside.

Next, you have the term irrational, which means “when we have strong evidence to the contrary, but don’t behave as if we do.” This is where most of her behavior comes from, and the denial that it is lawful for child-support and alimony to change is the best example of this. An irrational person doesn’t think their reasons for wanting something are better than yours; they act as if you don’t have reasons at all. Everything she wants supersedes what any one else wants or needs, even in the face of concrete evidence to the contrary. Presented with evidence that with alimony and child-support she made more money last year than my husband, my husband’s ex-wife denies his right to seek redress. The court doesn’t know what to do with this. If your attorney also acts irrationally (but who at worst should be unreasonable but either way is being a shitty lawyer by serving neither his client nor the law), he can extend this irrational period.

Eventually, however, the court gets around to dealing with what is unreasonable. Unreasonable is defined by Baier as “making excessive demands or requests that we may be entitled to make but for which the other party has good reasons not to comply.” If either of two sides in a mediation are unreasonable, a good mediator might be able to make the difference; but if one side is irrational, even an accomplished mediator will probably leave empty handed. That is because being unreasonable is a weaker way of going counter to reason than being irrational, as being unreasonable just means you are not recognizing the force of another’s reasons just because they conflict with your own. Being irrational means you fly in the face of reason altogether, acting as if all reason is on your side. The hope is that when you finally get your day in court, the judge will be disgusted by the irrationality, demand at least that the other side be only unreasonable, and then rule in such a way that some reason is brought to the situation. The fear is that the judge won’t recognize you started in left field, so far down the continuum that reason wasn’t even in sight, and that he or she will split the baby from that vantage point. A good judge should recognize the difference between the irrational and what is unreasonable. We can only hope.

I was recently told–in another context–that I am the voice of reason. I admit, that strokes my vanity. I would like to think I am a reasonable, rational person, able to see that people can disagree and still hold valid points. I have seen the law tolerate illogical and irrational behavior. Hopefully, it will bring reason, finally, to an extremely difficult situation. My husband has felt like it will be held against him if he acts irrationally or even unreasonably, but his ex-wife has gotten a lot of mileage out of her irrational positions.

The rational philosopher part of me can only circle back to reason. We want the moral law to be based in reason. We want the law of the land to recognize irrationality and unreasonable behavior and to correct it. We yearn for a moral and legal formulaic appeal to reason to fall back on, as we recognize that so many are not capable of rational thought or have found that being selfish and mean works well of them. So I keep trotting around in the woods, splitting linguistic hairs, mixing my metaphors, and finding myself in the clearing where I started. I keep hoping that at some point, by recognizing that my husband’s ex-wife has been unreasonable (remember, the law can’t hold her accountable for being irrational–only a psychologist with a backbone can), some justice might finally be brought in, which is the closest thing to an ethical response we will ever see.




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  1. PhiloPsycho says:

    I’m sorry to hear that nothing was resolved in your favor (again). This doesn’t say much for her lawyer’s character, as a person or as a lawyer. His only interest in helping her is what’s in it for him ($). I understand the practical aspect of that, if say, he is hurting for money so badly that he can’t refuse the case. And it isn’t as if he can’t see the situation for what it is and has some moral defense based on ignorance of her intentions. In my opinion, a conscionable lawyer would think, “Just because a person has legal grounds for a case, doesn’t mean they ought to be represented.” Although he may be operating well within the code of ethics for his profession (the necessary condition) doesn’t mean that he is doing what is best for society (the sufficient condition). I think role and pragmatic ethics fit well here because it asks us to do what is best for family, society- the community. The very first paragraph under this state’s Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys includes the words “…a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.” Sometimes justice seems rather cold-hearted.
    Maybe he thinks he is helping build public faith in the justice system as a whole. Or maybe he’s just an opportunistic jerk.

    This isn’t a criminal case in which the choice to not represent the accused out of compassion for the victim would cause distrust of the justice system (imbalance). It is a civil issue with greed and revenge as the motive. What if every lawyer she tried to hire said, “No, I won’t help you bilk your ex-husband, for you’ve gotten more than your fair share and are causing harm”?

  2. Nicole says:

    I just realized that she must have watched “The First Wives Club” and didn’t get that her situation was totally different 😉

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