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I am going to use made up names.. John was born in Belarus (not actually, but country close in culture and economic development) and moved to the US 20 years ago. John went back to Belarus and met Oxana. They married in Belarus after spending a summer together (John did know Oxana during his school days). John brough Oxana to Ohio, US and she got a greencard.

Oxana asked John to send her 37 year old son money every month before she even moved to the US. John did this because he believed in true love and because Oxana promised to get a job and eventually pay him back for supporting her adult son. John was nothing but kind to Oxana, but he did occassionally ask Oxana to get a job like she promised. One time John said he won't send Oxana'a son money this month (because her son stole from John's family).

Oxana said she wants a divorce, and that she will sue him for all he's got, and she will tell the court that he beats her and engages in intercourse with his daughter in front of her and is therefore emotionally abusive.

John has never hit anyone in his life and his daughter is a virgin that hugged her dad maybe once in the past year. His daughter does live with them, but they barely see her (she studies in her room and buys her own groceries, pays rent, etc).

John and Oxana have been married 2 years and lived together in the US for 9 months.

I have several questions:

  1. How does John protect himself from false claims (e.g. if the woman decides to roll down the stairs and blame him)? Is there any downside to basically putting a camera in every room of the house except hers?

  2. How do you find a good divorce lawyer? Is it reasonable to ask for some sort of record of past outcomes (are there standards to provide full and complete records like for financial companies)? Is it reasonable to ask to pay way less if the lawyer fails to get certain terms? Do the lawyers even do anything other than fill out paperwork?

  3. What can one expect to pay a divorce lawyer?

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How does John protect himself from false claims (e.g. if the woman decides to roll down the stairs and blame him)?

It would be very helpful if John has evidence of Oxana making false statements about him or others, and/or of Oxana threatening to make them.

False accusations are common --and hardly ever prosecuted-- in a context of divorce. Examples of that are police reports (here and here) and excerpts of court proceedings that ensued during my father's (desisted) proceedings to divorce his 2nd wife (for additional excerpts, see also at 22:49-24:29).

According to one of those police reports, my father's 2nd wife allegedly extorted him with "You'll have to pay me even until my ring!" (see page 15 of the pdf file) at the time they were going through the divorce proceedings he filed. Based on your description, it is not far-fetched that John could end up experiencing a similar mess as reflected in these police reports.

Note: I don't know whether the poorly written quote from page 15 of the pdf was my father's translation of their interactions or whether he merely transcribed them to the police.

Is there any downside to basically putting a camera in every room of the house except hers?

John is strongly suggested to check Ohio law to avoid criminal charges.

For instance, Michigan statute MCL 750.539d(1)(a) prohibits to "Install, place, or use in any private place, without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy in that place, any device for observing, recording, transmitting, photographing, or eavesdropping upon the sounds or events in that place.". As a wife, Oxana would be reasonably entitled to that privacy in rooms other than --and including-- her room.

Moreover, placing cameras in every room will not preempt false accusations. For instance, Oxana could still calumniate John by falsely alleging that he and the daughter went to a hotel to have intercourse.

How do you find a good divorce lawyer?

Before you even decide to retain a lawyer, see this report about New Jersey Family Court, where judges and attorneys allegedly are in the habit of dragging divorce cases for as long as it is profitable to the lawyers (obviously, at the expense of the parties pursuing the divorce).

I don't really follow --and have never litigated-- divorce matters, but the multi-year divorce & custody case of Tsimhoni --formerly presided by Michigan infamous judge Lisa Gorcyca-- illustrates that NJ is not the only state where parties fall prey of legal malpractice.

John should search for Ohio court opinions related to divorce matters and get acquainted with the applicable concepts, laws, and doctrines. For that purpose, one free, very useful resource is http://www.leagle.com/leaglesearch . Court opinions usually cite relevant statutes, whence John can get an idea of what laws are decisive on divorce matters.

Is it reasonable to ask for some sort of record of past outcomes (are there standards to provide full and complete records like for financial companies)?

It is reasonable, but no, there are no such standards at all. An attorney will most likely allege grounds of attorney-client privilege, the extensive time that would be needed to redact court documents, and possibly other excuses to deny John's request.

Instead, John should go to the court in his county and study as many files of divorce cases as he can. A number of courts display some information of cases in their website. For example, some Michigan trial courts have deployed Odyssey (see here and here), whence a party could search from home whether an attorney has litigated cases in that court and how long they've taken. To see the contents of complaints/motions/etc., John can read them only in the courthouse, unless the county court has configured Odyssey (or its equivalent) to allow the public to read the contents from elsewhere. I don't know what progress Ohio courts have made on this.

Regardless of the attorney's transparency to share with John any redacted records about his performance, another important variable is the judge. In this regard, see the next item.

Is it reasonable to ask to pay way less if the lawyer fails to get certain terms?

Unfortunately, that is neither reaonsable nor realistic. Just from meeting with John, it is impossible for the attorney to know aspects such as:

  • whether John is truthful and the meritorious party;
  • how much trouble Oxana will cause during the divorce proceedings (see the aforementioned police reports);
  • how vexatious the opposing counsel will be;
  • whether John will weaken or sabotage his case during an unforeseen situation or lose control as a result of exasperation;
  • whether the case will be presided by a judge who follows the law (instead of incurring personal bias or influence trafficking);
  • if the judge engages in influence trafficking instead of following the law, whether the attorney is in cozy terms with that judge;
  • whether the opposing counsel is in even cozier terms with that judge;
  • in the event that the matter is appealed, any of the three previous items may apply;
  • whether the parties settle (or John desists for whatever reason).

Given the multitude of unknown/uncertain variables and possible outcomes, no person (attorney or otherwise) could establish beforehand the semi-contingent pricing that you have in mind.

Do the lawyers even do anything other than fill out paperwork?

Yes, they do, but that doesn't necessarily mean that what their work is any effective.

Even if the lawyer is diligent, the court might negligently fail to enforce its own orders.

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