While February is typically considered the month of love, many firms this month have offered free or discounted fees for filing a divorce claim. One law firm in Charleston, West Virginia accepted applications from couples that competed to show who deserved a free divorce. One location in New York even calls itself a “Divorce Hotel”, where you can check-in married and check-out single after your weekend stay.
Another firm advertised that they were “giving away one free divorce for Valentine’s Day. The winner will be chosen based on the most compelling and convincing story as to why they should be the winner.”
According to Avvo.com, Valentine’s Day sees a forty percent spike in divorce filings. Perhaps it’s because the fear of ruining the holidays around November and December (who wants to explain to their mother why their husband isn’t joining them for Christmas dinner?).
It could also be the intense pressure surrounding a day of romanticism and high expectations, which tend to be a bad combination when someone in the relationship is forgetful. One woman from Des Moines, Iowa was left reeling this year when her husband asked for a divorce after sending her two dozen roses to work last Valentine’s Day with a note that read, “It’s not you. It’s the holidays. I need a divorce.”
Another possibility is the financial pressure surrounding couples after holiday spending and the New Year – according to an article in The New York Times, couples who report disagreeing about finances once a week are thirty percent more likely to get a divorce than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times a month.
Regardless of the reason for the forty percent spike in divorce filings, many law firms have started taking advantage of these Valentine’s Day blues. The ethical question is: should law firms be taking advantage of couples who are emotionally vulnerable in February?
The Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct states:
“A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from a prospective client by in-person or by written, recorded, audio, video, or electronic communication, including the internet, if the lawyer knows, or reasonably should know, that the physical, emotional, or mental state of the person makes it unlikely that the person would exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer.”
Ultimately, Indiana attorneys are bound by the laws, regulations, and policies of the Indiana State Bar Association’s ethics code. Outside of legislation and these rules, attorneys are only bound by their own personal code of ethics. Or in other words: each attorney must decide if advertising discounted divorce rates during the month of February (when the number of divorce filings is known to increase by forty percent) is taking advantage of the emotional state of a couple experiencing marital issues and impeding their ability to make a reasonable decision in choosing an attorney.
So what do you think? Let us know and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.
Remember, these suggestions are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult a family law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.