News & Politics

What It’s Like to Be a Female Lawyer Dealing With Male Scoundrels in DC Divorce Cases

Photograph by Lauren Bulbin

Bethesda divorce lawyer Heather Hostetter sees the worst of people.

“I wouldn’t use the term ‘scoundrel.’ They’re all people who have behaved unacceptably for a successful marriage, but still human. They need my understanding and a good plan—not my judgment. Nevertheless, there are still times when I think, ‘Wow! You cheated with a prostitute and used a home-equity line to buy the prostitute a house? How did you think it would work out?’ But even then there’s a story.

This story is part of Washingtonian‘s feature “What It’s Like to Be a Woman in Washington.” For more:

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“I see a lot of professional women who got married in their late twenties to someone adorable with tons of promise. They had kids and she rose higher and higher, but he isn’t going anywhere. It’s not obvious at first—they’re always ‘consultants.’ There’s a business card but no real money. She’s the breadwinner and the family manager. She communicated with the nanny and scheduled activities all while on an elevator for an important meeting, and she knows where all the undies are. Twenty years later, instead of two kids she feels like she has three because she’s taking care of her husband, too. He’s not so cute anymore, and she’s exhausted. I have to tell her, ‘You’re giving him half your retirement and assets, and you’re going to pay him alimony, too.’ People think, ‘Why shouldn’t women pay? Men have.’ I agree. The difference is men received services—the family manager. These women, however, are like, ‘I didn’t get a wife!’

“But the court does not give you a redo on your choices. Thirteen years ago, you should have said, ‘Get a job.’ The cheating husband with a job is going to pay the piper—with the failure-to-launch husband, the wife is. That’s why I always recommend that people leave while there’s still an ounce of kindness for the other person. Do you really want to pay me $550 an hour to tell you not to write, ‘Dear Skank,’ to the mother of your children?”

This article appears in the October 2019 issue of Washingtonian.