MAY DIVORCE BE WITH YOU

FOR BOB HIRSCHFELD---MEN'S-RIGHTS ACTIVIST AND DOMESTIC-RELATIONS LAWYER---BREAKING UP IS FUN TO DO

In fact, he revels in his image as a courtroom gunslinger, the bad boy of divorce law, and makes no attempt to conceal his glee at trouncing women.

"I do admit," he says, "that when I deal with a woman who believes that just because she is a woman she will win, it is my pleasure to use the court to show her she is mistaken.

"And it is a pleasure."
His eyes dance with happiness as he recounts a case where the ex-wife of a Hirschfeld client, in violation of a court order, fled the state with the couple's children--only to be tracked down by the lawyer and his staff and returned to Phoenix by police.

"I had the pleasure of seeing her come into court in jail clothes and handcuffs," he remembers, smiling broadly.

"It was wonderful."
@rule:
@body:The secretary for Phoenix lawyer John Thomas wants to know why a reporter is phoning her boss. Because he has fought custody and divorce cases against Bob Hirschfeld, she is told.

"Oh, nooooo!" she cries. "Not him. What an awful man."
The reaction is the same throughout the local legal community. Inquiries about Hirschfeld are met with a moan--or, at best, a grim, knowing laugh.

Thomas, for example, grunts derisively when he hears Hirschfeld's name, and says he would prefer not to hear it again. Ever.

"He's a vicious little flame thrower, and I will never take a case against him again," Thomas says. "He does not like women, he is not civil, he is not honorable. I should not pass judgment on his ethics, but if I were to do so, he wouldn't get a passing grade."
Thomas, who has faced Hirschfeld in custody cases on two occasions, says his disdain springs from a question Hirschfeld once posed to one of Thomas' clients.

"He asked her, right out of the blue, if she had had an incestuous relationship with her mother," Thomas remembers. "Sure, it was later stricken from the record. But how do you strike it from the judge's head? It raised doubt in her mind, called my client's reputation into question--and there was absolutely no evidence to support it.

"It was just a question [Hirschfeld] asked to inflame. It's a perfect example of how he goes too far."
Other domestic-relations attorneys are also happy to criticize Hirschfeld--on the condition that their names not be used.

"I might have to face him tomorrow," one lawyer explains. "Why would I want to make him mad? He's rabid enough as it is."
Most of the criticism centers on the claim that Hirschfeld's guerrilla-warfare approach to custody cases, illustrated by his encounter with Ann and others, serves to obscure, rather than illuminate, what is really best for the child.

A custody law that recognizes the equality of the sexes, they say, should not give Hirschfeld license to engage in systematic intellectual and emotional rape: to browbeat a woman and besiege her with restrictive court orders until she breaks down or explodes in rage--in essence, driving her toward the chasm of the filially unfit.

A lawyer who has faced Hirschfeld in more than a dozen cases says that "what he does to women is just plain mean. He hits them during a time when they are weakest and breaks them down with condescension and anger. He destroys their will to live. Under that kind of abuse, who can tell if a woman is competent to raise kids or not?

"It's so bad, I wouldn't be surprised if a woman commits suicide some day after facing the guy."
It might be possible to chalk some of this strong language up to professional jealousy. Love or hate him, it is impossible to deny that Hirschfeld has made his brand of custody law pay.

He has managed to link himself with some of the juiciest, high-profile cases in the state, including litigation surrounding the penile plethysmograph and the case of Kaylea Robinson, the little girl who survived being shot in the head by her mother, who then committed suicide.

He is no slouch at self-promotion, either. Color ads on the back page of New Times, under headlines such as "She took the kids and split," trumpet his successes and offer sympathy to angry fathers. "Tis the season when some Az mothers think they can just take the kids and leave," one ad reads, "disregarding their need for their father. The courts can stop them or help bring the kids back . . . [call] Bob Hirschfeld."

Even an embarrassing lawsuit by the lawyer against his daughter has only heightened his notoriety. The lawsuit, filed by Hirschfeld during a period when he was estranged from his then-teenage girl, was necessary, he says, to clear his name of child-abuse charges originally made by his wife. It's a painful incident Hirschfeld is reluctant to talk about, saying only that his daughter sided with her mother "for a time." Father and daughter have since reconciled, and the controversy, as uncomfortable as it may have been for the self-proclaimed "superdad," only served to increase his visibility--and client list.

But there is more to the charges against Hirschfeld than the critical rumblings from his peers. He admits to being fined at least three times by judges for violating court rules and decorum, most recently by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Alfred Rogers.

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