Over Halloween weekend, we met up with fellow blogger Cathy Sloper at a party in Greenwich. Cathy had promised to talk with us about her blog and divorce issues in Connecticut but both her and I have been too busy. So finally, we were invited to a mutual friend’s party up in Greenwich and it is there, dressed in Halloween costumes, that we finally conducted this interview. It was very challenging keeping things serious with the raucous going on around us but I think we did a decent job, all things considering. Cathy is definitely a divorce success story. Don’t let her mask fool you.
Divorce Saloon: Hi Cathy! Thanks for joining us today on Divorce Saloon!
Catharine Sloper: Yes, it’s great to be here!
Divorce Saloon: It is so great to finally catch up with you. We have discussed doing this interview for quite some time but neither of us could really find the time before now to really sit and have a good chat, and here we are at a Halloween party of all things. Too funny! This was the only time we could find.
Catharine Sloper: I know!
Divorce Saloon: I don’t know if we will be able to keep a straight face and concentrate with all the insanity going on around us. But well, our readers should know we are both dressed up in some very ridiculous costumes at the moment as we are invitees at a party up here in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Cathy Sloper: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! The rich do it differently, they say.
Divorce Saloon: No kidding! This whole thing is so hilarious! But it was the only time we could actually do this otherwise when will we be able to meet up like this again given that we literally live in different hemispheres at the moment and you’ve only got me for the weekend; so let’s try to focus and talk seriously about these issues if we can and have a serious interview. I know it is hard. But wait, first, who are you dressed up as?
Cathy Sloper: Oh, I’m a pirate crossed with a nerd. I’m a nerdy pirate.
Divorce Saloon: Hilarious. It’s so fricking hilarious. I am Paris Hilton, of course.
Cathy Sloper: Yes, I can see that. You do a good Paris Hilton, Jeannie. I love that wig.
Divorce Saloon: Thank you, Cathy. You do a good pirate. Christ, I can barely hear…Ok so back to business here. Let’s get serious. So you are a blogger here in Connecticut, is that right? I see you have put a lot of work into your blog. I was reading it earlier in the day.
Catharine Sloper: I think people would be surprised just how much time it takes to maintain a blog and provide the kind of high quality writing that our readers are used to.
Divorce Saloon: You’re not kidding. Well, just to properly introduce you to our readers, I’m sorry I should have done that in the beginning. Would you mind telling us who you are and what you do, Cathy?
Catharine Sloper: I am a human rights advocate and I blog about divorce issues relevant to citizens in the State of Connecticut.
Divorce Saloon: That’s right, you’re a blogger out of Connecticut. Is there any particular region of CT you blog about primarily, that is divorce in Connecticut in the Avon or Hartford area of Connecticut vs. Greenwich or Fairfield?
Catharine Sloper: No, I actually write about issues relevant to the entire State, and I get contacted from all over Connecticut with the concerns readers have, so I have no problem covering the whole State.
Divorce Saloon: Wow. What better name for you blog than “Divorce in Connecticut” then?
Catharine Sloper: Right. That’s true. It is very simple. And I did that on purpose so it would be easy for readers who are upset to type in those words and get the kind of support and help they need quickly. And, of course, even though what I write about is specific to Connecticut, I’m finding that these issues are relevant to people everywhere. In fact, I have readers all over the United States and around the world, pretty much in every continent.
Divorce Saloon: I’m sure Google appréciâtes that title. So. Talk to us about your blog. What is it you aim to do with it?
Catharine Sloper: My aim, first of all, is to encourage people who are struggling with high conflict divorce. I want them to know that they are not alone, that there is help, and that there are very concrete steps they can take to help themselves.
Divorce Saloon: That’s very good. People need that. It’s very important I would say. And so are you a divorce lawyer? I have read your blog and it sounds like you are quite an expert on this topic!
Catharine Sloper: No, I am not an attorney. And that is probably a good thing. I have one blog entited “Going, Going, Gone” about how corrupt attorneys are. This blog receives thousands and thousands of hits, head and shoulders beyond any other blog that I’ve posted. So, I want to stay away from being an attorney. I want my readers to know that I am just like they are, that I have walked in their shoes, and I have shared their experiences, and I have learned a great deal of information, and that is what I am ready to share with them. I just hope it makes a difference in their cases and moves them forward towards a successful conclusion of their cases.
Divorce Saloon: Wow. I can certainly appreciate why you feel the way you do although I cannot say I agree that all divorce lawyers are corrupt. That said, you really do sound like quite an expert and I think you would have made quite a talented and accomplished divorce lawyer yourself – which is ironic. So tell us, what is new, different, exciting and horrible about getting divorced in Connecticut these days? And give us one of each of the four because we really want to know.
Catharine Sloper: I think that litigants in Connecticut are coming together right now in a very significant way. They are communicating with each other about the abuse in Family Court here in Connecticut and they are working together with legislators in creating significant reforms which will hold the judicial system more accountable. We recently established a task force through the State Legislature and we will be working with that task force in pushing for very important reforms in the next few months.
Divorce Saloon: That’s good to hear. I believe in total accountability and transparency with these things. How long have you actually been blogging exclusively on the topic of Divorce in Connecticut?
Catharine Sloper: Just about two years, and it has been a very rewarding experience for me.
Divorce Saloon: Wow. That is a significant amount of time. And why did you actually start blogging? What compelled you to take up this monumental task? I mean, it seems like there is a lot going on over there. It almost seems a little bit of a mess.
Catharine Sloper: Originally, I really did not want to get involved in blogging because like many other litigants I was afraid of reprisals. However, I felt that it was vitally important for litigants to reach out to each other and connect and I felt my blog could play an important role in bringing people together, and it has. Also, during the time that I represented myself I just collected stacks and stacks of information in files and I thought what a waste keeping them here to collect dust. I should share this information and assist other people in benefiting from the work I’ve done. And I find that I never seem to run out of material. There is always something interesting going on out there!
Divorce Saloon: What has been the reception in the community here in Connecticut? How has been the response?
Catharine Sloper: It has been heartwarming to get such positive responses to my blog. I have met so many great people and shared their stories. I started out believing that I was alone and that no one else could be suffering in the way I was. But now I have heard from hundreds of people who are experience the same kind of collusion and corruption in the Family Courts in Connecticut that I experienced.
Divorce Saloon: What do you think are the main hurdles for people getting divorced in Connecticut courts? How can things be improved for litigants?
Catharine Sloper: I think that that when attorneys and judges disobey the law and ignore Practice Book rules at will, this is a serious problem. This happens all the time. Case fixing is a problem, i.e. when attorneys and judges have decided a case in advance and don’t care about the law. Also, we recently exposed a situation where judges affiliated with a private organization known as the Association of Family and Conciliatory Courts (AFCC) have been funnelling thousands of dollars worth of Family Court business to AFCC affiliated GALs and AMCs who have used that opportunity to extort thousands, if not millions of dollars from helpless litigants. The upcoming task force will explore this issue further, but this is a serious problem that has been going on for the last decade here in Connecticut, and, I understand in other states like California, and this must be stopped.
Divorce Saloon: Holy crap. That sounds really scary, really disturbing. Legal professionals really need to follow the law! I mean at a minimum. Do you think women suffer any greater advantages than men and if so how so?
Catharine Sloper: Well, that’s not suffering if they get an advantage.
Divorce Saloon: Well, touche…
Catharine Sloper: As long as there is an amicable divorce, I think most men recognize and acknowledge when the mother has been the primary caretaker. However, if a father decides he wants custody, he is 70% or more likely to get custody no matter how bad he was as a father prior to the divorce. This is devastating to the mothers in those situations, particularly when there is documented abuse.
Divorce Saloon: What is the biggest lesson you have learned after getting divorced in Connecticut courts and what words of wisdom can you give to other women or men for that matter who might be similarly situated whether in Connecticut or elsewhere?
Catharine Sloper: Find a way to settle your divorce amicably before you go to court to divorce and don’t listen to attorneys who attempt to stir up trouble and promise you the sun, the moon, and the stars if you will just give them a hefty retainer. I have sat through numerous attorneys talking up a storm about what they were going to do, and they were all liars. Talk is cheap. Attorneys are experts at stirring up trouble between divorcing couples and making each spouse feel that they have to win at all costs.
Divorce Saloon: I agree with you with that one. An amicable goodbye is really the best way to go….. So, in your opinion, what is the biggest mistake a divorcing parent could make? Generally speaking?
Catharine Sloper: I’d say that if your ex is not an abuser, granting that in the heat of a divorce, all exes appear to be abusers, it is important to make arrangements for the other parent to share in the lives of the children. Mom will always be Mom and Dad will always be Dad no matter what you do. So I would not file for sole custody unless there is abuse, and I would not play games when dropping off the children, I would not make negative comments about the other parent in the presence of the children. It is vital to put the needs of the children first and make it clear to your attorney and others involved in your case that the children’s needs are your first priority.
Divorce Saloon: If you were a divorce lawyer practicing in Connecticut, how might you go about being a better divorce lawyer than the ones you had?
Catharine Sloper: For one thing, I wouldn’t lie to my clients, and for another, obey the law and the procedures prescribed by the law. If the Court wants to blow you off despite the fact that you did your job correctly–fine. But don’t give them any excuses by omitting any of your legal obligations.
Divorce Saloon: What parting shots do you have, if any, for the divorce lawyers and professionals such as the GALS and custody evaluators in your case?
Catharine Sloper: I think it is pretty disgraceful that you used my lack of knowledge of the legal system to exploit me financially and emotionally and to deny me my constitutional and human rights. I am hoping that the upcoming work of the task force will stop you from doing that in the future.
Divorce Saloon: Thanks for chatting with us today Catharine. This has been illuminating.
Catharine Sloper: Sure, it’s been great. Thanks so much for inviting me.
Divorce Saloon: Enjoy the rest of your tricking or treating!
Catharine Sloper: I’d say Happy Haunting, but I can’t say that is what Paris Hilton does. So instead I’ll say, Happy Flirting!
Divorce Saloon: Oh mon dieu! Believe me there will be no high jinxes from Paris tonight. Paris is being a good girl tonight.
Catharine Sloper: May god help us all.
Divorce Saloon: Well, you know what, I want a picture of you in this costume for the blog. Folks have to see what I am looking at right now.
Cathy Sloper: Sure, no problem!
Divorce Saloon: Thanks Cathy.
Cathy Sloper: You’re welcomed, Jeannie.
Catharine Sloper’s Bio
Catharine Sloper graduated from The University of Connecticut in1980 with a degree in history. She is the mother of two beautiful and talented daughters and adopted Mom to now big, fat, cat “Itzy Bitzy” who isn’t so small any more. She is a published author and also a freelance journalist. She was involved in a very difficult divorce a few years ago which led her to establish the blog ‘Divorce in Connecticut” and write about family law issues. Currently, Cathy is continuing her work as a family court activist.
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