Reptile Theory in Divorce Cases: Can Your Lawyer Use Snakes and Alligators to Win You Points With Judge and Jury?

When you think of divorce, the last thing you probably think about is reptiles or “reptile theory.” What the heck is reptile theory you wonder? All you can think about when you think of reptiles are things that camouflage, are slithery and dangerous, and make your blood crawl. What does any of that have to do with divorce and divorce practice?

In Civil Litigation, reptile theory is often used to gain points on the plaintiff side of the case. The plaintiff’s lawyers basically turns the tables on the defendant and makes the jury consider the defendant’s actions over the plaintiff’s injuries. The idea is that what the defendant did could harm the jury members or society at large and the plaintiff’s actual injuries are a secondary byproduct. The research shows that in reptiles, safety and self-preservation is key and the reptilian brain is always looking to be safe and to survive in the face of danger first and foremost. So plaintiffs lawyers are always looking to exploit this basic human instinct by making the jurors fear the defendant on a personal level.

Can this be applied to divorce cases and if so how? It is not like the judge will grant you custody of the children or bigger alimony payments because to do otherwise will make the judge or society unsafe, is it? I mean, how does your ex getting custody make the judge or the trier of fact/jury unsafe? How does your ex paying you less alimony make the juge or the trier of fact/jury unsafe.

It is probably a very different analysis that needs to be done. But I was reading about reptile theory today and it made me wonder if this strategy can be used in divorce cases.

Are you a lawyer by chance? What do you think about this? Have you ever used reptile theory to win a custody case or a domestic violence case (this is easy to imagine) or a property settlement case?

Tell us. We would like to hear how you actually used reptile theory.

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