Interview with Leslie Montanile

Updated: May 13

Through the lens of a 30-year career in matrimonial law and her own decades-long marriage, attorney, and relationship coach, Leslie Montanile offers timely insight on love and law and realizing a life partnership for a balanced, fulfilling life. Never one to quite fit the mold of the conventional divorce lawyer, Leslie brings a modern outlook to relationships by challenging norms, affirming meaningful truths, and providing a framework for modern courtships and couples of all stages.

1.Tell us what drives you to write? Your motivation and the purpose of your book(s).

To share with others my experiences and what I have learned both through success and challenges. The motivations and purpose of my book are to give hope, share joy and inspire others to live their best life.

2. What do you hope readers will get out of your books? How will they feel or be different after reading it?

I hope that readers learn from my book that no matter the road you choose to take in life, you can and will find happiness, love, and success along the way. After reading my book, I believe that readers will feel uplifted and inspired.

3. What books did you read as a kid/young adult? What are you reading today? How have other authors inspired your writing?

As a young kid and young adult, I read a lot of fiction to escape and dream. Today I find that I am drawn to reading about the life of others and how they persevered. Reading other authors' autobiographies inspires me to be better in my own life.

4. What is one thing in your book that will surprise readers? (no spoilers, though!)

My continued positive outlook on life and love. 5. What are you working on next? More books?

I am contemplating my next book that will possibly focus more on my discovered family and the connections I have made.

Prologue: Never Settle On August 26th, 1964, I was born in Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. For reasons that have eluded me (not for lack of trying to find them), my biological parents didn’t feel equipped to raise me, and so they put me up for adoption. I’ve always theorized that my father, apparently a high-powered — and married — man in New York City, felt that an illegitimate child would besmirch his reputation. Through some combination of his absence and my biological mother’s unwillingness to become a single mother, they let me go. Three days later, Arnold and Shirley Hausner picked me up. Their daughter, my sister, Jules, had been begging them for a sister for years, and they finally relented when she was nearing the age of seven. Arnold and Shirley would become my parents in every sense of the word. They raised me; they supported me; they showed me that there were people in the world who would believe in me, no matter what. I believe my adoption formed the basis of the mindset I took through life. Having been selected from a pool of potential adoptees, I felt like I had to earn my place — to settle for nothing less than perfection, to become the absolute best-adopted daughter that I could be. At every stage of my life, I had a fundamental drive to perfect my situation, to see into the heart of the matter, and if I didn’t like it, to do something about it. Even if it meant taking a crooked road through college, through dating and marriage, through a long and winding and minefield-laden career, I felt justified because I never — not once — settled. It’s why, when I saw that my mother was hopelessly beholden to my father and his money, I decided I would never, ever wind up in her position. It’s why, when the first love of my life was dying in a hospital in Texas, with no family at his side, I took a break from college to go be his family, to see him out of this life, into whatever came next. It’s what caused me to go from New York, to Florida, to Malibu, to Hollywood, to Scottsdale, and ultimately back to New York, unmarried and childless in my early 30s. It’s what took me from being a matrimonial lawyer to being a production assistant at Carla Singer Productions, what took me from a being a defective breast implant litigator to being an executive assistant at NBC, and what caused me to take a thwarted desire for a life in theater and apply it to life in the law. It’s what caused me to never be comfortable with inherited narratives of femininity, of womanhood, of what I was supposed to do, and when I was supposed to do it. And it’s what caused me, finally, to be independent — financially, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. It’s what led me to become a divorce lawyer who believes in love. As the result of a life in matrimonial law, I’ve gotten intimate with the dark side of human nature. I’ve seen how vows of eternal love can curdle over into vows of eternal hatred. I’ve seen the limits of human cruelty, addiction, and abuse that can overwhelm people who once had the capacity for good. And also, I’ve seen how amazing love can be — I’ve seen people overcome their desires for revenge and think in the best interests of their families. I’ve seen a lot of what people can be, and I’ve emerged even more eternally optimistic than when I started out. I didn’t always think so, but I’ve come to realize I was put on this planet to help women out of unfair situations. I tried quite a few other routes, lived on both coasts, and survived quite a few inequitable, manipulative relationships of my own, but ultimately, my calling was my calling. I want to tell you how it happened. I want to tell you what I know life can be, even if it seems to be so much less. I want to tell you about my extraordinary mother, whose savviness propelled her from Depression-era poverty to financial strength. More than anything, in this age of turmoil, pandemic, megalomania, hopelessness, and despair, I want to give you hope. I want to show you that if you believe in life and love, they’ll believe in you, too. Part 1: Opening Statements

1 — “I Want to Rip My Wife’s F—ing Heart Out” “I want to rip my wife’s fucking heart out.” Nick uttered those words towards the end of our initial consultation. Until then, I was pretty convinced that he was going to be a client — we got along, more or less, you know, enough to deal with each other for the several months it generally took to reach a settlement agreement. And really, Nick hadn’t triggered any alarm bells so far. He seemed like a guy who wanted out of a marriage that wasn’t working. Until he said those words. Divorce isn’t something anybody hopes to go through. Nobody, when they stand face to face and say I do, hopes that a few years down the line, they end up saying, I don’t. But some people have to. Particularly in cases of truly irreparable differences or some kind of misdeed (infidelity, abuse), they absolutely do have to. Divorce is a worst-case scenario move, a painful experience, a loss. No matter how long it lasts or how amicable it is, it’s unpleasant — largely because everyone has to look in the mirror and say to themselves, I was wrong. Or, more accurately, We were wrong. On that day that we pledged to be together forever, we were mistaken. Admitting mistakes is not something that comes easily to most people. My job is to analyze marital situations, decide what’s right for my clients (who increasingly tend to be female), and form a legal argument that substantiates why what I’m saying is right is really right. My job is to get the best possible package for my client based on the facts of the marriage. Contrary to popular belief, my job is not to make the other side bleed. I’m not here to pour gasoline on the marital fire, and I’m not here to give my clients ammunition that they can fire at their soon-to-be-exes. My job, in the long run, is to reduce pain, not to cause it. That’s the opposite of how people tend to think about divorce lawyers. Think, for a second, about your idea of the stereotypical divorce lawyer, and tell me it isn’t a shark. Tell me it isn’t a highfalutin, smooth-talking sleazeball with a cracked moral compass. (We’ve all seen too many movies.)

To be fair, those divorce lawyers do exist. In as much as there is envy, greed, lust, and hatred in some portion of humanity, all the same, traits exist in some portion of divorce lawyers. Probably, the world of matrimonial law rewards those traits to some extent. If you want to go that route, you can prolong your clients’ battles. If you charge by the hour, which divorce lawyers do, you can make more money by exploiting your clients’ bloodlust. Nick, I gathered, was someone who had that idea of divorce lawyers. For reasons that have played out innumerable times over the course of history, Nick had come to despise his wife, and he was out for blood. He thought of me as a shark, who would help him sniff out signs of weakness, and attack. When Nick said to me, “I want to rip my wife’s fucking heart out,” I had to calmly explain to him that I was not the lawyer for him. There are opportunities in many professions to shun the better angels of clients’ natures, exploit their carnal qualities, and pad your wallet in the process. Cosmetic surgeons are notorious for telling their patients they need this fixed, that filled, on and on, racking up thousands of dollars in unnecessary fees. Wolves of Wall Street are a dime a dozen. Put simply; I’m not that kind of divorce lawyer. I’m just not. I’m a divorce lawyer who believes in love. Even though I’ve seen love twisted and tarnished time and time again, and even though there were a host of divorces that either did or should have happened in my family (including one of my own), and even though I know people are marrying less and staying married less and less over time, I believe in the potential of love, and I believe in the potential of marriage. I’ve been married for more than twenty years to a man I love with confidence, security, and resolution. And I know that, for love and marriage to reach their fullest potential, I have to believe in the better angels of my own nature and of human nature in general. I can’t be the kind of person who

tries to sway or hasten my clients’ turn to the dark side. There had been others like Nick over the years who, largely because I wasn’t as established, I didn’t have the luxury of turning away. There was a man who didn’t want to pay for his pregnant wife to live somewhere decent, despite owning a gym and a healthy business. There was a woman who thought it was okay to tell me when I could and couldn’t take time off. But Nick was a turning point. When Nick ut

tered those words, something clicked in me, and I knew what I had to do. I turned him away — but it went further than that. It m

ade it so clear to me that I was never going to be in the revenge business. I knew I wasn’t going to be the kind of lawyer who promised blood and delivered blood. My goal in life was to deliver justice, not to feed greedy people’s appetites — no matter the price tag, I wasn’t going to compromise on that vision. When I turned Nick away, I turned away from all people like Nick, all people hellbent on making someone suffer.

I knew I was sacrificing a big payday. I thought I might feel bad about that, that clinging to my principles might come with the sting of sacrifice. But you know what? I didn’t feel a thing other than pride. It’s an incredible feeling — a priceless feeling, actually — knowing that I stuck to my guns, and that my values, finally, were worth more to me than some number on a piece of paper.

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