Rabbit Rule #13: Watch Out for Mutt and Jeff

The “Mutt and Jeff ” technique is a method used by police to interrogate prisoners. One police officer pretends to be unreasonable and mean and at least verges on being abusive. The other officer pretends to be sympathetic to the prisoner’s plight, acting as his protector against the abusive personality, until the prisoner tells all to the sympathetic cop.

Lawyers sometimes use sophisticated variations of this technique in bargaining. If the client is outspoken and demanding, the lawyer pretends to be sympathetic to the other side, but at the same time points out how tough and inflexible the client is. The plea to the other side is for them to give a little more, so that the lawyer can placate this unreasonable client. Or, if the client is rather like Milquetoast, the lawyer will play the heavy to build in some bargaining power.

It is unlikely that a party to a divorce will be sucked in the same way a prisoner is and come to believe that someone on the other team is actually a protector. The real danger is that your attention will be diverted by the drama of the “Mutt and Jeff ” act from the real issue of who gets what. Keep your eye on the settlement. That’s what’s important.

Robin M. Green, Divorce: When It’s the Only Answer (The Ordinary Mortals Guide, Inc., 2005), Chapter 13, pp. 201-202.