From the files of Broward supershrink Joel Klass: The Chicken Lady, the Phantom .38 Killer, and more

Year after year, he continues, he'd watch opposing sides try to bring out the worst in the other, attempting to foment conflict. "When a husband or wife approaches a divorce attorney, they're in a state of anger and disgust. And the attorney will often become an accomplice to that.

"I've seen them lock in large retainer fees so that when they try to pull out, they can say, 'Well, you've already spent so much.' And what filters down to the children is prolonged parental discord, hostility, and financial hemorrhage. I'd like to see the whole system revamped."

To circumvent the game-playing, Klass suggests leveling the field by having divorce-settlement cases heard by a panel of social workers and psychologists who "don't know who's paying who. They wouldn't make the decision but provide data to the court."

Dan May
Dan May

Not surprisingly, he's run the idea past several divorce lawyers, who seem quite unenamored of its radical departure from the status quo.

"I think it's wrong," Frumkes says sternly when Klass' suggestion is proposed. "I don't agree with him. I don't think that divorce should be taken out of the judicial system, that we should abolish adversarial proceedings in custody matters. He has his own discipline, which he thinks is very good, and we have ours."

However, at least one prominent attorney and mediator agrees with Klass. "He's not just a gun for hire. He's been in it long enough to know that the system doesn't work," says Ellen Gilbert Rose, who is leaving her Fort Lauderdale practice after 20 years for that very reason. "It's a great idea that the lawyer can be the mediator. Absolutely, it could make a difference."

Along the same lines, so many of the cases that Klass saw involved cheating spouses and breakups due to infidelity that he became an expert on that topic as well.

So he began work on yet another text, this one called Adultery: 40 Causes, One Solution. "I'm almost done," he says with a smile. "Thirty-nine chapters done, one to go."

In going through his old charts, Klass noted cases involving affairs and was surprised that he found so many diverse causes. "There were variations," he reports, "but I found some common denominators that seemed present in every case. I started talking to others in the field, started writing, and I came up with 40 reasons — cultural or familial attitudes, peer pressure, vengeance — and I figured there's no way someone is going to find a cause I haven't listed in the book."

But a colleague took a look at the list and in less than three seconds said, "I don't see 'just for the hell of it' on this list!"

"So now I guess I have 41 chapters," Klass deadpans.

As far as that elusive single solution, Klass quickly folds his cards and says: "I don't want to give that away. I just started looking at couples who have gone through it but had worked it out, who've been able to overcome and reconstitute the relationship."

Over the years, Klass says, he's learned that the simplest, most obvious answer is often the correct one. Yet he would often encounter resistance when he tried to implement that discovery. "People don't like accepting facts when it's contrary to what they have invested interest in or if it poses a conflict with their religious, family, or social backgrounds."

Through a fellow psychiatrist at his clinic, Klass was introduced to Fort Lauderdale businessman and writer Ron Bibace. The two are collaborating on a book. The doctor, Bibace says, "is very bright and often sees what others don't."

From his position outside the profession, Bibace has been working on a treatise on what he calls "the single unified theory of human behavior." A self-described "philosopher/generalist," Bibace says his revolutionary theories of interpersonal relationships are lent much credibility by Klass' involvement.

"The source of human behavior is different from what psychologists say it is," Bibace maintains. Instead, he says, the driving force behind much of our folly is the limbic brain — a secretive and selfish subentity that needs immediate, unconditional satisfaction. "It only wants to feel good now," Bibace explains. "And Dr. Klass is the only professional to wholly endorse, at the very least, what he regards as a novel and effective approach to correcting people's problems. He has come along much further, and much more quickly, than anyone else."

Klass' strength, reckons Bibace, "is that he's a pragmatic man who wants to do some good."

True to that assessment, retirement has spurred Klass to one humanitarian mission after another. Common, everyday problems without solutions vex him. Troubled by constant reports of nursing-home patients suffering from hip fractures, he decided there must be a way to prevent them. So he devised an inflatable device, worn around the waist, triggered by a mercury switch if it became off-balance.

"But it was too complicated, too cumbersome," he laments. With the issue of bedsore prevention, though, he had better luck. In fact, he's secured a patent for a hospital gown with bubble wrap. So obvious.

Another glaringly obvious area in need of improvement, Klass says, is television. "It's a crime that there's such a wealth of opportunity with television and movies and so little therapeutic benefit to society. Some studies says kids are watching five hours of TV a day. So do inmates in prison. It's horrible, and there should be talent directed toward the amount of good one could do."

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