Saturday, June 12, 2010

Choose Your Battles

In all cases in litigation, especially those that involve family issues, emotions run high. Everyone is hyper-vigilant and hyper-sensitive. Paranoia is common. The "fight or flight" instinct takes over the rational mind. As a result, there is a tendency to "be tough" and refuse to yield on anything out of fear that this sign of weakness will be exploited.

In reality, the only way to diffuse the unsustainable level of tension is to choose your battles. There are some things that are not emotionally or financially worth the fight. For example, people are tempted to fight over household furnishings. Once your furniture and electronics leave the retail showroom, they are yard sale material. In a divorce, a court looks at actual value, not what you paid for it and not what it will cost to replace it. I tell clients that it is not worth the fight unless it is over "Louis XIV's furniture" and Louis XIV himself sat on it! Cut your losses, and don't pay lawyers to fight over sofas.

Visitation is a touchy issue. Added to the other emotions that are present, there may be jealousy over one parent's new relationship. The temptation is to try to deny visitation to punish that parent for moving on. I call this the "I don't want him, you can't have him syndrome". Parents say that this is to protect the child. In some instances that may be the real reason, but usually it is not. Remember the parents are getting a divorce, not the parent and child.

There are issues that may require the fight, but before you go into battle decide whether it is worth the cost. Everything has a cost.

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