September 20, 2014

Conflict in Divorce

Here’s an interesting quote from a cover letter and resume we received recently: “Aggressive litigation is not necessarily the most efficient or emotionally appropriate forum for people going through the trauma of dissolution.”  Did you think you would ever hear that kind of statement from an attorney applying for a job?

More and more divorce lawyers are realizing that encouraging divorcing couples to act like adversaries may not be the best things for our clients in the long run.  When we see the conflict between spouses as a win/lose situation, where each side has to fight with the other to get the best result for themselves, this tends to escalate the conflict beyond where it already is.  This in turn can lead to deep hurt, desire for revenge, and continuing efforts over time to “get back” at the other through withholding support, withholding kids, telling stories about the other to third parties, and generally being as uncooperative as possible.

When instead we are able to encourage our clients to think in terms of mutual solutions rather than win/lose (and model the behavior with the other person’s lawyer as well), we have a better chance at reducing the conflict between the parties rather than increasing it.  If both parties can come to resolutions they both see as “fair”, and which they have helped to craft rather than having had imposed on them, the odds are much better that, even if they still don’t like each other, they won’t feel a need to “get back” at the other.  They are more likely to be civil in front of the children, to meet their agreed obligations,  and to not spread nasty stories about the other.

How do we do this?  By treating a divorce as a transaction rather than a competition.  By asking ourselves, and asking our clients to ask themselves, what does the other person need from us in order to be willing to agree to what we need from them.  By moving from trying to force the other person to trying to induce the other person.