One of the hardest conversations I have with my family law clients is helping them accept the fact that the person they’re fighting against – be it their soon-to-be former spouse, or their child’s parent – is someone they’ll be dealing with for a very, very long time. While “making him/her pay” may seem like a great idea at the start of the process, in the long run, this approach can do a lot more harm than good. Sometimes it’s hard for clients to get past their own anger, hurt, or betrayal and think clearly about the decisions they’re making that will shape their family’s future. In the heat of the moment, in the midst of a perceived crisis, thinking about the next week, the next month, or 5 years down the road is just not possible.
As an attorney, it’s important for me to help my clients take a step back, take a deep breath, and discuss solutions that don’t necessarily involve filing another motion and going back into court. “Is this the hill you want to die on?” is a question I ask clients when it is clear they’re letting their emotions override their good judgment. Like many lawyers, I enjoy a good courtroom battle, but sometimes the best thing I can do for my client is keep them out of court and working instead toward resolving the issue without judicial input. When I help my clients prioritize their issues and goals, and help them reach agreement where they can, they tend to feel more in control of the process – and happier with the outcome – than clients who are always looking for ways to make the other party suffer, no matter the cost.
It’s important to remember that after you’ve hired an attorney to fight like a lion for you, long after the divorce decree or custody order is entered, you will still have some involvement with your former spouse or child’s parent. There will be birthdays, graduations, weddings, funerals, etc. The decisions you make during your breakup have long-lasting consequences. Keep your perspective: what may seem impossible right now is likely not going to mean that much in the future.