480.632.7373 July 2017
When YouWin the Battle, but Lose theWar I May Have Wanted to Be a TV Litigator, But What I Became Was Much More Rewarding
When you’re facilitating a divorce or negotiating child custody agreements, it’s vital that you steer the case in a reasonable direction. To be a successful family lawyer, you have to convince people to begrudgingly let go of petty disagreements, so they can instead get fired up
for one, tiny, infuriating thing. The husband demanded the safe return of his Ping-Pong paddles. If these specific, apparently sentimental paddles were relinquished back into his possession, the husband said, “I will sign this document today.”
imaginable, paddles and all. He could have added an entire Ping-Pong room onto his house!
It may seem like a silly story, but I can tell you that, from the inside of the situation, it’s a lot less amusing. Truly, it’s a cautionary tale, not only for our clients, but for family attorneys as well. So much of our job is managing reasonable expectations as a case unfolds, coaching the client to pick and choose the issues worth fighting over. Especially in these divorce cases, in which the bad blood reaches a final boiling point, people tend to focus on individual wins when they should be looking at the bigger picture. Do you really want to fight over the pots and pans, or should you be thinking about the number of days you’ll get to spend with your kids? That said, I definitely understand why people get so irrational. After all, these cases can be among the most emotionally charged, stressful experiences of a person’s life. That’s why it’s
about the things that matter most. You need to pick your battles carefully. I once had a particularly contentious divorce case, in which both parties — my client and her husband — absolutely loathed each other. The ex-couple viciously and constantly fought throughout the proceedings, relentlessly trying to protect even the most minuscule assets in the split. As always, we worked hard to reach a settlement. Trials are lengthy, expensive, and exhausting for the parties involved. Not to mention,
“What?” my client said, exasperated. “What is he talking about? I don’t play
“Do you really want to fight over the pots and pans, or should you be thinking about the number of days you’ll get to spend with your kids?”
Ping-Pong! Why would I have his paddles?” She combed her house, searching for the beloved paddles, but she came up empty- handed. The husband, of course, assumed my client was lying. Frankly, I personally didn’t see the big deal — couldn’t he just run down to Walmart or Dick’s and throw down $100 for some extra-fancy rackets? But because we failed to produce the paddles, he adamantly refused to sign the settlement.
our job to clear away the miasma of discontent and animosity, in order to find those solutions that benefit our clients to the greatest possible extent.
The result? Eight months of further litigation, courtroom
they hinge on the decision of an impersonal judge, so it’s typically best to avoid court altogether. We whittled the settlement document down until it finally resembled something that the wife and husband could agree upon — except
drama, lawyer fees, and hundreds of hours spent working toward a resolution. I can tell you, with the money he could have saved by signing that first settlement, the husband could easily have purchased the most high-end Ping-Pong table
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