The Long Game and Divorce
My dad Larry is a great golfer. My grandparents, uncles, and aunts are great golfers. My family even holds all celebrations — from retirement parties to baby showers to after funerals — at golf courses.
I am no golfer. I took one golf class to fulfill my phys ed requirement at Mount Holyoke and then hung up my clubs. We usually head back to the clubhouse at the turn, exhausted from all the swinging). We aren’t big winners in that tournament because golf is a long game and you don’t know how it turns out until all the holes have been played.
But I have golf to thank for some of my fondest memories and one of my favorite analogies in our work at Freed Marcroft.
It’s not easy to play the long game during a divorce. Your emotions are heightened, you may well feel scared, and you almost certainly feel somewhat out of control of what will happen. It is natural to turn your attention to the immediate — what your wife said this weekend, whether someone is moving out while the divorce is pending, or why your husband let the kids go to the town fair when you had already told them no. These are all important issues while they are happening, but you will feel better if you remember that they are micro, not macro. When you look back in two or five or twenty years and think about how you feel about your divorce, and how you conducted yourself during your divorce, you are not going to think about (or remember) the details. You are going to think about how you acted and how you treated your spouse and how it impacted your kids. The traditional legal process of divorce — litigation — puts you at odds with your spouse and it can bring out the worst behavior in the best of us. It can make divorce something you have to “survive” rather than a difficult transition — a constant source of stress, anguish, and fear. Even worse, it doesn’t feel like a “win” when you are through it and look back. Looking back and feeling ashamed is not what we want for our clients.
Our philosophy at Freed Marcroft is to offer all three approaches to divorce. Mediation and collaborative law are the two alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) approaches. Both spouses have to opt into a mediation or collaborative divorce, if they don’t, the default approach is litigation. That said, just because you are in a litigated divorce does not mean that you are going to trial. Even the most litigated divorces can ultimately wind-up settling — there are still opportunities to reach agreements on small and large issues between the parties and their attorneys rather than duking everything out in court and letting a judge decide.
If you are in or are headed into a litigated divorce, it is especially easy to get sucked into the micro. The traditional adversarial system sets up the fallacy of “wins and losses” and “winners and losers.” Remember, the rules of procedure we play by when we are litigating in family court are basically the same rules we play by when we are litigating a breach of contract dispute or an action for slander. It’s not the greatest mousetrap for spouses, and about the worst for their children.
Don’t let that happen. Do yourself — and the marriage you had — the honor of choosing a law firm with skilled litigators on its team who are also committed to infusing their litigation strategy with the nuances of driving out-of-court settlements on as many issues as possible. Frankly, it’s easier for a lawyer when litigating to just put her head down and roll out the strategy she has been trained in since law school. To ramp it up, pull out all the stops, fight like hell, and put it in the judge’s hands. That approach is easier for the lawyer, and it’s also a lot more lucrative.
But we have seen a lot of divorces, and let me tell you, it’s not the best for you or your family. You want and need a legal team willing to play the harder game, willing to keep nudging your case in the direction of your goals with honey and a carrot (but with a big stick in their pockets if necessary). A team that will not take the bait when it’s dangled (no matter how infuriating or tempting), but will instead remain committed to your overarching goals and to the Future You who deserves to look back on the divorce and be proud of the way you got through a Hard Thing.
Because life, like golf — if we are so blessed — is a long game.
Freed Marcroft’s attorneys guide select clients through the legal aspects of divorce and family law issues while remaining mindful of their overall wellness.