Recently, while conducting a consultation, I told the client that it would be preferable if his spouse could retain a “good lawyer”. He immediately responded with “well, shouldn’t she have a BAD lawyer?” I found this statement puzzling. As a lawyer, I internally groan when a bad lawyer is on the other side of a file. The reason for this is because bad lawyers inflate costs, take unreasonable positions, posture when there is no cause to, and generally take unnecessarily litigious approaches to a file. As a lawyer, my answer to that question is: of course I don’t want a bad lawyer on the other side, if not for your sanity, then for my own.
Upon reflection however, I realized that the question posed by my client was reflective of the general attitude towards separation and divorces in popular culture. The images of separating couples that we normally see and internalize are ones that involve spouses “fighting” one another. And as in any “fight”, there is always a “loser” and a “winner”. Of course as a client, you want to be “the winner”.
But let’s look beyond the “losing” and the “winning”. I challenge you to think not about how to have a “winning” divorce, but how to have a good divorce. Is a good divorce characterized by winning and losing or by collaboration? Is it possible to come out of a divorce with both parties having their needs and interests met? Is it possible to work collaboratively to solve the issues presented by divorce? Divorce is hard. Marriages and relationships end, but must the family end too?
It seems to me that there needs to be a real culture change about the way we look at separation and divorce. We need to start celebrating when the other side retains a good lawyer. We need to start celebrating when clients choose a process that has the family’s best interests in mind. We need to celebrate the compromises that each party makes during the marriage and will continue to make after the marriage ends. Divorce and separation should not be about who the winner or loser is, because, as experience tells us, usually there is no “winner” when we proceed with such a mentality, only losers.