AND THE WINNER IS…..
I really liked the attorney I had back during my divorce days. She was really good at respecting my values, talking things through with me and helping me make choices, as well as warning me of potential minefields. She did a good job.
One day there was an issue that had to be decided, and it was an issue in which I could choose to acquiesce to what was offered, or choose to fight it in court. She indicated that if I chose to take it to court, the odds were heavily in my favor that the judge would side with me, because I had really good grounds to contest the issue. The words she offered to help guide me at that time were words I have not ever forgotten, because they were pretty profound. They apply not only to divorce, but to a lot of things, so I thought I’d pass them along today.
While I don’t have the exact quote to give you, the conversation was pretty close to something like this:
Richard: So what do you think I should do?
Attorney: Well, if you want to pursue it, you have pretty good grounds and would probably win. At the same time, I don’t know if I’m just getting old, or have been through too many divorce cases, but a lot of times I think that in matters like this, you can go to court and win, but I beginning to doubt if, in the long run, anybody really wins when that happens. And in matters regarding children, it is always good to keep in mind that in a few short years, they will be grown and do what they choose, so any arrangements you make now are pretty temporary, and sometimes it is worth just waiting for that time instead of going to court in dispute. Besides, circumstances change, and in a year or two, it may all change anyway, because kids are like that.
Richard: Okay, so if I have a good case, and I decide to pursue it, how much do you think something like that would cost?
Attorney: The price of a college education.
See what I mean about how profound stuff she said was? The college education piece? I have seen it happen…individuals dragging each other back to court over and over and over for petty and stupid stuff, and money being frittered away that could have gone to help the children’s college costs. Even the basic cost of a divorce attorney has that kind of impact even WITHOUT fighting over every little thing. If parents would just suck it up, get rid of the ego and do what is right to do (pay the child support, get the kids where they are supposed to be for visitation, work with the other parent to provide consistency for the children), there wouldn’t be the need to go back to court anyway!
The part I want to focus on, though, is that nobody really wins. The fighting and the bickering may result in somebody getting some extra time or a few extra bucks, but can leave the combatants bruised and bitter, with the innocents caught in the middle confused, angry and more. A process that could have taken a few months instead gets dragged out over years, wasting precious life that could be better spent on productive and positive actions. And believe me, a child whose parents have gotten divorced needs all the productive and positive attention they can get!
Lots of losers in the process of divorce, and much is lost, but winning is certainly not the experience of receiving a trophy for a good race…it is still very bittersweet. The time, money and energy could be better invested. In fact, another friend of mine, Paul Fitzgerald (check out the website at heartconnections.org) suggests that going through such conflict times are best done when individuals try to think in terms of creating “win-win” situations, where each party’s needs and interests are respected, and agreements provided that make sure both parties receive benefit from the agreement.
Remember that big advice people give to struggling parents: “pick your battles”?
The same is true through the divorce and post-divorce process, and is true of many of life’s relationships. Realize “winning” often makes losers out of the winners, and that sometimes, finding ways for everybody to get ahead is the smartest way to go. Let God sort out the real winners and losers at the end of time.