Last weekend I went white water rafting on the Ocoee River with nine guys I do an edgy Christian men’s group with on Tuesday mornings.  I have been a few times before, including a weeklong trip on the Salmon in Idaho and a trip on the Snake in Wyoming.  We had a blast, but to be clear, I am no river expert –just family law in Mississippi, which is obviously the genesis of the following analysis:

Divorce is like white water rafting.

Training:  Nobody trains to go white water rafting, just like nobody really plans in advance to walk through a divorce.  One’s training for a river trip, even from a good outfitter, consists basically of a 10-minute talk on the bank and a very short demonstration in the boat.  We do an initial consultation for a divorce which is way more involved than the river bank tutorial.

The Guides:  Your attorney is to divorce as the guide is to white water rafting.  The river guide has been down the river hundreds of times.  He knows all the names of the rapids, where the dangerous hydraulics are located and the proper lines to hit so you stay in the boat.  He has cool gear, knows the terminology and where you can take risks and where you can’t.  Most importantly, your guide can help you, but only if you listen to what he says.  Your lawyer is a slightly better dressed, often more cleanly groomed and sometimes better smelling river guide.  His job it to navigate the paperwork, court systems, opposing counsel and the times when you are not thinking clearly.  He is your counselor.  Like the personal floatation device (PFD) on a river trip, he won’t save your life, but he may help you float.

Butt down.

Feet up.

The Shock of the Beginning:  The start to any good river trip is shocking.  Mountain river water is cold.  It will take your breath away.  Frankly, the start to a good river trip is not very fun.  You will be wet and you will be cold.  Divorce is like that too.  It cycles depending on if you are the leaver or the left.  You will experience depression, denial, bargaining and anger.  The beginning of the divorce process is frankly excruciating, but you will settle in and settle down.  There will be rapids, but there will also be flat places and deep pools where you can relax or jump in without the fear of a foot entrapment.

Who’s that Guy Eddy?  The eddy is a place where the current either stops or turns to head upstream.  These are usually below obstructions and on the inside of bends.  If you are involved in a protracted divorce, you need to know how to spot the eddy.  They are usually after the temporary hearing if it is a contested matter. That is when order is somewhat restored and you can rest a little bit.

Ridding the Bull:  Riding the bull is when you sit on the nose of the raft without a paddle and hold on to the front strap.  Your guide can tell you when it is safe.  When I road the bull at a place our guide gave us the choice of “Hero” or “Chicken”, I lasted about two seconds.  We went the hero route, of course.  The river ripped the strap out of my hand and threw me under the boat.  On the Ocoee, Powerhouse is a much better rapid to ride the bull.  It is bumpy and wet, but if you hang on, you are good to go.  It is exhilarating.  Trials are the bull riding of divorce.  The Judge can and will throw you under the boat if she wants.  But sometimes, although it should be avoided, you have to drop your paddle, man up and ride the bull.

In summary, while I don’t recommend divorce for your weekend leisure activity like I do white water river rafting, there are obvious similarities.  The biggest key for both is to work with an experienced guide.  The only thing more stupid than white water rafting without a river guide, is trying to journey through a divorce in Mississippi without an experienced divorce specialist.

Remember, butt down, feet up.

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