At the office, we hang out in the hallway from time to time –usually in front of Lori’s office. This week we have been doing it a little more. Spring is in the air, the dogwood in the backyard is blooming, and Matt’s getting married this Saturday. We have seen him grow from a skinny, dreamer of a law student to one of the top up-and-coming divorce lawyers in Mississippi. He’s a little jaded, but we all are. I told him he knows lots about divorce, but exactly zero about marriage, and the two are very different indeed. We are all excited to celebrate with him and his lovely fiancé, Caylee.
In this particular hallway meeting, we were lamenting over what we believed to be the pre-mature decision of one of our clients to overlook a very serious marital transgression. “It is easy to show remorse for eating the cookie when you have chocolate smeared all over your face,” I remarked. Not that I want to see anyone divorced. No way. I just don’t like to see people being played like a fool. Time will determine if the brokenness is real or a con.
As we continued to dissect the elements of this particular client’s story, Lori pondered, “I guess when we do dozens of these each year, it becomes just moving paperwork. Put the deal together, sign here, notarize there, go see the Judge, good luck, God bless, move on with your life. But divorce is crazy hard, even if you hate your spouse.”
I learned in a mediation seminar several years ago that every problem has an emotional, intangible element (the “E”) and the financial, “nuts and bolts” component (the “$”). If we try to skip the emotional healing necessary for problem solving, we find ourselves orbiting around what it takes to make a deal –never getting to the elements to create a solution because we have avoided raw emotion. Conversely, if we stay in the emotional wreckage of our dispute, wallowing in the sorrow and grief, we wander aimlessly, never finding true resolution. Effective diplomacy deals with the emotional hurt in a healthy, but forward thinking manner, slowly working the financial considerations of the dispute into the dynamic. In a case with children, the nuts and bolts include the custody and visitation related objectives.
The mommas of effective divorce lawyers probably didn’t do enough hugging and encouraging. To be really good, we have to have pretty thick skins to say the least. If I always broke down at the sight of heartbreak, I couldn’t do my job. However, my personal growth and development depends on my ability to turn it on and off, and I am learning to do it in my practice as well. You don’t want to deal with a robot. You need a person who sometimes will just sit in disarray with you, but who has perspective –the 10,000 foot view.
Craig Robertson is a family law attorney practicing throughout Mississippi.