Last night, while settling in for a relaxing evening, my wife showed me the picture that you see to the left.  Casually, she asked, “What color is this dress?”

The question confused me.  Why would she even need to ask?  The dress was obviously blue with black trim.  However, my confusion quickly turned to concern when my fashionable and color-coordinated wife exclaimed that the dress was clearly white with gold trim.  Certain that she was losing it, I feared that a trip to the emergency room and a CAT scan were in her immediate future.  However, instead of having her admitted for a psych evaluation, I am ashamed to say that the next half-hour of our lives was lost in cyberspace reading articles about the latest phenomenon to “break the internet.”

Odds are you have had a similar experience by now.  Millions of people have chimed in to debate the color of the now infamous garment and cast their vote.  According to the poll found in this BuzzFeed article, 72% of viewers see the dress as white and gold, while the other 28% are claiming blue and black.

How can people see the same picture so differently?  While I will never be able to provide a sufficient scientific explanation, the reason boils down to how each individual perceives the image.

Unfortunately, the majority of family law disputes are plagued by a similar theme of differing perception.  In almost all of the cases that I’ve handled, the parties view their own circumstances and history in completely different ways.  Each side is certain the way they view the wreckage that is their relationship is exactly how things happened.  And just as is the case with the dress, there is usually no convincing them that how they are seeing things isn’t right.

So what is the moral of the story?

Recognize the fact that you see and remember things differently.  As insane as it may seem to you, the other side’s version of events is usually exactly how they remember it.  Do not burn through valuable time, energy and money trying to convince your opposition that they are wrong.  It will not work.

If your goal is to reach a settlement, you must try to accept your opposing perceptions and focus on a resolution.  Continuing to debate your differences only leads to a courtroom.  However, if you or the other side is hell bent on fighting it out in Court, use those valuable resources to build your case instead.  You will need to in order to convince your chancellor why the colors you see are correct.  Then pray that your attempt to convince the judge that the dress is blue and black doesn’t result in you being left black and blue.

Matt Easterling is a divorce and family law attorney in Mississippi.

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