The job of a lawyer is to advise her client as to his options. While the lawyer must advise as to the pros and cons of each option, ultimately, it is for the client to decide for him or herself as to what s/he wants to do, and what the consequences will be.
In making any decisions regarding the course and strategy in a matrimonial or family law matter, the following things must be taken into account, much more so than any other legal action:
- Long term ramifications – When your case is over, the judge, lawyers, experts, and everyone else involved in your process packs up their bags, and goes on their way to their next case. However, you have to live with the fallout. If you have children, you have a lifetime connection with your spouse or partner. Have you said or done things that will prohibit you from ever being able to participate in any events? Is it better to sometimes take the high road than to place your children and family in a lifetime situation of discord?
- Cost – This is an issue that we have frequently discussed in this column. Are you going to invest more money in fighting about something than it is worth? If you are arguing over the snow globe from your trip to Niagara Falls, you might be able to make another trip and buy a dozen snow globes with what you may pay to fight about it.
- Chance of success – As a lawyer it is always interesting to bring a novel argument and see where it goes, however, do you want to be the leading case for the next half century? A friend of mine was lecturing at a family law seminar when a woman approached her and identified herself as the child in one of the leading custody cases. She explained to the lecturer that her childhood was awful, and she wished her parents had just worked something out and not spent her childhood fighting in court.
- Motions and other legal devices – While these are great tools and often need to be used, are you taking an action such as a motion, deposition, etc. to obtain a certain result, or simply to harangue or prolong the process?
As lawyers we are lucky to have many tools at our disposal. However, many of these powerful instruments must be utilized only when needed. Certainly, there are times when you have no good choice but to spend time, money, and energy to fight for yourself and to protect your children. It is important to make sure that is what you are doing, and not simply trying to cause someone else emotional and financial pain. As I always tell my clients, litigation is a very poor means of revenge.