Fair Play In Divorce
Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico
William Ferguson, a Texas divorce lawyer, has some excellent advice for how divorced parents can stop conflict: Each parent should stop giving the other what he or she "deserves" and start giving them what works.
I heard one father recently say of his ex-wife, "She abandoned our child when we divorced. She doesn't deserve any visitation now."
It is quite common for mothers to say of fathers who were workaholic-husbands, "He never showed any interest in the kids before, so he doesn't deserve to have any say about them now."
It seems that "turn-about is fair play" is the prevailing attitude. Revenge appears to be the primary goal.
Giving others what we think they "deserve" creates a reaction and counter-reaction process that has no reasonable end. Anyone who gets what he or she deserves plots how to get even. The conflict continues and grows. In divorce cases, the children get caught in the crossfire, and they learn to act on that unfortunate human instinct--the desire for revenge.
Eleanor Roosevelt had a better way of dealing with wrongs done to her. It is reported that an assistant once told Mrs. Roosevelt that her next appointment was with a woman who had often criticized and denigrated the former first lady. The woman was there to ask a favor. The assistant recommended that Mrs. Roosevelt refuse to grant the favor to settle the score. Mrs. Roosevelt responded, "No. I distinctly remember forgetting all her meanness."
Meanness, in divorce cases, and even cruelty, are familiar reactions to the mutual disappointment of a failed relationship. Spouses who feel that divorce is the result of moral offenses that have been perpetrated against them frequently develop a primitive conception of justice as retribution. They often enlist the services of lawyers to pursue vindication by retaliation. Lawyers can further the fight, sometimes on purpose, sometimes accidentally. Lives become filled with bitterness as each repays the other in kind.
Good advice for people involved in divorce is to remember to forget.
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