There is a saying in family law, “marriages end, families do not” which rings as a reminder to parties with children, that despite your divorce you will never truly be “rid” of your former spouse.
You have to work together to co-parent and to help foster a relationship between your child and the other parent at least until your children are eighteen. More specifically, for every moment important to your children, it would be best if both parents were there to support them. This can be graduations, school plays, sporting events, and after they become adults, weddings, grandchildren. The list goes on and on. You and the other parent will remain bound together in life for a long, long time. So, pick your battles carefully when you choose to battle the other parent.
Sometimes, parents reach their wit’s end attempting to work together. They resort to or are even forced to involve attorneys and the courts because there are a handful of fundamental issues the parties cannot agree on, Some third party has to help them negotiate these terms or make a decision for them on the issues. So how is a parent to know which issues need intervention and which issues are ones to simply document and move on, which are battles better picked?
Frequently, this quandry comes up in a contempt context when you have to decide if the other parent’s actions are so egregiously outside of the Court’s Order that it is worth bringing a contempt action to resolve. Another consideration is that if you bring a contempt against the other parent for their violations, they will almost certainly bring a contempt action against you for any of your perceived violations Sometimes this is called the doctrine of “unclean hands.” Then, the Court must decide what, if any, remedies are appropriate to resolve each of your issues.
It can be very frustrating when the other parent does not follow the Court order, do what they are supposed to do, or generally do not act in your child’s best interests. It is even harder when you are putting in the effort to do what you are supposed to do and feel like you are the only one playing by the Court’s rules. What can be done to make the other parent follow the rules? The Court has limited options - as Judges and Attorneys alike do not have the power to change the personality or disposition of your ex spouse. We can put orders in place, seek assistance from third parties to enforce certain aspects, or even seek jail time for extreme offenses - but we cannot MAKE the other person be a better co-parent.
Knowing that the Court has limited options, knowing that nothing will make the other parent a better parent, you have to carefully pick your battles. Realize when it is more important to let one issue slide, let one battle go, so that you can continue to be successful in the war as a whole, be successful in the big picture.
The term "Pyrrhic victory” comes to us from a story of a battle between the ancient Greeks and Romans, in which the Greek troops were ultimately victorious in the battle, but lost so much during the battle, they were weakened for the rest of the war. The Greeks were so focused on winning that specific battle that they did not think about future fights to come and future resources which would be necessary to win in those subsequent battles. This is not the way you want to manage your family law case. It is better to think about each issue, each frustration and each disagreement with the lens of what ultimate result you will obtain and how that will impact your future co-parenting.
If you have done your best to weigh your options and are still unsure of which route to take, which battle bears fighting, make sure to speak with an attorney who specializes in family law practice and who has fought these battles over the long-haul for families. They can help you determine which disagreements are worth suiting up and going to battle, and which ones are better to let “slide” as you build a brighter tomorrow.
It is essential to know the value of living to fight another day. We family law attorneys are here to help you make your best decision. Your battle can truly only be seen as a victory if you are able to keep moving forward from it, improving your life along the way. So, be wary of letting small issues anchor you down from being prepared to resolve the bigger issues you will face with the other parent down the road.
Viva la (strategic and intelligent) victory!