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Family Law: Burning Bridges

Human nature never ceases to amaze me. One aspect I see regularly first hand in my Savaimah practice is how people terminate relationships, employment relationships, marital relationships, friendships, and collegial relationships.

Some take the approach that if I bump down the bridge behind me, then there's no possibility of retreat and I can only move forward. Which may be good, but only if what is ahead is better than what is left behind. Sometimes it is not. The grass is most certainly not always greener.

I have never quite seen the value in bun1ing bridges. Life is not so binary that we can't change direction, even if it means reversing course for a few moments. Wouldn't you want that former employer to be willing to help out if this new job doesn't work out? Wouldn't you like to one day have, at a minimum, a civil relationship with your former spouse so when your child gets married or graduates college, your child is not stressed about having you both at the same milestone event? Is that relationship not important enough to allow the friend or colleague you feel betrayed you, have the opportunity to make things right?

Often the "bun1ing bridges" strategy is indicative of a very short term mind set. I suppose some feel that if they don't burn the bridge behind them if they don't ensure that their ex will never accept them back no matter what, they can't let go of that nagging question of whether they did the right thing by terminating the relationship in the first place. "I can't go back now anyway, so there's nothing to regret." Counter to that is the long term mindset that abhors the closure of options, even when it's a road already traveled. The options to rebuild and rehabilitate remain open and post-divorce, these parents tend to have strong co-parenting skills and relationships that provide security for the children caught in the middle.

Beware the attorney who suggests a strategy in which you set fire to the bridge behind you as soon as you cross it. Far too often I meet with a potential client who says "we were working things out in our divorce really well on my own until my wife hired an attorney and now she'll only let me visit the kids on Saturdays." Too often, by the time the dust settles at the end of that divorce, the parents have destroyed all pleasant thoughts and memories of each other and the relationship has been decimated beyond repair. Maybe it was to ensure that in a moment of weakness, reconciliation could not occur. Maybe it was for some other short term goal, such as getting slightly more time with the children or a bigger portion of the marital estate. But almost always, it is with little thought to the long-term goals in life or even long term benefits in the divorce.

You need bridges to cross troubled waters. And if there is a guarantee in life, it is that there will be troubled waters. Don't burn your bridges. Preserve them. One day you will be glad you did.

David Purvis

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