Tonight’s post about getting out of the way in divorce was written by our Savannah Divorce Attorney, David Purvis.
Some of you may remember the runaway carriage horse here in Savannah last spring. The horse got spooked, the carriage riders all were tossed from the carriage, and the horse went berserk, running full gallop through the streets of historic downtown Savannah with what remained of the carriage in tow. Surveillance cameras around the city caught most of it and it made the national news.
I happened to be walking down the lane next to our office (alleys are called lanes in historic Savannah) next to Whitaker, behind Broughton, after picking up lunch at a sandwich shop. I’m halfway down the lane and I hear lots of commotion, look up, and here comes this runaway horse down the lane towards me. After a failed effort of waiving my arms to try and slow or stop the horse, I quickly realized that this was not going to work and I might wind up doing more harm than good in trying to stop the charging horse. I decided I needed to get out of the way of this horse galloping at full speed with the remnants of a carriage bouncing behind him. It was one of those times where life seems to go in slow motion, but based on the surveillance footage, the horse’s trip down the alley lasted less than nine seconds.
Sometimes in family law, as an attorney, it’s best to just get out of the way. Not because clients are at full blown gallop and out of control, but for quite the opposite reason. Sometimes the parties are still able to communicate amicably and they can work out some or all aspects of the case together, completely independent of their attorneys.
I am a fan of this, because long after the case is over and the attorneys and the judge are out of the picture, the parties, the parents, are going to have to successfully communicate to continue productive co-parenting of the children. It’s one reason why mediation works so well in divorce and other family law cases: it allows the parties to determine how to resolve their case and how their family will function going forward rather than leaving these decisions in the hands of the court. It is these very situations where, as the attorney, the wise choice is to get out of the way of the parties’ efforts. Trying to stop the progress can be a surefire way of doing more harm than good to the family.
As can occasionally happen in a profession funded by litigation, opposing counsel may refuse to abide by their own client’s wishes and efforts to resolve the case and instead provide advice that only serves to fuel hostility and amp up emotion. The opposing counsel’s client is stuck, then, with the hard choice of allowing all their hard work to arrive at a good faith resolution to go up in smoke or choose to terminate their attorney. Of course, allowing the case to drag on means that the case will necessarily cost more. Therein lies the motive to sabotage the settlement. Opposing counsel’s motive is almost always personal gain.
So, when you get it and your attorney doesn’t, don’t follow down the expensive road promoted by your attorney. Change horses and find a counsel who wants to help you accomplish your life’s objectives, not their own.
Sometimes, even as a family law attorney, it’s best just to get out of the way.