Everyone has a breaking point. You might be farther down the scale toward harder to break, but you are still on that scale. You can be broken. In family law, we are always concerned about where our clients and the opposing parties fall on that scale because we know that everyone snaps.
As you move along that scale, as you ramp up the stressors, you necessarily increase the quantity of people who will snap. Your set gets larger. Folks who once were calm, of quiet demeanor, good people in the community, will join the ranks of those who have already snapped and done something awful. Add more pressure, more stress, and you add more people suddenly capable of doing things unthinkable.
There are inherent stressors in a family law case. If it is a divorce, it is the demise of the marriage, tearing apart the couple. If children are involved it is the now limited time on task that both parties will enjoy, regardless of who obtains custody. Finances are always at issue. The parties are discovering that they can’t possibly operate two households with the same income that had once maintained just one.
Basically, there is always a possibility and sometimes a probability that someone will snap during a family law case. Stories are legion of awful things that happen. You read about it in the papers at least once a week.
But stories about snapping people aren’t limited to family law situations. Even when you step outside of family law, stressors abound to push that scale, to intensify the likelihood that someone will snap, to increase the quantity of those susceptible to snapping as the dial gets ratcheted ever higher. People snap for a host of reasons.
Everyone has plenty to ramp up their stress about: flooding in Houston and Florida, devastation in Puerto Rico, global warming, North Korean nukes, the increasing divide between the haves and the have nots, resurgence of Nazis and white supremacists. As I write this, I hear REM’s song, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.” Sometimes it kind of feels that way. Sometimes it increasingly feels that way.
As I write this, we don’t know what made the Las Vegas shooter snap and strive to kill hundreds of people with his machine guns. We can just pretty well guess that he snapped. I doubt that we will hear from anyone who salutes him (except Isis who already stupidly claimed credit). And anyone who does, we will know that they have already snapped. But given that everyone can snap, and with increasing stressors, many more will, surely we can be collectively sensible and remove the devices by which some broken people will seek to inflict the most harm.
Of course, if we were sensible, we wouldn’t be ramping up the pressure on ourselves in the first place with creating and maintaining global warming, playing high school games with Kim Jong Un or ever asserting that Nazis and the KKK are very nice people.
So maybe collective sensibility is not in our DNA right now. Maybe we will have to grow up more. A lot more.
In our family law cases, with our family law clients, we will continue to be quite sensitive to the stressors inherent in the cases and specific to the parties. And as our society continues to march down this insensible, self-destructive road, we will pay increasing attention to the stressors everyone is facing to try to push that breaking point ever farther up the scale.
Wish us luck. We’re going to need it.