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Emotional Intelligence

Our firm is "Strategic and Intelligent" by design. People often think of strategic as where to position your forces to out-flank the opponent. There is certainly that element in our family law practice, but there are many, many layers and levels of strategy that are at play in most every family law case.

You know the saying, "all is fair in love and war." A family law case is both at the same time. So what is fair and what is outside the boundaries? Also, are you handling a family law case as well as it can be handled if you don't employ emotional intelligence every step of the way?

Certainly, attorneys should absolutely be calculating what pleadings and motions to file to accomplish their client's objectives and predicting what will be filed by the other side. They should absolutely be analyzing which documents to use and which to discard and how to lay foundation for each document they intend to use at trial. But if they aren't attending to and managing the emotional component of the parties' divorce, are they passing up a key if not the most key element of the whole case?

If you have considered and identified your most important objective, why would you not harness your emotional intelligence, along with all your other tools, to help you achieve it? You wouldn't want to allow an emotional outburst to wreck your case or send your soon-to-be ex-spouse scampering for cover when your overall objectives want him feeling fat and happy and haplessly exposed.

And what about the emotional state of your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Some may say, "who cares." But you care. You desire a specific outcome. Anything you can do to increase the likelihood of achieving that specific outcome is a good thing. Managing the opposition's emotional state is one such thing you can do. It benefits you. You should manage it.

Some may say that this is horridly cynical but I contend that it is ultimately extremely savvy. It is the most savvy thing you could do. Your emotions can be like a bull in a china shop, breaking everything of value. I'm pretty sure that just a few years down the line you will want those things of value. You would be pretty sad if you had destroyed them all. You would be particularly sad if an unplanned, unintended emotional mis-step had brought you your misfortune.

Also, your soon-to-be ex-spouse's emotions certainly complicate any situation. Isn't it better if her emotions only complicate her own situation. Isn't it optimal if he agrees with you that, "these aren't the droids we're looking for?" Isn't it best if you have created the condition that makes their desired response most likely?

Some may take a different approach and argue that what good is a divorce if it isn't immersed in a fair bit of emotional drama. But even then, the philosophy authored by James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, recommends a sound course of action: "revenge is a dish which is best served cold." So even if you are madly passionate about an outcome that rains down retribution, you are still advised to play it cool.

Whether it is cold revenge or a dispassionate calculation toward an optimal outcome, here's to an emotionally intelligent divorce.

Michael Manely

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