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Litigation can be a war - but not if the boat is balanced!

 August 2019 |  Martin Fuller

If bad feeling and resentment creeps into a relationship break down, the costs both emotional and financial can be considerable, if not managed appropriately.

In any relationship breakdown the focus should always be resolving the difficult task of unpicking the affairs between the two separating parties.  However, this objective can become blurred as parties make and defend allegations regarding their conduct towards each other.

Often when employing our legal team we want them to represent us by reflecting and reinforcing our assumptions about the circumstances so our truth will emerge. The question is to what end. The courts are not generally interested in how the parties treated each other throughout the relationship (save for very exceptional circumstances). So why do we insist on making accusations in our approach to litigation?

I guess it all began in the middle ages, if not before, when we had ‘trial by battle’. The disputing parties or the champions they hired, did battle and the victor was then found to be right, as divine intervention was believed to determine the outcome of the battle. We have come a long way since then but our adversarial system remains with traces of this ethic. In that it can all too quickly become about winning - at any cost!

The lawyers, our modern day champions, are paid and duty bound to present your case in the best possible way to ensure you obtain the outcome required. So the dual begins as your lawyers puts your case in the best light possible whilst putting  the other parities case in the worst light. This does not have to be extreme it can be very subtle but the offence is caused. For example I have recently seen a lawyer put his client’s income net of tax and the other parties gross thereby creating on a quick read a large difference in income. This approach is lazy and not difficult to see through, but it has the effect of causing bad feeling because it is not measuring both by the same yard stick. The other party no longer trusts the other lawyer who clearly cannot be trusted to look at the issues though the same lens, letting themselves and the profession down. The communication now starts to become accusatory and aggressive because the offended party feels, rightly so, that the truth is being distorted.  

If you argue with someone who hurls insults at you, you usually end up focusing on the insults rather than trying to understand whatever else is being said, so it is less likely you will settle the argument. Each insult produces an exchange and so the animosity grows, the lawyers do your bidding and the war begins.

It reminds me of a story to show this in a different way...

Two people in a small sailboat, holding on to opposite ends of a rope attached to the mast, leaning in opposite directions. As one pulls toward one side of the boat, the other has to lean towards the other side to prevent the boat capsizing. This prompts the first to lean further out, and so on, until they are both hanging dangerously over opposite edges of the boat. How much better, it is suggested, for one to let up slightly. To keep the boat balanced, the other person will have to let up, too, until both are sitting comfortably in the boat instead of hanging over its sides.

This image can be a model for change in settling legal disputes. If someone, and I suggest the lawyers also in family law can let up a little, instead of everyone getting more and more aggressive, how much safer we all will feel, and be, if we can sit comfortably in the legal boat instead of hanging precariously over its sides. 

At Fullers we try not to increase the acrimony and bad feeling between the parties. By understanding the mentality of litigation we can help stop you getting caught up in the posturing and pointless allegations and arguments that are emotionally draining and cost you time and  money. 

If you would like to find out more and how Fullers can help please contact reception on 01234 343134 or email us at enquiries@fullersfamilylaw.com

We offer a free 20 minute consultation and we would be very happy to book you in for an appointment.


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