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Why the Language of War in a RI Divorce

As an experienced RI Divorce Lawyer and Mediator, I am always amazed at the language people use when discussing a split-up.  A recent article highlighted a similar situation.

Let's examine the parallel. The article concerned the use of language when discussing death (some people suggest that divorce is like the death of a relationship). Family members want aggressive treatment for an ailing relative, noting that "She's a fighter" or "He's a survivor". We speak of "heroic measures". We read that people who passed away "fought a courageous battle against cancer". Since death is perceived as the enemy, we use words that sound like a military briefing.

I see the same when people are in the process of separating or divorcing. Client's say that they want a lawyer who is a "fighter"; they ask if the lawyer can "win". I've heard people who say that their spouse has gone "AWOL". "I want to escalate the pressure on my spouse so he will retreat from that position".

We seem to view separating and divorce as a battle, with winners and losers.  No one wants to be considered a loser.  Clients may fear what family members and friends may think if they do not try to punish the other side by getting the children for an extra day or getting more than 50% of the assets. People concentrate on the battle and lose focus on what is best for the children, or creating a financial plan insure the future ability to maintain a household. The end result is based on the "victory" or the submission of the other to accept less than what is appropriate.

A divorce should not leave two people bloodied and broke on a battlefield. These two people should be able to walk away with dignity plus a parenting plan that is the best for their children and a fair division of the assets and debts.

Reference: "Wounded by the Language of War" by Paula Span, NY Times, April 11, 2014.

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