Trap #6: Winning on legal outcomes is most important. Playing a game with someone is fun, win or lose, but it is more fun to win. Evolution selected humans who win and who have a natural desire to prevail, whether in enjoyable activities like tennis or serious activities like battle to the death. The traditional legal system inadvertently promotes this desire to prevail in a family law case.
Lawyers also get drawn into not only wanting to win desirable legal outcomes on behalf of their client but also on behalf of themselves. Not only can they pat themselves on the back if they get a “win,” but also their social or professional status might improve. They might even end up with more clients and more income. The proof that this is a fantasy is that fewer and fewer people are willing to hire attorneys. In family law cases. Trapping people into a win/lose mindset ignites the competitive desire to prevail and, perhaps worse, not to lose, which promotes continuing conflict. Even people with enough money are reluctant to hire attorneys because that is the image attorneys have promoted and perhaps guide separating spouses into believing: “Tell me what you want and I will fight to get it.”
The desire to prevail, to win, will never go away, but redefining winning creates better outcomes. Negotiating a settlement that takes spouses through the life transition of a divorce with guidance for their post-divorce relationship, helps resolve core emotions of sadness, guild and shame, and produces a financial and family plan to reach long-term goals is a real win in the divorce game.