When the ancient Greeks were developing their concept of medicine in the 5th century B.C., Hippocrates came up with the theory of four humors. They were fluids within the body, dictating a person’s personality, and health and doctors of the time were concerned with keeping the four humors in balance. If one of more of the humors were out of balance, the thinking went, sickness and disease might result.
It’s outdated as a medical theory, of course, but it’s an interesting way to look at the dynamics of a divorce. As with the four humors, there are four primary people involved in a divorce (not including, of course, the children or any other family members impacted by a divorce). From my perspective, there’s me, as the lawyer trying to help my client through the process, there’s my client, his or her spouse, and that spouse’s lawyer.
I strive to be a lawyer who is not, to use the metaphor, ever out of balance. I work with each of my clients to take the best possible route to divorce, I’m aware of how much divorce costs and therefore work with my clients to be mindful of those budgets, and I work to communicate with opposing counsel to get clients to agreement if they’ve opted for an alternative to divorce or want to settle the divorce before it goes to the courtroom.
But I’m only one of four people in the equation. Most of my clients will keep the goal in sight, and we’ll work together to make sure we get there. But divorce is a highly emotional process, and it can affect some clients differently than others. Some might be depressed and disengage, not wanting to bring necessary documents or go to meetings. Some may be involved in what are still extramarital relationships, and their conduct is angering the spouse and affecting the negotiations. Or a client might be more eager to get divorced than his or her spouse, and that can create issues.
The spouse might be great to work with and willing to move toward a principled settlement in which they’re voicing what they want and working through the issues. But sometimes, the spouse might be angry or upset. I’ve certainly had cases in which a spouse wants to emotionally hurt a client of mine, and finds a lawyer willing to do so on his or her behalf. That can result in more expensive legal proceedings, more contentious battles, and ultimately, a trip to court that could have been avoided. It still surprises me at times to witness how mean the opposing side can be!
If the humors of a divorce are out of alignment, it’s my job as a family lawyer to help with that. Sometimes, it’s working with opposing counsel to get one or both spouses to work out personal issues between them to be able to get to whatever’s keeping them from settling. If the opposing counsel is making things difficult, making the divorcing couple aware of the financial and emotional costs involved with bitter divorce can help. If the humors of a divorce can come into balance, you have a better chance at coming to a settlement and being able to move past a divorce.