During the last week of January 2014, winter storm Leon hit the southeast. In Atlanta things got nasty. Even though there was a winter advisory that quickly escalated to a winter storm warning, the kids went to school and the adults went to work. When it became apparent that Atlanta was going to get at least two inches of snow, all the businesses, all the schools and all the governmental offices sent their people home at the same time. Gridlock on the Interstates. People ended up spending the night in their cars and trucks. Kids were stuck on school buses.
The next morning on the news shows, we saw a Mayor pointing the finger at the school system and meteorologists. The Governor was ducking blame. The news media were looking for a great story, and fault and blame makes a great story.
So, why does this interest me? I was taken with the personal stories of those people who were stuck on the highway, or who escaped the gridlock only to spend the night in a Walgreens or a Home Depot. Almost without exception, whenever these folks were asked by reporters, “Who do you think is to blame?” They said they really didn’t know who to blame, and that it was just a bad storm and they were happy to be safe.
What can we learn from this example that may inform how we react to the legal issues arising from separation and divorce? I think we need to take our lead from the stranded individuals who were so reluctant to cast stones. Relationships end and sometimes they end badly. But, in my experience, it is seldom because of one event or one cause.
If you and your spouse are heading toward a separation and divorce, you will have friends and family members who will urge you to cast blame on your spouse. They are like the press looking for that good story, and a good story always has a villain and a hero. Real life is much more complicated. Although these “cheerleaders” mean well, this is your case, not theirs. It is your life that is getting ready to change. You need to try to remain calm and reasonable. Even though you are hurt and angry, try to avoid casting those stones. Blame is not a result-oriented strategy.
We lawyers have emotions too and we are not saying you should not feel the way you feel. Rather, we want you to think before you act out in anger. Casting blame is easy. But, as the stranded motorists in Atlanta showed us, displaying grace under pressure is not only more effective, it will help you move more easily through difficult times.