183 - Does My Divorce Have to Be Nasty
Todd and Leh tackle a tough question that they get often: “Does My Divorce Have to Be Nasty?” After answering the question, they discuss scenarios where it is really easy to let a case get nasty and the things you can do to help avoid the case devolving into an expensive and destructive legal battle.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston, we are your co-host for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether and Tharp. Here you will learn about divorce, family law, and from time to time even tips on how to save your marriage, if it's in the middle of a crisis. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. Well Todd, we got a darn good show today.
Todd Orston: You know what? I'm just going to sit back. I'm not saying I doubt you, I'm not questioning what you're saying, but proof's in the pudding, we're going to see.
Leh Meriwether: We're going to see.
Todd Orston: I'm sorry. Should I have been just optimistically like, "Yes, Leh, we have a darn..." Yeah, we actually do have a darn good show. It's interesting, it's a show that defines something we have said in, just to be honest, in our marketing for years now. And so, I'm actually excited, jokes aside, I'm excited about this show.
Leh Meriwether: So kind of surprising we haven't done one before. It was actually your idea, so that was a great idea, Todd.
Todd Orston: So I come up with all the good ones. Sometimes they come two and a half, three years, into the process, but whatever, it's still a good idea.
Leh Meriwether: So today's topic is, "Does my divorce have to be nasty?" Because one of our taglines is, "Divorce hurts, but it doesn't have to be nasty." Now, today's going to be a discussion. We're going to breakdown why this is important, of course, how we're defining nasty. Why is it so important? We're going to answer the question. And then, we're going to talk about a lot of different scenario, where it feels it's going to be hard not to be nasty. So we're going to break those down, keeping your head high, and don't stooping to the level of the other side, we're going to talk about those today.
Leh Meriwether: But the answer to this question can create so many different emotions and responses, that we even had one time somebody called our office, now he was not a client of ours, he had just apparently had heard the advertising, and he was mad. And he had called in and said, "Divorce has to be nasty, there is no other way to handle a divorce." And he was just angry about our advertising. And the lady that was handling that call, I actually overheard the call, it was interesting, she was like, "Well actually at our firm, most of our cases are not nasty. And we do everything we can to keep them from being nasty," and he just kept arguing with her. Kept arguing with her. Anyways, it was fascinating, and I've heard a lot of comments about this. And we as attorneys do our best to keep it from getting nasty.
Leh Meriwether: So Todd, what do we mean, I guess first, when we say nasty, because that encompasses so many different things?
Todd Orston: It really does. So I'm going to start with that line that I've heard so many times over the years, where somebody calls and says, "I'm looking for a bulldog. I'm looking for that really strong attorney who's going to go in there and just kick butt, take names." Okay, I understand, but to me, there's two different messages there. There's the one, "I want somebody strong and competent." Absolutely, that is absolutely reasonable. But in terms of a nasty divorce, there are also those attorneys, where they bark for the sake of barking. I don't think of them as bulldogs, as much as I think of them as those junkyard dogs that will bark at anything.
Todd Orston: And I've had dealings with those attorneys, where you could be calling and asking to talk about the weather outside, and it could be pouring rain, and you're like, "Hey, it's raining," and they're like, "No, it's not. It's not raining." It's like, "Well yeah, look out the window, it's raining." "Oh, it's never raining, it never rains." "Okay, we don't have to fight about this, let's just take a deep breath." So when people call and say, "I want that bulldog, who's going to go in and fight," what you're really saying is, "I want that really expensive attorney, who's going to run up the charges, and make sure I'm broke by the time this is done," that's basically what I hear.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. It's that scorched Earth policy, "We are going to leave no stone unturned. We're going to think of every, single, possible accusation we can think of, that we could justify in any smidgen of a way, and throw it out there." Hurl false accusations. Well sometimes you don't have to do that, but you can take something that has a smidgen of truth and blow it up into something that's completely inaccurate and very misleading, so that's the nasty.
Todd Orston: Yeah. And let me also say this, here's an example. I once had a case... Sometimes it doesn't have to be false accusations. Okay? But it could just be taking incredibly difficult positions on every issue.
Leh Meriwether: Yep.
Todd Orston: I had one, where I was in a conference with opposing council and a judge, and we're sitting there and were talking, and opposing council made an allegation about physical violence. Now I'd already gotten my client's version about what had happened, and this attorney came in and started talking as if their version was the absolute truth. And I ultimately looked at opposing council, I said, "Look, I have a different version," meaning my client does, "I wasn't there, you weren't there. You're talking as if you were a fly on the wall, watching this play out. I hear what your client is saying, but could we just move on to the issues," right? "That's an allegation that's not really going to have much impact on this case, and can we..."
Todd Orston: "Oh, it happened. Your client did dah, dah, dah." And even the judge ultimately was looking at opposing council like, "Okay, he's just trying to be reasonable. Let's move beyond that one story, that one allegation, and let's get to the heart of what you guys are here for." And that's what I'm talking about, where you are fighting over everything. You think that the strategy should be throwing everything and the kitchen sink out there, because you think it's somehow going to impact, in a positive way, your case. And the bottom line is, if you could fast-forward, if you could see what we've seen, and you could see how cases start and where they end, as nasty as they want to get, most cases land somewhere in the same area, right?
Leh Meriwether: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Todd Orston: Unless, there are behavioral problems relating to custody. You know what custody's going to look like, you know what child support is going to look like, you know what alimony will look like. Division of property isn't going to be much different, no matter how nasty the case gets. It's just a matter of, "How long does it take for you to stamp out that emotional fire, so that you can start focusing on the real issues?", and that's really what we're talking about.
Leh Meriwether: And sometimes I've even seen cases where you look at the... Let's say there was a case where both parties were reasonable, that doesn't mean they didn't have positions that they held firm on, but they were reasonable about it. They were vigorous in their positions, but they were not unreasonable when it came to making compromises. When you look at that agreement, and it'd be almost the same as a trial, and you see the judge's verdict. Because I've seen this happen before, where you have a judge's verdict, and you had a settlement agreement, and it was very similar fact patterns, as far as assets, income, all that stuff. And you look at that, and the only different between these two case is, one was nasty and there was probably $150,000.00 in attorney's fees, and the other one was about $10,000 attorney's fees, so huge difference. But that was it, the one just cost a lot more money.
Todd Orston: That's right.
Leh Meriwether: Okay. So as far as the answer to that question, the answer, "Does my divorce have to be nasty?" As far as it concerns you and your actions, your behavior in the case, the answer to that is no. You have control over your actions and your reactions to what happens. And we're going to break down some difficult scenarios, where people are like, "Wait, but, but, but... What about this? What about that?", we're going to get into that in this show. And we're going to breakdown how you can still remain, what we call nice, but firm, and not get nasty.
Leh Meriwether: And again, as far as this process relates to you, because that's all you can control, you can keep your side from being nasty. And often, what you're doing is, you're setting the tone for the case. So perhaps the other side starts off as nasty, but you avoid that. Divorce is very emotional, but sometimes somebody, whatever triggered the nastiness on their end, a lot of times they'll get through. So if you have been kind along the way, nice, but firm, you can set the stage to come back together to settle your case, even though it may have started off really rough.
Leh Meriwether: And like we've been saying, why's it so important? You save money, you may save your future relationship with your children, because they're not caught in the middle, and you may actually set a good foundation for a good co-parenting relationship after the divorce. Because we've heard a lot of cases where it was really rough getting through the divorce, but the parents, after the divorce, once that process, where they were butting heads, went away, they were able to work great as co-parents. And when we come back, we're going to talk about setting the right tone, even when the other side doesn't.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there, as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go. I'll talk very softly. Welcome back everyone, I'm Leh and with me is Todd, we are your co-host for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to see transcripts of this show and past shows, you could always go to divorceteamradio.com.
Leh Meriwether: Well we got a great show today, we are answering the question, "Does my divorce have to be nasty?" And we started by breaking down our thoughts on this, why it's so important. And even when cases start becoming contentious, the only thing you can do is control your side of that contentiousness. And so, one of the things we like to say is, "You need to remain nice, but firm." There's a difference between that and rolling over, we are not suggesting that you do not fight for what you might get in front of a judge, we're not saying you don't do that, but it's called nice, but firm.
Leh Meriwether: And here's an example, I've literally seen this, so somebody proposes an offer and you say, "You know? I can't agree to that and here's why," and then you insert a very rational explanation, "You're asking for money, between the alimony and child support, that exceeds the amount of money I bring home, after I pay my taxes and the health insurance, for me and the children, because I'm covering that," that's a very rational answer.
Leh Meriwether: When you get nasty, you let the emotion take over, which is easy to do. I'm not saying what we're suggesting is easy, what I'm saying is, it's the right thing to do. But often, the right thing to do is hard. But sometimes people will respond with, "F you, you slime ball, why would I ever agree to that? You must be a complete idiot. I can't believe I ever married you." Well that's going to elicit the wrong response, it's going to ratchet everything up, and it's going to be more difficult to settle. But here's the great thing, and I know, Todd, you've got a good example of how a professional should act, so the right lawyer to hire is one that's going to help you avoid that emotional response.
Todd Orston: Yeah. And we were talking offline and the analogy that comes to my mind is, when my wife and I were pregnant... I was about to say, "When I was pregnant," that didn't happen. I mean, obviously, I had the harder job of the two of us. No I'm kidding, I am so joking. Honey, I apologize. No, but when we were pregnant with our first child, and I'll never forget when she looked at me and she said, "My water broke, we need to go to the hospital," and I became one of those characters from the Dukes of Hazard. I mean, I was... I mean, the General Lee, we were jumping canals, we were doing all sorts of crazy stuff, came screeching to a halt, I jumped out, "She's having a baby!"
Todd Orston: And can you imagine if the doctor came out and was as frantic as I was. I mean, if the doctor was as caught up in that emotion, and was like, "Oh my God, she's pregnant, what do we do? Nurse!" You know? I think, that wouldn't work out, right? As a professional, their job is to say, "Hey, I've done this. Stay calm," and to ratchet things down. Well divorce attorneys, we're not delivering babies, we're dealing with babies, we're handling cases involving babies, but our job isn't to be as emotional as the client. Some attorneys, sometimes it's hard, they get a little too close to that line.
Todd Orston: But I'll tell you, one more thing, when I first started in this business, and that was many moons ago, I'll never forget, I was at a brunch at some friend's house, and her father practices family law in the north east, and we were talking and he was giving me some tips, and it was great. I mean, he'd been doing it for 25 years, at that point. And he said, "Todd, let me tell you the most important thing." He said, "You need to control the emotion, because at the end of the day, it does nothing but ratchet up the cost." And he said, at that point in his career, he goes, "Todd, I'm telling you right now, I look at my clients and I say, 'That's not going to happen here. And if it does, go find yourself another attorney.'"
Todd Orston: And he said that he works very hard, very diligently, to keep the emotions low. And that does not mean... Trust me when I say, I've never seen him in court, but knowing his personality, he's not a pushover. We know how to fight, we know how to go into court and argue for our clients, that's not what we're talking about. We are talking about fighting the good fight. We're not talking about just going... What I like to say, I say it quite often is, it's that Teddy Roosevelt-y saying of, "Walk tall, carry a big stick." It doesn't mean you're walking around bopping everybody on the head with the stick, it means they know you have it, they know you're ready for the good fight, but it doesn't mean you're just walking around assaulting anybody and everybody that you can.
Leh Meriwether: All right. So the response back to that is often, "But Todd, you don't know my spouse. They are going to be nasty, they're going to do this, they're going to do that. They're hiding money." So let's break down some scenarios that we often hear in response to that, when we say, "Hey look, we're going to take this very methodical, matter-of-fact approach, and get to the bottom of everything that we need to get to the bottom of." So let's write down different scenarios, where we often hear the objections to trying to keep the divorce away from being nasty, at least on our client's side of the equation.
Leh Meriwether: So Todd, what if the other side is hiding money? We're going to let them get away with that?
Todd Orston: You need to call them names. Oh, wait a minute? I'm sorry, we're trying to... Sorry, we're controlling the emotion, my bad. Okay. It's preformed discovery. It is one of the most basic components of a divorce case. You are preforming discovery, notices to produce, and interrogatories, you can do depositions, you can do requests to admit. There are ways to get to the information. And guess what? Even if they are acting badly, even if you ask these questions, engage in the discovery, and they refuse to comply, well that failure to comply, you can file a motion called, a motion to compel.
Todd Orston: So you can look to the court, and a common theme, at least for me, and I think for both of us, is going to be, understand you're under a microscope and the judge is looking at everybody's behavior. So if you take that high-road and you say, "I need these documents. You're telling me you didn't spend this money. Well okay, there are bank records that will prove it." And if they refuse to give it, and they're being nasty, take the high-road, because ultimately it will be in front of the judge. And guess what? At that point, the court can sanction the other party, and that can result in them paying fees, or it could just influence the judge in some way that may benefit you. So you need to stay calm. Failure to comply with those requests, that's not a time to start yelling, and screaming, and carrying on, it's just part of the system, part of the way that we handle these cases.
Leh Meriwether: And there's times where, I know we've had clients that thought the other side was hiding money. So we said, "All right, well let's not say anything. Let's just perform discovery, that's standard in just about every divorce." So we'd perform discovery, we obtain the financial information. Often, we can do our own internal analysis, but sometimes we bring in a forensic accountant, if there's the money to pay for it, and they go through the numbers. And more times than not, what it shows is, the parties were not aware of the amount they were spending during their marriage. So they think, "Well he made all this money during this course of time, where'd it all go? Why do we have nothing to show for it?" Well, "Here's your bank statements. Here's your credit card statements. You were spending more money than you were making every year, that's why you owe all this money."
Leh Meriwether: So a good lawyer, before they start pointing the fingers and slandering the other side, they do their own matter-of-fact investigation, then the client realizes that, "Oh my gosh, we should've paid better attention." And then you, especially if you have kids, then you avoid all that animosity that could carry over after the divorce and impact your relationship with your children. So now let's flip it for a second, "Todd, they're accusing me of hiding money, but I'm not, we need to go on the offensive. They're sending all these discovery requests. And so, we need to do the same thing to them," even though, the other side doesn't really make any money.
Todd Orston: Yeah, that makes me angry. I definitely would go back to, "I'm going to throw some sharp barbs at the other side, and the other...", no. No, once... I have to control myself. At that point, you say, "Give me the documents."
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: "They're making these accusations about improper spending, or whatever the case might be, whatever the issue might be." "Fine, it's very simple. Get me those bank records. Get me those statements." "Well she's saying I took a trip with a girlfriend to Barbados." And, "No, I was there for a business conference." "Okay, that's fine. Get me something from your company that says that you were there, and we can do whatever we have to do to prove, even if it's an affidavit from somebody else that was there, that's at your company. Or something that shows that you were there alone. Meaning that you were in that room alone."
Leh Meriwether: And when we get back, we'll keep breaking down scenarios like this.
Todd Orston: Hey everyone, you're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives, you have choices. You can listen to us live, also, at 1:00 AM on Monday morning, on WSB.
Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us in iTunes, or wherever you may be listening to it, give us a five star rating, and tell us why you like the show.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everybody, I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston, we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com and if you want to hear past episodes, or read transcripts of this show and others, you can always visit divorceteamradio.com.
Leh Meriwether: Okay, today we're answering the question of, "Does my divorce have to be nasty?" Now we broke down why that's so important, to avoid it being nasty. But we're now tackling some very practical questions. These are good questions that people ask, and they're scenarios where the other side is getting nasty. And what we had said before is, "All you can control is you," so if you can focus on keeping your side of the divorce, avoiding it getting nasty, it can help set the tone for settlements, set the tone for great co-parenting relationships.
Leh Meriwether: But there are some challenges to that, and I'm not denying them, it is so easy to allow your divorce to get nasty, it really is. But by taking the high-road, you're actually... The odds are, you are going to shorten the extent of time of your divorce, and usually save money in attorney's fees. Okay, where were we? Oh, when we left off you were talking about someone falsely accuses you of adultery, and so, they ask all these questions, they send you all this discovery. And often, the response back is, "Well, if they're going to send all this discovery on me, we need to send the same discovery back on them." A lot of times, that's just wasting money.
Todd Orston: Well and then, I've had that happen before, then I've looked at my client and said, "Do you have an actual concern that he, or she, committed adultery?" "Well no, but this is ridiculous." "Okay, well what's more ridiculous is me knowingly sending these demands and kinds of requests. The better strategy is, if you're telling me it didn't happen, let them prove it." All right? In court, it's not what you say, it's what you can prove. So they can come in and say, "He talks to aliens and likes to..." whatever. "Okay, prove it. Show me that, that has happened one time. No, you can't? Then enough, okay?"
Todd Orston: And in a court, if somebody goes in and makes an allegation, "He committed adultery, she committed adultery." "Okay," if you have no evidence, it's just lip service. And the court, at the end, it's going to be like, "Well nobody proved that any adultery took place, so I'm not going to consider that."
Leh Meriwether: Right. And a lot of times, so the best thing to do is to just be an open book. And this is where taking the high-road, it can be very frustrating, I think it's worth it in the long haul, but the way you take the high-road and say, "Okay, fine, you want all this stuff. I've got nothing to hide, because I didn't do anything wrong. Here you go." In fact, you get it to them early, to say, "Look, I'm not trying to hide anything." And then, when the other side continues to do things... I love that quote from Shakespeare, "Me thinks thou dost protest too much." Was it Hamlet?
Todd Orston: It's close. It's close. And it sounded... I mean, you should be on stage. I mean, that was... I think... Me thinks Shakespeare is rolling over in his grave, but I understand the point.
Leh Meriwether: But I mean, so that's how you still keep your side from getting nasty. By just, what I call opening up the books, "Here you go, here's everything."
Todd Orston: Yeah. And here's another thing that I think listeners need to think about. Let's say you did commit adultery, just deny, deny, deny. If you spend a whole bunch of time deflecting, and denying, and I'm not telling everyone to just go ahead and walk into that first meeting, or the first time they ask for answers, I'm not saying you just say, "Well in the third grade I stole some bubble gum. And in the fourth grade, I pushed Mary." I'm not saying you need to just sort of make sure you divulge anything and everything. But at the same time, if you deny, and then I have to go after you... And let's say, I think it's something that's important.
Todd Orston: An example I will use is drug addiction. And I had a case where a client basically had a major addiction and denied, denied, denied. And the other party spent, I can't even begin to tell you, a tremendous amount of effort and money to prove. And in the end, they did. And so, now the other side spent all that money, and guess what they did? They went after fees and they got them, because the judge said, in essence, "But for the denials, and the lies, an all of that, they wouldn't have had to spend that money." So what I'm trying to say is, oftentimes that bad behavior...
Todd Orston: So using as another example, the adultery. If it turns out that there's some decent evidence that you may have had committed adultery, and then you turn the table and just throw all these wild accusations at the other party, if you have no evidence of that, that could result in sanctions at the end of the case. The judge could look and go, "Why did you send a request to admit with a hundred different requests, and all this other discovery, and there's zero evidence that anything like this ever happened." So you know what? All that work, you're going to pay for it.
Leh Meriwether: Yep. So let's talk about, what if the other side committed... This is a very emotional thing. So the other side committed adultery, let's say that is the truth, they really did commit adultery, but they are denying it during the course of the proceedings. Well from an emotional standpoint, if you've been cheated on, it's her fault on so many different levels, but them to go on and deny it, it's even more hurtful. And so, the first question you should ask, if you're trying to take the high-road, "If I prove the adultery on the other side, will it really make a difference in the outcome of my case?" And for a lot of judges out there, depending on the situation, the answer is no.
Leh Meriwether: And I hate to say that, but I just see it over and over again, with a lot of judges. And not just Georgia, but in other states. It does make a difference sometimes, so it's important to talk to your lawyer about when it makes a difference. But if the adultery makes no difference, then don't... If it won't make a difference in your outcome, the best thing to do is to let it go. I know that's hard to do, again, taking the high-road is not the easy road, but it is the best road for your longterm relationship with this other person, if there's children involved.
Leh Meriwether: Now let's say it does make a difficult. For example, in Georgia, as of the time of the recoding of this show and in 2020, if the cause of the divorce on the other side is adultery, that could be a barred alimony. So in that case, it would be worth it to perform some discovery, but keep it matter-of-fact, don't let the kids even know that this is an issue in your divorce, that's how you avoid that. You can send questions about the adultery, but leave the children out of it.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Let me be very clear, because that's a great point about the bar. But understand, let's say the person who allegedly had the affair is the wife, and the wife is a stay-at-home mom, and might potentially be, or is actually, seeking alimony. Then yes, I agree with you, proving, or working to try and prove that adultery occurred, because it could result in a bar, meaning the wife in that situation could not request and get alimony, that's important.
Todd Orston: But let's flip it, what if you're the wife and you're a stay-at-home mom, and you've been taking care of the kids and all of that, and you believe that your husband engaged in adultery. There's not, in Georgia, at the time of this recoding, there isn't a, if you flip the script, there's not a punitive type of alimony like, "Oh, well you proved that, that person committed adultery. Yeah, you get X amount, per month." All right? Can it maybe influence a judge on something generally speaking? Maybe. Maybe the judge doesn't like... I've heard judges say, "There's a difference between cheating and a cheater." There's the difference between somebody who does something, it's a mistake, they're apologetic, and there's the person who's just that proverbial dog, who-
Leh Meriwether: That has a whole family on the other side, or something?
Todd Orston: ... Yeah. I mean, just has affair, after affair, and there's just no remorse. But at the end of the day, it may not be that important for the wife in that situation, the mother in that situation, to try and go after the evidence relating to adultery, because it's not going to have an impact on the case.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So the best thing to do is talk to your lawyer, because there are judges, all across this country, where an adulterous affair, to the extent that it depleted the marital estate, can impact what's called equitable division in some states. In some of the states, the law just doesn't support any sort of penalty for the cause of the divorce being adultery. But in some states, it does. So there may be a financial benefit to proving the adultery, but there may not be.
Leh Meriwether: And then, you have to weigh that financial benefit, with, "How much money is it going to cost to, number one, prove it? And ultimately, what am I going to get out of it?" And if the cost of that is going to be, you're only going to get an extra $10,000, or $20,000, but now you're going to have the father or mother of your children be that much angrier at you for the next 10 years, it's not worth it. At that point, it's just not worth it. So you have to measure multiple different factors. And when we come back, we're going to continue to break down those factors you should be weighing.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings, on WSB, so you can always check us out there, as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go. I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone, I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston, we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. And checkout transcripts of this show, and others, at divorceteamradio.com.
Leh Meriwether: Well we've been talking about, "Does my divorce have to be nasty?" And the answer to that, at least from your end, what you can control, is, "No, it doesn't have to be nasty." That doesn't mean the other side's not going to be nasty, but we've been addressing those hard situations. "What if someone's lying, they're claiming I'm hiding money," or, "They claimed I committed adultery," or something. Or perhaps they even accused you of physical abuse, and the case started with a temporary protective order against you, and the other side gave this such compelling emotional story about how you've always abused them, and it's not true. What do you do? How do you fight that.
Leh Meriwether: Well actually there's a great book on that called Splitting, by Bill Eddy, so we're not going to go into that in this show, because hopefully we're going to have Bill Eddy back on, he's been on the show before. But man, you can spend a whole show talking about that scenario. And why, actually, when you read his entire book, you'll understand that taking the high-road on your end is the best thing you can do in a case like that. Often, it's very counterintuitive, but when you look at the cases, where people have done exactly that, they kept it from being nasty on their end, they had a very successful outcome.
Leh Meriwether: Okay, so let's talk about... Let's spend the last part of this show talking about really the most difficult time to keep the high-road, to keep you from getting nasty, and that's when the kids get brought in.
Todd Orston: That's right.
Leh Meriwether: Because that can happen in every one of these examples, the kids get brought in. And when that happens, it's so easy to say, "That's it, the gloves are coming off." So, Todd?
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: What do you do there?
Todd Orston: Well the problem, that the gloves are coming off, usually again, you're accomplishing exactly what you don't want to accomplish. You taking those gloves off, oftentimes translates into you're engaging in similar behavior, that you're being critical of for the other party. Do you know what I'm saying?
Leh Meriwether: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Todd Orston: You know? The other party is having improper communications with the kids, and you're like, "Oh, Heck no." You know? "That's not going to happen on my watch," so you start having those conversations with the kids. And now, the kids are squarely in the middle. So the absolute best advice, do not do it, don't drag the kids into it. Now that's very similar, right? I mean, it sounds like an overly simplistic piece of advice.
Todd Orston: But I can see somebody saying, "Well okay, here's my question. The other party is having these conversations, engaging in this behavior, dragging the kids into it. Am I supposed to sit there and just accept it? Am I supposed to just let the other party fill the kid's heads with whatever lies they're talking about and I don't have any conversations with the kids?" No, that's not what I'm saying. But there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. And you, just engaging in that kind of a conversation, but from your point of view, with the kids, now there's this emotional tug of war going on and the kids are caught in the middle.
Todd Orston: So things that you can do? Obviously, if those things are happening, you need to talk to your attorney, it needs to be communicated that, that behavior has to stop. Put it in writing, so that if ultimately it has to go in front of the court, the court sees that you took the high-road, and you tried to put a stop to it. If it's really significant, and significance is really in the eye of the beholder, it's just if you feel that what is being communicated, you must address? Therapy. Think about bringing a therapist in.
Todd Orston: If it's really, really bad, think about filing a motion with the court, to basically have the court issue a ruling that may limit the other party's contact with the kids, that's the worst case scenario. But If what is being said or done necessitates some kind of a limitation on their parenting time, then so be it. But again, all of these types of things, the way I define it, you're taking that high-road. You're trying to go around the kids, rather than dragging them right into the middle of this fight. And that's what we're saying.
Leh Meriwether: Yep. And the other thing, so there's other avenues that you can take. So one avenue is to hire, at a personal level, a co-parenting counselor, and work with that counselor one-on-one. So let's say you can't get the other side to go to co-parent counseling. Now sometimes that can be compelled, by the way, by the court, and we've talked about that in other shows.
Leh Meriwether: But you can get your own co-parent counseling, to find out how to deal with that on your end. And this goes, even after the divorce. So let's say the kids say, "Well Daddy says you're blowing all the money and we won't be able to go to college," or, "Mommy says that you cheated on her and you don't care about us." So that's very painful to hear, and you want to set the record straight, but I think Diane Dierks came on one time had talked about, a simple answer to something like that is, "Hey, I understand how hearing something like that would hurt your feelings. And the last thing I want to do is hurt your feelings. What is going on between your mother and I, or your dad and I, is between the two of us. We both love you equally, and that is all I want you to know."
Leh Meriwether: And she's even given some other examples, say, "Hey, can I ask you something, how do you think people should be judged? Is it on what they say, or what they do? If you hear one thing, but then someone does completely the opposite, what do you think's more important?" And most of the time, they're going to say, "Well what they do, that's the most important." You say, "Okay. Well all I ask you to do is just judge me on what you see me do with your own eyes, and not what you hear anyone else say about me."
Leh Meriwether: Because sometimes it's third parties that say things, like an aunt, or an uncle, or a grandparent. And they hear all those things, and they want to come talk to you about what the grandma, or the grandpa said. Well you still don't, even though it's not the other spouse, you still don't want to put them in there. You just say, "Hey, judge me by what you see," and that's all you do. You don't even say whether they're true, what happened was true or false. But that's a boilerplate answer, that Diane Dierks has talked about before, and she's come on this show at least twice, and I can't remember the episode numbers, but breaking down how to address these situations, because first you have to address the feelings.
Leh Meriwether: You have to confirm the feelings that the kids are feeling. Because if you blow off their feelings, well that's a problem. But you confirm that, "Hey, you're right to feel this way," but you're not agreeing that what caused them to feel this way is true, you're just saying, "Hey, if I heard something like that, I'd be upset, too."
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: That's one option that's high-road. But the other thing is, talk to your lawyer about filing a motion for co-parenting counseling, or the alternative is co-parenting coordinator, which is a little more aggressive, it's a little bit different.
Todd Orston: Yeah. I want to be very clear, though, on something. And if I could make a joking comment about what the allegation is, but I'll withhold the joke, simply to say, if the allegation is one, where the child comes to you and says, "Mom said that you...", fill in the blank. Okay? And it's latently a lie. I can tell you right now, I don't know if I have the emotional fortitude to say, "That's not true." Right? I mean, if it's that bad, and it's that much of a lie, and my kids are now looking at me a little differently, because they've been told that, in my mind, and I can understand how other people with think, in that, "By not responding, am I confirming?" It's almost like when you plead the 5th, right?
Leh Meriwether: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Todd Orston: And by pleading the 5th, you're not incriminating yourself, but assumptions can be made, as to the veracity of the allegation, or the statement. So your silence speaks volumes. So I can understand people saying, "Well hold on, I'm not just going to sit there and let my soon to be ex-spouse say all these horrible things about me, and not set the records straight."
Todd Orston: But even then, there is a way, "Hey look, that's not accurate, but this is between your mother and I, your father and I," whatever, "And we're dealing with that. So please just understand I love you, your dad loves you, we're working through some things, and we're obviously upset, but I'm telling you right now, that's not accurate, but just know we love you." That kind of reaffirmation of that love, I can tell you right now, I don't know what's right or wrong, but I will tell you I would have a hard time not at least just addressing that issue, at least by saying, "It's not true." So I don't know what's right. And I'm just happy I'm not in that situation, but that would be a tough thing to deal with.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And I guess, I mean, I have so many examples of how the parent took the high-road, even though it was very, very difficult. And the kids, at first, were upset by it, but over the long haul, they so appreciated the way that parent treated them at the time. And you hear for co-parenting coordinators all the time. In the short term it's painful, and it seems like it's the wrong thing to do, but over the course of months and years, the kids see what's happening, and they recognize which parent did the right thing, and which parent did the wrong thing.
Leh Meriwether: And sometimes that results... Here in Georgia, a child can elect. I've seen children, later on, elect to live with the other parents, because the other parent didn't drag them in. And I've also seen parents not be invited to see the grandkids when they get older. So this is very powerful, take the high-road. Unfortunately, we're out of time. Hey everyone, thanks for listening.