You might be surprised by this, but as a divorce lawyer, I get a lot, I mean a lot of questions about marriage and relationships. Most of the time, I’ll answer with sports metaphors, such as marriage requires team work, you need a good coach (counselor), there is no “I” in team, you have to be operating from the same playbook, and so on. But after (thankfully) watching loads of college football this weekend, I think the sports metaphors might be even more apt for divorce. You see . . . Divorce is like football. Here are some similarities:
First and foremost, every coach and athlete must prepare themselves in advance, control their emotions, review the game plan, and visualize themselves executing the plan. Preparing for divorce is no different. You need to create an exit strategy, visualize yourself executing the strategy and not allowing emotional responses to overcome logic.
Coaches not only prepare themselves for the game, but they also prepare their players. It is the coaches’ job to be sure the team is ready, both mentally and physically for the challenges the game will bring. Your lawyer serves this role for you and your team. Your law firm’s team prepares you for the path your divorce is likely to take and helps you gather and assemble all the documents that are necessary to evaluate your financial shape and to build your financial “muscle.”
Playbooks and Game Plans
Every coach has a game plan. Your divorce team does, too. But as the great Vince Lombardi said, “The best game plan in the world never blocked or tackled anybody.” Just like in football, you need to be prepared to pivot and to adjust your plan because in real life people do not necessarily act or respond like they have been sketched out in a playbook.
Protecting the Ball
Grown men sacrifice their bodies to jump on a fumbled pigskin or to leap high in the air to make a one-handed grab. Most running backs grip the ball like their lives depend on it (not just their livelihoods). Throw too many interceptions and you are benched for the year. What is the ball in a divorce? It is your mind. Guard your mind and do not allow negative people or thoughts to dwell in there. Do not succumb to false beliefs. Keep a healthy mind.
Offense and Defense
Just like no team plays offense for an entire game, there will be times in your divorce that you will be on defense. And that is okay. Perhaps you need a breather before going
on the offensive. Maybe you need to develop a new set of plays for the particular defensive play you are up against. Maybe you are in a battle for field position. There are advantages to being on offense, and there are advantages to being on defense. Don’t judge your progress in your divorce by which one you are on at any given moment.
Football teams have kickers, punters, long snappers, and a handful of other positions that have very few opportunities in the game, but when they do, they are key. You may have special team players on your divorce team, too. You may have forensic accountants, CPAs, appraisers, business valuators, therapists, custody evaluators, or a variety of other experts depending on your case. If you have an issue for which an expert opinion would be helpful, these experts have tremendous opportunities in your case to keep you a leg ahead of the other side, particularly if the other team does not have any special team players themselves. Can you imagine the QB also being the punter and kicker? Those days are long gone from football.
While they say a referee never changes the outcome of a game, we know that just isn’t true. Ask the New Orleans Saints about the playoffs they missed if you don’t believe me. Referees are supposed to be neutral officials who merely ensure the rule book is followed. But they are human beings. They have their own perception, beliefs, biases, and opinions when it comes to interpreting the rules, such as was that enough to be pass interference or not in the Saints’ game.
In a divorce, the judges are the referees. Yes, they must follow the rule book or be subject to appeal, just like football officials, but in areas of discretion, there might not be enough evidence to overturn the decision. So, when your custody case hinges on the “best interests of the children,” or your alimony amount is what the judge decides is “equitable” and your property division statute is called “equitable distribution,” you can see all the areas that a judge’s discretion enters the decision.
BUT unlike football, you can reach a resolution of all the custody and financial issues without the referees. You can agree with the other team what the resolution will be and save being subjected to someone else’s discretion, save your time, save your money and save the emotional strain that comes with a heavily litigated divorce case.
In case this article does not make this clear, the Triangle Smart Divorce Team loves football. We also love preparing, coaching, and making individual game plans for our divorcing clients—and adjusting them when the situation calls for it. Give us a call today and one of our trusted advisors will help you develop your personalized strategy!