J.D. Harvard Law School ‘73
M.A. Columbia University
B.A. Yale University
Mediator, Judge Pro-Tem
Certified Family Law Specialist
licensed by the State Bar of California
Stan is a member of the
San Diego North County Bar Association.
Licensed to practice in California, Maryland, Washington D.C., & Georgia
Self control is an old virtue. Lately it seems people have less of it in private and public than they used to have. This is too bad, particularly if you are going through a divorce. Losing it completely at home is also a good way to start one, because it will probably get you arrested and kicked out of the house.
At the hearing on whether to issue a permanent domestic violence restraining order, the person from whom protection is sought (by definition the person who got arrested, aka the "perp") starts off at a tremendous disadvantage, even if wrongly accused. What is the best way to ensure that the order is issued against you? You guessed it: act angry and belligerent, and fail to control yourself. Even if you were in fact the victim, by acting like a jerk you'll seal your fate.
Even if the divorce doesn't start with an out of control argument and an arrest, the need for self control is still just as important, particularly if minor children are involved. Before the judge even sees you at the hearing to decide who gets the kids, you will have to spend a morning with a Family Court Services mediator.
The mediator doesn't care about you. The mediator cares about the welfare of the kids. If you can't control your urge to argue with your soon to be ex, and to tell the mediator that he or she is a dirtbag, you can pretty much kiss the kids and any form of child custody goodbye. On other hand, if you control yourself and talk calmly about your concerns for the kids' welfare, fate is much more likely to smile upon you.
Controlling yourself at the actual hearing is no less important. If you have a lawyer, your opportunities to self destruct are limited, but you can still manage it by smirking and rolling your eyes during the presentation by the opposing lawyer. If you don't have a lawyer helping you to stay calm and impassive, you'll have to do it yourself. If you screw up and act like a jerk again, you may wind up with supervised visitation only.
In that case, a whole new minefield is waiting. You would like to get out of supervised vistation as quickly as possible, but you can easily make it last longer than it should by losing your self control at exchanges, or by giving in to the urge to bad mouth your spouse to the kids when the supervisor is listening in.
Even without kids involved, and with or without an attorney, sef control throughout the whole process is essential. Let go of the anger when it comes to property division. Forget any thougts of concealing some of it. It's an accounting problem, not World War III. Accept a reasonable compromise rather than insisting on grinding the other guy into dust. If you have to pay spousal support, don't play games by paying it late.
Chances are you are not too great on self-control if you wind up in a divorce in the first place. In any event, the importance of self control is essential to get through the process with your sanity intact, ready to start your new life on a sound foundation. So, if you haven't got self-control, work hard at getting it. If you already have it, work hard to keep it. Self control is still a great virtue.