To be perfectly frank, I do not believe people should waste their time and money litigating matters of principle. I encourage my clients to be practical. I believe in identifying problems and finding solutions. But yesterday afternoon, I recognized one very big exception to my general philosophy: you can’t back down from a bully.
Yesterday afternoon, my client–who has a history of avoiding conflict with her domineering ex-spouse–very patiently sat through hours of mediation, while her former spouse kept throwing in ridiculous demands for us to field. I knew my client wanted a resolution to her ex-spouse’s demand for a downward modification of child support; but I knew, too, that she was heartily sick of feeling that she was being controlled and taken advantage of by the ex-spouse that she had fought to be free of.
After hours of work, we were very close to a settlement. We had handwritten an agreement and sent it over to the ex-spouse for his signature. But, instead of a signed agreement, the mediator sheepishly came back into our room with yet another demand: the ex-husband wanted my client to return to him an item of personal property she had been awarded in the divorce. My client looked at me and, after a long pause, asked me what I would do in her place. I had to think about it very hard for a minute. I didn’t want her to invest more time and money in litigating details that, in the long-run, would be relatively insignificant; but, I knew too, that she needed to send a signal. She needed her ex-husband to know that his reign over her was finished. We took the entire settlement off the table and walked out. We will be seeing them in court.