The Great One had some great hockey advice. But one of his most notable sayings applies just as well to a family law dispute: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”
Too many people caught up in a family law dispute live with their past grievances topmost on their minds. They don’t give enough thought to the direction they can now take for their lives. They remember every slight and insult, every wrong or evil thing done by the other side, and every unjust thing done to them during the course of the relationship and since, whether by the other party, their friends or family, or the court. Just ask them and they’ll tell you.
I get that there’s a value to looking back. But only if it’s to cherish fond memories, or to learn from the past about how to avoid the same problems in the future. But not if it’s to keep you focussed on what was, instead of what still can be.
Here’s something pretty obvious. In most family separations there are 3 stages: the past – what brought you to this stage, the present – which can often be stressful and tense with battles to fight or circumstances to adjust to, and the future – with a path not yet taken that can alter your whole life. By focussing on the future and letting go of the past, a separated person has been given the opportunity to redesign their life. Stay stuck in in the present or take control of things to give yourself a better future. Skate to where your life could be instead of just staying where it is.
“The future depends on what you do today.” Mahatma Gandhi
That’s good life advice. But it’s also terrific advice for those presenting a case in court. Sure, the judge will need to understand the background and what brought you to court. But she or he will be much more interested in what you suggest should be happening for the future.
All family law cases are about the future. What the judge decides now will set the rules for your future. So you need to look carefully at it. Decide what you want it to look like and then present the evidence and argument that will allow a judge to take you there. Often this will require some compromise on your part.
You may really want a particular result. It seems fair and reasonable. And your friends and supporters agree that you’re entitled to it. But you know it will lead to continued friction in relations with the other side and upset for you, and possibly for the children. So reconsider that possible future, and see what different order would allow for a more peaceful and happy one for you. Accept that to get the best possible future, you may have to give up something now that you’d rather not.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Soren Kierkegaard
So pay attention to Wayne Gretzky. Focus on where your life could be going instead of where it’s been, or where it may be stuck now. And If you’re in court, remember that a judge wants a plan for tomorrow. Get past the grievances and complaints. They too often sounds like whining. Focus on what the future would look like if your proposals were adopted as compared to the future the other side’s proposals suggest. Particularly if there are children involved. Then put forward suggestions that show you’re skating to where it will be.