Tai Chi and the art of family law

Many people, including many of my colleagues in the Bar, feel that “might makes right” and that brute force is necessary to prevail in a contested family law case.

As many of my friends know I have been a Tai Chi practitioner since the middle 1970’s. We learn when we practice Tai Chi that when force is applied to force, the larger, stronger, more violent force will almost always prevail.  As such, Tai Chi teaches to avoid direct conflict with larger, stronger forces, and find precise and effective ways to attack our opponent’s weaknesses so that we can get what we want and/or need. 

When our opponent punches, we deflect, parry and push. When our opponent pushes, we turn to the side, roll back, and pull our opponent right on past. When our opponent pulls, we push. In this way Tai Chi teaches to avoid direct conflict with larger opponents by using their aggressive energy against them.

I recently had a divorce case where Mom/Wife was in her late 30’s and Dad/Husband  in his late 50’s.  He was former military and had become quite controlling, verbally abusive, and generally an unpleasant person to be with.  Three years of marriage counseling did nothing to improve the situation and my client came to me to dissolve the marriage. She cautioned, however, that her husband would be angry and very difficult to work with.

She could not have been more accurate!  It soon became apparent that a direct challenge to a retired military member with three deployments in Afghanistan would be a losing battle. We re-grouped and planned out a new strategy.

Rather than escalate the fight to compel certain disclosures and seek “equal everything” we decided to let Dad “win” certain issues that were not so critical for us. Rather than stand strong and engage in a fight over principle where we would be at a disadvantage, we deflected, parried and focused on what was most important to my client– an equal division of parenting time with the kids, sufficient income and a way to start a new life. 

Dad thought he had “won the case” because the asset division spreadsheet showed that he kept more stuff than his wife.  And while he did get more stuff,  it was well worth the cost to my client as it allowed her to get what was most important to her:  Freedom from a bad marriage, quality parenting time with her kids, and enough money coming in to allow her to move on.


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