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What To Do When… You Are In A High Conflict Case.

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WTDW Podcast | Episode 58: What To Do When… You Are In A High Conflict Case.

What To Do When… Intro 00:01
Welcome to What To Do When… A podcast from real lawyers with real perspective, where we explore a variety of legal issues and scenarios. Each week we focus on a new topic and discuss what to do when and if any of these legal scenarios ever happened to you or a loved one. With over 40 years of combined legal experience, our hosts offer their unique perspectives and insights on a range of real life legal situations.

Jackie Critzer 

Hi, there. Welcome back to another podcast here at Critzer Cardani in Richmond, Virginia. I’m Jackie.

Scott Cardani 0:35

I’m Scott and Jackie, what do we have on the docket for today?

Jackie Critzer 0:37
What To Do When… You Are In a High Conflict Case. Custody, Divorce – otherwise high conflict.

Scott Cardani 0:44
What does that mean… high conflict, I thought, all divorce and custody cases were high conflict.

Jackie Critzer 0:49
Well, they all have conflicts. The question is how much conflict? You know, we we of course, participate in mediations. We participate in drafting and negotiating settlement agreements, whether it’s for custody and visitation support, or it’s for bigger things in the divorce scheme. But when you can reach agreements, of course, that’s the way…

Scott Cardani 0:49
Wait a minute… you mean, there’s actually people out there who separate and work it out and don’t fight?

Jackie Critzer 0:59
In fact, there are.

Okay, I just want to make sure.

There are. it’s when you can make decisions. When I tell this to every client who comes in my door, when you can make decisions with your former partner, for the betterment of your family, when you guys can make decisions because you know, your family, your judge is going to know this much about your entire story. And that’s just not enough. And they can only do so much with the with the time they are allowed. There are a lot of you don’t get two weeks to put on a trial you don’t get most of the time, you don’t even get a full day. If you’re asking for a full day, there are some real deep problems in your case. So the point remains that in the high conflict, what to do when you’re in high conflict, how do you minimize the conflict instead of increasing the conflict?

Scott Cardani 1:59
Yeah, I think I think sometimes, you know, if you do the research, and you know that a lot of marriages fail for financial issues.

Jackie Critzer 2:08

Scott Cardani 2:09
So in a high conflict divorce, a lot of times it’s about the money, we can get the kids next, but a lot of times it’s about the money. The way to minimize conflict in a money case is to be upfront about the money.

Jackie Critzer 2:24

Scott Cardani 2:24
It’s when people hide it, or they try to say, Well, I’m only making 80,000, when I’m making 600,000. Or, you know, those kinds of things are what create conflict when you’re married. I don’t want to do too much. But if the way we look at it in a way the court looks at is everything created during the marriage during the marriage from the time that you’re married, until the time of separation, and it gets wonky there. But we’re just basically saying that whatever was created incomes coming into their wealth management, all that stuff is marital. And basically the court always starts with that’s a 50/50 split.

Jackie Critzer 2:59
That’s the starting point.

Scott Cardani 3:00
And if there’s some fault grounds, or some other things we could talk about later, it kind of can shift that pot. But we have found quite quite frankly, that it doesn’t shift a lot regardless of the fault on one side or the other. So but again, that pot is what we’re trying to figure out at the beginning. And when people are in high conflict. Usually they’re being somebody’s being disingenuous about that pot, not giving it all the information, hiring stuff, taking money out of a safe, which happens all the time.

Jackie Critzer 3:29
That happens a lot.

Scott Cardani 3:30
Oh my gosh, like especially silver and gold. One person sneaks in the house and takes all the gold out of the safe. There’s nothing her, I got rid of that years ago.

Jackie Critzer 3:38
Well, you’ve got money and children, right. So you can have lots of conflict without divorce. Maybe the parties were never married, maybe they were married. And we’re going back to court about changing custody because the conflict still hasn’t stopped. And one thing that’s important for you to do if you are engaged in a high conflict, divorce or custody case, high conflict case, is first STOP. If you’re causing it stop, you’re only driving attorneys fees higher with the higher the conflict, the higher the attorneys fees absolutely every time. But if you can keep your communication with the other parent or the other spouse, short and simple, think of it this way brief, informative, firm, but friendly. You’ve got to remind yourself that every text message every email, sometimes phone calls that have recorded are really exhibits just for the court. And if you are making it really easy for the other side to show you being a jerk because your communication is long and abusive or aggressive or name calling. You’re just you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

Scott Cardani 4:46
So, what is it? , Brief, informative, firm, and friendly. I like that.

Jackie Critzer 4:54
Keep it short.

Scott Cardani 4:55
Keep it simple, stupid.

Jackie Critzer 4:57
Can I pick up the kids in our early today? Well, you picked them up early last week, and I have these things going on. And they have this going on.

Scott Cardani 5:05
You don’t remember anything about this. And you always forget that I have discovered. Yes.

Jackie Critzer 5:10
Can I pick the kids up an hour early today? Yes, you can, or no, you can’t see you at your normal time. That’s it. That’s that is how you keep it brief. Informative, friendly and firm.

Scott Cardani 5:21
How about this one Jackie? The kids orthodontist bill came in, can I get 50 extra dollars?

Jackie Critzer 5:30
I give you so much money all the time. I don’t need to be paying you extra money just for braces that I didn’t think are?

Scott Cardani 5:36
So what’s the proper answer?

Jackie Critzer 5:38
Yeah, so the right answer? I don’t have $50. Today, I’ll be glad to get it to you on my next pay day. Or Yes. Can I schedule the time to give that to you?

Scott Cardani 5:48
Or, no?

Jackie Critzer 5:50

Scott Cardani 5:50
Thank you.

You don’t always have to say I can’t afford it.

Jackie Critzer 5:54

Scott Cardani 5:55
You may have a myriad of reasons why you don’t want to give that money. And no thank you is okay.

Jackie Critzer 6:01
Not at this time. You don’t have to say why. The other person is going to ask.

Scott Cardani 6:05
And you can say at that point, you can always keep saying, No, thank you. I appreciate it. You know, you don’t have to get into the conflict with them. You know, it’s amazing when you study conflict, and conflict breeds conflict breeds conflict. So the more you keep engaging it, the better it gets, the more thing and I might own your right now, Jackie would never like me to say this. But it’s true. There actually, we run into it all the time. People out there in our profession who love conflict, because the more conflict they create, the more money they create. And so something simple, they’re given their client advice to be dumb about it. Oh, yeah. Hi, that asset, you know, and then $50,000 Later, they had to produce it anyways.

Jackie Critzer 6:05

Scott Cardani 6:06
And, you know, the only person who got rich was not them. So be careful. Use common sense. And sometimes you’re so emotionally hurt, that you can’t get out of your own way. That’s when you need to get some counseling yourself to learn how to resolve the issue. And I always tell people this, if you’re so hurt by the situation that you can’t make those simple things. Do this. Let me get back to you.

Jackie Critzer 7:17

Scott Cardani 7:18
I mean… No, thank you.

Jackie Critzer 7:22

Scott Cardani 7:23
Get somebody else to vent. Don’t vent to them.

Jackie Critzer 7:26
Probably not your lawyer, because that’s expensive vent.

Scott Cardani 7:28

We charge by the minute. Reality. We have our time to sell. But the point is, try to use a different strategy, if you are so worked up that you cannot have that conversation, vent to somebody else first, and then or have that other person help you write the email and get your words out of it, you know, don’t use your boyfriend, for God’s sake… Oh,.

Jackie Critzer 7:51
Or the children. So it’s important here to understand this. The greater your conflict, the more stress there is on your children, even if they never hear a word between you and their parent. They can sense your conflict, whether they’re at Biddy or they’re teenagers, they can sense your conflict, you are broadcasting the current whether it’s conflict at work, conflict in your family with maybe with your mom or your dad, conflict with your child’s parent it broadcasts it’s very difficult to hide it. And you’re probably not doing yourself any favors by trying to, to, to hide it anyway. But the point remains, the greater the conflict, the greater the impact on the children and the rest of your family. So do your part and minimize that conflict when you can. It makes a difference to the court. I mean, I know there are judges who watch and thank you, and we’ll have you on guests as the guests, I promise soon. But who watch and who know, when an attorney has sort of incited some conflict or when there’s been communication and just sometimes by the opening argument that an attorney can make the the judges know and so do we, that the conflict is high and maybe didn’t have to be so this goes back to our other podcasts about how to choose a good attorney. You don’t always need the high conflict. Sometimes you need someone who’s aggressive because you need to protect your rights and you need to, you know, you’re the un-earning spouse or whatever the case may be. But they’re that aggressiveness doesn’t play well when you’re dealing with with kids and parenting. And the more conflict you have, I would say it’s more difficult to co parent you almost can’t co parent with a high level of conflict.

Scott Cardani 9:33
Absolutely. And even on yourself. Think of it this way. You’re fighting over maybe $100,000 Which to me personally is a heck of a lot of money, a lot of money. But, if you pay the attorney $30,000. And you lost two years of your life and you’re miserable, and you get that check for $40,000 you fought so hard for. You may be going like, wasn’t worth it wasn’t worth as I had 200 days of non sleeping over this I, I lost my job, you know, and we see it all the time we see this stuff destroy people. And again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t stand up for what’s right.

Jackie Critzer 10:18
Let me ask you this Scott, you’re a guardian ad litem.

Scott Cardani 10:20
Mmmm Hmmm. One the best, by the way. ha ha ha

Jackie Critzer 10:22
What happens to young people who are in families with high conflict, are they in court a lot are not in court a lot?

That’s really tough.

They’re in the court a lot. And why? Not because there’s subject of a custody case, but because they’re in trouble.

Scott Cardani 10:46
Because of their unresolved anger in conflict in their own life that they act out in drugs, alcohol, violence, you name it.

Jackie Critzer 10:46
Vandalism, trespassing…

Scott Cardani 10:47
Trespass, anything to get that. It’s interesting, and I’ll explain it this way, and probably isn’t good analogy. But we have a dog, who’s a little quirky. She has some anxiety issues. It’s so funny, when she gets anxious, she grabs a toy and just starts. And we always know like, she’s having an issue. And but she always has to grab that toy and just like bite down on it, that’s how kids are, when they don’t have the tools to let that out. They are looking for an outlet. And it’s usually comes in very easily in negative ways right there in the bathroom stall to school. And there’s something there that they can break or punch, or hit.

Jackie Critzer 11:31
Light on fire…

Scott Cardani 11:32
And all the sudden, they didn’t think I’ve burden down to school, right? They’re just frustrated, and they go click, you know, and you know, it happens just so easily, or they see the bad group at school and they go, I’m gonna hang out their kids, they’re angry like me, maybe I’ll, you know, chime with them, so to speak. So we just really want you to know, this isn’t easy. It’s not easy for us as attorneys, it’s it’s a hard road, when we get in these situations, it always is hard. And you need to pick a lawyer who understands it, who can balance, assertiveness, aggressiveness when necessary. But also, the whole time trying to reduce the conflict where it can be reduced. Sometimes it can’t be. I mean, that’s very rare, but sometimes it just can’t be.

Jackie Critzer 12:17
But your attorney can help you minimize the conflict that you’re causing.

Scott Cardani 12:22
And that you’re living in.

Jackie Critzer 12:24
Absolutely. In sorry, in summary, do your part to minimize the conflicts not just for yourself, and really not necessarily for your other parent or the partner or the ex spouse but for the children and for the longer repercussions that you’re going to end up having. So keep your communication brief, informative, firm, but friendly. And what else Scott?

Scott Cardani 12:49
And remember the cost benefit analysis of what you’re doing. Just think through that. What is this going to cost me to get where I want to be and is it worth it? And the cost is not just financial, it’s a big cost. But also the emotional toll is a big cost and you have to weigh that and we like to try to help our clients weigh that cost so they understand what they’re getting into and what it’s going to be.

Jackie Critzer 13:11
Thanks for listening and look forward to seeing you again. Be sure and like and subscribe.

Scott Cardani 13:16
If you have any questions, email at….

Jackie Critzer 13:16
[email protected] Have a good day.

What To Do When… Outro 13:19

We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of What To Do When… For more episodes, be sure to subscribe to our podcast and we encourage you to check archives to listen to previous topics. Tune in next week for a new episode and some fresh perspective from Critzer Cardani.

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We look forward to helping you in this venture and Good Luck!