The Legal Implications of Love, Actually

Feb 12, 2016
Shai Harary

broken heart
Like everyone, when Valentine’s Day rolls around, it always gets me thinking about the nature of romantic relationships. While I’d love to see things through rose-colored glasses, thanks to my profession, my vision is often clouded by the painful realities I encounter fairly frequently, as my services are most often needed when connections breakdown, not ramp up.

Like love, litigation can be unpredictable, intense and all encompassing. Unlike love, these attributes are not necessarily good things. Litigation is often expensive and volatile, but when you add the element of high emotions, you end up with a decidedly unsexy ménage à trois of costs, capriciousness and personal animus that can make achieving resolution a painful process.

It’s said that criminal lawyers see the worst people at their best and family lawyers see the best people at their worst. I think that’s a truism – and a damn shame as well.

So for a moment, I’m asking that you think of me as your romantic counsel and personal Cupid. And I have a few thoughts for this Valentine’s Day:

♥ Be nice to your partner.
♥ Be honest with him/her.
♥ Act with integrity.
♥ Conduct yourself responsibly.

Believe it or not, this advice is applicable regardless of if you are together as a couple OR separated from that person but still share common interests (children, property, a business, etc.). If your relationship doesn’t or didn’t work and it needs to end or has ended, so be it. Everyone has that right. But if you treat each other with respect and dignity when you were a couple, it makes it much easier to maintain that positive framework after you’ve split up.

While some people separate and divorce amicably, it is true that by nature, the dissolution of a long-term relationship is painful and uncomfortable and creates uncertainty and stress between the parties. This is why it’s crucial for partners who are breaking up to understand that their objective should be to end the relationship with integrity and separate their assets by agreement. Notice that on one end, it’s about the state of mind and on the other, it’s about the state of affairs. Otherwise, the most likely outcome is that the only ones who will be enriched by the process will be the lawyers who end up litigating the claims between the partners.

In my experience and opinion, a negotiated agreement is always the best way to go. Even if you don’t get everything you want, compromise is a necessary element for resolution. Too often I observe couples embroiled in a bitter separation or divorce that spills out into the civil court where they spin their wheels on old issues and drive down the road staring into the rearview mirror instead of looking at the road ahead to a much more promising and happier future. Lamenting past behaviors and situations can turn into a insurmountable roadblock that grinds the court to a halt, allowing legal counsel to keep their meters running and sapping the very same resources they are fighting over.

Think about that: in the end, while you might expect some kind of validation or victory, in most cases things end with a whimper — the simple transfer of wealth from the parties to their lawyers — not a bang. That said, it’s important to note that it takes two to be reasonable, and if one party is totally unreasonable (which is often the case) it makes following my advice near impossible.

So while all relationships don’t end with a romantic ride off into the sunset, I do believe that coming from a place of integrity, honesty and yes, maybe even love and compassion – for yourself, if not for your partner – can make all the difference.

Here’s to looking for love in all the right places – and for the record, it’s NOT in a courtroom!

Photo credit: Dennis Skley