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Sun Tzu and the Art of Divorce

Posted by J. Benjamin Stevens | Apr 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

The oldest military treatise in the world is Sun Tzu on the Art of War. All too often, litigation is referred to in militaristic terms, which in today's world is a somewhat unfortunate reference.

So, is there an Art of Divorce? Perhaps so, as I found several interesting statements in Lionel Giles' translation of Sun Tzu's work that are applicable in both arenas:

  • All warfare is based on deception.
  • Hold out baits to entice the enemy.
  • There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.
  • It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.
  • In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

Successful litigation in Family Court is the result of planning, strategy, and effort on the part of both the attorney and his client. Like one of Sun Tzu's generals, experienced attorneys know how and when to use misdirection and baiting to prosecute their clients' case. For instance, it is not uncommon during cross-examination or in a deposition to give the opposing party just enough rope to allow him to hang himself.

Both the attorney and his client should always keep the original end goal at the forefront as they proceed through the various stages of litigation. No one, especially a Family Court litigant, ever benefits from fighting merely for the sake of fighting (what Sun Tzu referred to as “prolonged warfare”), particularly when children are involved, as such conduct can result in emotional damage, or in extreme cases, hatred or resentment toward one or both parents.

Too many times, the parties (and sometimes even their attorneys) will get so caught up in trying to “win” the case that they lose sight of their original purpose for going to Court (Sun Tzu's “great object of victory”). Having an experienced attorney can be invaluable, as we are able to use our perspective, objectivity, and experience to determine the best approach to accomplish the desired outcome. An experienced attorney knows all too well and will certainly advise his client that no one ever “wins” in Family Court litigation.

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J. Benjamin Stevens

Senior Partner


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