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Sun Tzu, and the Art of Divorce

Posted by J. Benjamin Stevens | Jul 25, 2005 | 0 Comments

The oldest military treatise in the world is Sun Tzu on the Art of War. Litigation is often referred to in militaristic terms, which in today's world is a somewhat unfortunate reference. However, with that comparison in mind, I recently took a look at Lionel Giles' translation of Sun Tzu's work and found several interesting statements that are commonly thought 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 Family Court litigation is a result of planning, stategy, and effort on the part of both the attorney and his client. Like one of Sun Tzu's generals, the better attorneys know how and when to use misdirection and baiting to prosecute their clients' case. For instance, on cross-examination or in a deposition, it is not uncommon to give the opposing party just enough rope to allow that party to hang himself.
Both the attorney and his client should always keep the original end goal at the forefront as they proceed through the stages of litigation. No one, especially a Family Court litigant, ever benefits from fighting just for the sake of fighting (“prolonged warfare”). When children are involved, 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 what is really important, the 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 know the best way to wage the campaign. An experienced attorney knows all too well and will certainly advise his client that no one ever “wins” in Family Court litigation.

About the Author

J. Benjamin Stevens

Senior Partner


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