When I was a baby lawyer back in the 1900s, I was trained to zealously fight to win victory for my clients in court. I wanted to litigate, show off my courtroom skills, and get justice for the husbands, fathers, wives, and mothers I represented. There is an important role litigation lawyers, including me, have in resolving disputes between others. I am proud of the many trial lawyers at Gray Reed and my countless friends in Houston and around the State of Texas who dedicatedly, professionally, and honorably serve their clients in court.
In divorce and child custody matters, when mediation fails to reach a settlement, litigation is essential to end the conflict. In divorce sometimes one or both parties need a judge or jury to tell them what they need to hear. However, I have often seen the damage caused to the relationship between parents by litigating and the collateral harm suffered by their children. For over 20 years in my collaborative divorce practice, I have been given another tool to help couples with the assistance of a team of highly trained professionals find peace, do no further harm, and end their marriages with civility, dignity, and respect.
My views on winning, justice, and truth have been transformed. I still represent many clients who choose to or have no choice other than to litigate their divorces and child custody disputes. But, for me, one who is also a highly trained and experienced collaborative lawyer, I have found a very special place that at age 23 I could never have imagined at the University of Texas School of Law or envisioned as a young trial lawyer.
In that collaborative divorce space concepts other than justice and truth are important. A space where other things like relationships, forgiveness, empathy, understanding, and mercy have a place. A magical place and space where peace and hope thrive, where husbands, fathers, wives, and mothers and a highly trained team of professionals seek out and find a different kind of truth and justice, the collaborative way.
For example, I served as the collaborative divorce attorney in one case in which the husband, Phil (not his real name), and his wife, Edna,(not her real name) founded a company. After 10 years they sold the company for a sales price net of tax in the amount of $5,000,000. They had no children and no debt. At the time of divorce, the community estate was all in cash. It was a no-fault amicable divorce. Both parties were equal wage earners and in good health in their 40s. My client, Phil, thought that an equal division of the $5,000,000 was fair and equitable. Phil was upset and astounded when Edna said she would not settle for less than 51%.
After a few settlement conferences, Edna would not budge. It appeared that the collaborative divorce would become adversarial. Phil and Edna would have to hire litigation lawyers and seek justice in court. Phil asked me for one good legal reason versus a financial reason (i.e., not spending money on litigation) to agree to Edna getting more than $2,500,000. I informed Phil that there was no good legal reason to yield to Edna’s demand. With dismay, Phil said., “Why isn’t $2,500,000 enough? I said that the only reason might be “mercy”. Phil said, “What do you mean, Jack?” I replied, “Mercy is an act of compassion. It is given to another not because it is required. It is an act of grace. It is given to someone, even Edna, without regret but with a good kind heart. If you decide to do what Edna asks for, it should not be done with regret or resentment.” Phil sat there in silence for a few minutes. Then, he said, “I will do that and feel good about that for Edna.”
God has spoken in Scripture on mercy.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.
2 Corinthians 1:3–4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Let us pray together.
God, when I have conflict in my relationships with others at home, at work, or in my community, please send me Your wisdom and peace.
God, in prayer please guide me by Your example to be merciful to those with whom I have disagreements and not to be self-righteous, pious, or judgmental.
God, in the resolution of my conflicts with others please lead me to the miraculous divine place where mercy, forgiveness, and peace are present. At that place, I pray that Your mercy and grace lead the way and that Heaven is brought nearer the Earth. Amen.
If you think Jack’s prayer helps you or will help someone you know, please forward it to them. Jack may never make millions selling books or writing prayers, but spreading God’s good news to others is reward enough for him.
Ann Boland, Jack’s Publicist