On Duty

Robert E Lee“Duty is the most sublime word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.” Robert E. Lee.

Duty to Your Country

The above words were written by a great American. There is no doubt in my mind that he was on the wrong side of that infamous conflict, but that West Point graduate saw his duty as defending the interests of his native Virginia and so he took up arms against the Union.

A general who sent many thousands of young men to their death should give a great deal of profound thought to “duty” and the motivations of his soldiers.

This is a heavy duty indeed.

The Duty of Divorce Lawyers

A divorce attorney, who advises and counsels clients going through one of the worst periods of their lives, should also give some thought to the concept of duty.

In law school baby lawyers are taught to analyze duty. Mostly duty is discussed in the area of personal injury or tort law. Before one person can be found to owe another person money for an injury, they must first be found to have a duty to that person. Typical examples of defendants who owe a duty to certain individuals they may have injured include owners and operators of public businesses, transportation carriers, operators of motor vehicles, and the like.

Divorce attorneys representing their clients have a duty to pursue their clients’ interests with “warm zeal”. I am unaware of anywhere in the body of family law where there is a discussion of any attorney’s “duty” to counsel a client on the future consequences of their actions regarding how they conduct their divorce.

And, to my mind, that is a great shame. This is particularly the case where there are children involved. So many lawyers have only one mode of operation. They have a “scorched earth” policy that works seamlessly in conjunction with their “take no prisoners” attitude.

Is that any way to help end a marriage? I submit that an enlightened mind would think not.

If there is any duty that a Divorce Lawyer owes a client to minimize the terrible impact of divorce on a family, or to reduce the fees that Divorce Attorney may end up charging in a case – that duty is so hard to establish as to be almost invisible. To my mind, such a duty should be carved in stone and be the foundation of every Divorce Lawyer’s practice.

A Parent’s Duty

A parent’s duty and the duty of a spouse, when it is time to end a marriage due to irreconcilable differences, is to make certain that all of their actions are tempered with some measure of compassion.

It is noteworthy in the above quote to contemplate that Lee tells us to do our duty in all things. You cannot do more. This would mean that one’s duty is a full measure of service. You cannot do more because there is no more to do.

For a soon to be ex-spouse – and in particular for a parent, you should never overly concern yourself with having done too much. You started the marriage “for better or for worse” and you brought your children into this world to do everything you could for their benefit. At the high-stress time of a divorce it would be well advised to try and stay in touch with those sentiments and make your highest and best effort to be civil, high-minded and generous. You will never look back on such conduct with regret.

There is a great deal of comfort and personal satisfaction in having done your duty. Every divorcing spouse can take that degree of accomplishment from the divorce experience if they conduct themselves in an exemplary and forthright manner.

If you have children, the best way to teach them is by example. Teach them to do their duty in all things by quietly demonstrating your selfless willingness to do your duty during the trying time of divorce.

David D. Stein has been an attorney for 20 years and the founder of Liaise® Divorce Solutions. He is a trained best divorce mediator, dispute resolution specialist and lecturer on non-violent conflict management techniques and tools.