Common Sense: Chapter 3

Following A Script

When Mark and Susan decided to divorce, why was their first thought to turn to lawyers? If you are like most divorcing husbands and wives, it may have been your first thought as well.

Needless to say, that is not something that you would ever have thought to do in the past when you were faced with decisions that you had to make, or problems that you had to solve, or run off and turn your lives over to total strangers. In fact, you would have considered that to be a very unnatural thing to do, which is why you never did it.

That necessarily raises a question. Why, if turning to lawyers was not something that you would ever have thought to do in the past, is it literally the first thing that you think of doing now? More to the point, where did that thought come from? It came from the script that you are following. To be sure, you are not aware that you are following a script. But you are. We do that all of the time. Moreover, we do not do that just with little things. We do it when it comes to some of the most important things in our lives as well. In most instances that makes a lot of sense. After all, it would pose no end of problems if we were always required to make up our own script. It would be like having to reinvent the wheel. Thankfully, we don’t have to do that. It has all been decided for us. As they say, it is “in the air.”

That was the case when the two of you decided to get married. You were given a script and you dutifully followed it. You didn’t even have to question your decision to marry. The script did that for you. It told you that if you had those feelings, you would know it was right. And you believed it.

But it went further. It attended to all the important details. The first thing that it told you was that there had to be a ring. Where did that idea come from? You certainly didn’t come up with it on your own. You didn’t have to. It was in the script. You did not even have to ask yourself whether the stone should be an emerald, a ruby or a diamond. The script told you that it would be a diamond.

The next thing the script told you was that there had to be a ceremony followed by a reception, so you sat down and made a list of people to invite and, eventually, where the reception would take place and what you would serve. The script also mentioned a honeymoon and, at least until recently, it told you that the dress always had to be white. It was that simple. More important, you were programmed to follow it. As we say, that is what people do when they get married. To be sure, the script left the details to you, such as whether you would use a ring that had been in your family or go out and buy a new one. If the latter, it also left to you how much you would spend and whether the stone would be a round one, a square one or some other shape. Nevertheless, the script said that it had to be a diamond rather than an emerald or a ruby, and you never questioned it.

Nor was there very much danger in the fact that you just followed the script you were given rather than sat down and made up your own. To be sure, like most people, you probably spent a bit more money than you had intended or perhaps could even afford, and attending to the details turned out to be more time consuming and created more stress than you had expected. But it was a very exciting experience. More important, everyone had a very good time. So who cared and what difference did it make?

Well, it did make a difference. The script that you were given was somewhat misleading. The fact that the two of you had those feelings, which turned out to be more short lived than you were told, didn’t guarantee that it was right as the script led you to believe. How could it be reliable when, as you later found out, there was so much that you didn’t know about one another? Nor, as you also found out, was there any correlation between the size and cost of the wedding and the success of the marriage. In fact, one had absolutely nothing to do with the other.

As I said, now that you are planning to divorce, you have been given another script. Unfortunately, it is even more misleading than the one that you were given when you got married. In fact, if you are not careful, it is going to get you into a lot of trouble. Thus, even if you were not aware of the fact that you were following a script then, and therefore didn’t take the time to carefully examine it, it is critical that you do that now. If you are not careful, it is going to send you off on a fool’s errand.

To begin with, following that script is going to take a lot longer than you expect. It is also going to cost far more than you can afford. Nor is anyone going to have a very good time. Rather, as anyone who has made the mistake of following that script will tell you, it is going to be one of the worst experiences in your life. Needless to say, you can not afford to let that happen.

To be sure, if you consult with a divorce lawyer, he (or she) will try to persuade you that following that script makes legal sense. Your cadre of well meaning advisors may tell you the same thing. They are wrong. It doesn’t make any sense at all. It is nothing but legal nonsense and dangerous nonsense at that. Nor do you need a law school education to understand that. Your common sense will be enough to tell you. That is why, rather than running off blindly and following the script that you have been given, it is critical that you question it, ask yourself what you are doing and why, and just where it will take you.

That is what Mark and Susan did when they consulted with Justin Wright. They had questions that they wanted answers to. But they wanted the same answers, not different ones. As their common sense told them, the only way to get the same answers was to go to the same attorney.

That is not what the script they were given would have recommended, however. Rather, it would have insisted that they each had to go off to separate lawyers to get those answers. Needless to say, that would not have solved their problem. It would only have left them with one.

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