The Conflict Dynamic In Family Law, Part 1

Conflict Dynamic

Show Topic: The Conflict Dynamic In Family Law

This show aired on June 30, 2017. It was hosted by attorney David Enevoldsen, an partner with the law firm Family Law Guys. David discussed narrative theory and how human beings make sense of the world and conflict by intuitively gravitating to stories. David also discussed how that feeds into generalized rules that people indoctrinate themselves with and ultimately come into conflict over. Note that this is Part 1 of a two part exploration of these ideas. Part 2 aired on August 20, 2017.

Headlines

Headlines on this show looked at recent Gallup Poll data indicating the rise in same-sex and LGBT marriages since the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Obergefell, legalizing same sex-marriage, the Arizona Court of Appeals Opinion in Schultz v. Schultz which established a rule regarding the direct payment of support obligations outside of the Support Payment Clearinghouse, and re the attorney’s fee award just issued in the matter related to Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky County Clerk that refused to issue same-sex marriage certificates with her signature on them.

Did You Know

This show’s Did You Know looked at the legal impact of adultery on a divorce in Arizona and how the social morality of adultery has changed over the last couple of centuries.

Transcript of the Show

Speaker 6:                         Welcome to the Family Law Report, the show that explores issues related to marriage, divorce, and children, hosted by David Enevoldsen, a practicing family law attorney in Arizona. Now, here’s your host.

David E.:                             Hello, everybody and welcome to Family Law Report. I’m your host, David Enevoldsen, here with you every Sunday at noon on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX. Here on Family Law Report we talk about all the current topics of Family Law, and that can range from what’s happening in the political arena to just basics like how to work through the nuts and bolts of a divorce. I am a practicing attorney and I, of course, work in the area of family law. When I say “family law” I mean, basically, anything related to marriage, divorce, fights over custody of children, prenuptial agreements, child support issues, stuff like that. I’m a partner at a law firm called Family Law Guys. It’s an Arizona firm that focuses principally on helping divorcing parents avoid getting screwed out of time with their children. We have offices in the Phoenix area and if you have a family court issue, I just want to underscore that there are a wide range of traps that can occur in your case. Many of those are things we talk about on this show, but please be aware that if you’re going into a family law case it can be dangerous in a lot of ways.

                                             I have seen situations in which people have completely lost their children. I have seen child or alimony payments of massive monthly amounts. I have seen people get slapped with tens of thousands of dollars in judgments for back support or equalization payments or attorney’s fees, and I’ve even seen times where people were in the courtroom and got dragged out in handcuffs and thrown in jail over things like child support issues, so whether you’re facing just a simple child support issue, a custody matter, or even if you’re just contemplating a divorce somewhere in the future, there are some real dangers, and I foreign language because of that, it’s incredibly important that if you’ve got one of these cases going on of any kind, that you walk in with some basic understanding of what’s going on, and part of that is just gathering information, but part of it is just go and talk to an attorney, and even if you can’t afford an attorney fully to represent you in a case, pay for a consult. Go buy an hour of time and just talk to the attorney, so you can get yourself informed, and you know your basic legal rights and obligations.

                                             Obviously, that’s something our firm can help with, if you want to do, so you can call us, and we can schedule a time to talk. We don’t practice outside of the state of Arizona, but if you do want to call us and schedule an appointment, you can call 480-565-8680, or you can check us out on our website at www.familylawguys.com. We have an awesome team there. Everybody there has had a lot of experience both in family law as professionals but also on personal levels, and we could all tell you all about that.

                                             On today’s show, we are going to be talking about not something necessarily legal, but something that I think underscores every family law case that I see. It seems to me to be one of the most important pieces, and that is the dynamic of conflict and emotion, logic and drama that goes on in any family law case, so I’ll get into that in just a sec. First, I want to hit our headlines, and in headlines, we typically just look at anything that’s going on in the press that’s related to family law. First up is Gallup has just recently issued some new data and they’ve been looking specifically at the Obergefell decision. If you’ve been listening to the show, you will probably recall that Obergefell is the US Supreme Court case that basically made it a constitutional fundamental right for a homosexual partnership to marry, so same sex partners can marry now because of that decision. Well, it was a little over two years ago, now. It was June 26, 2015, was the issuance of that particular opinion, and so Gallup has been looking at some data related to that, so prior to the decision, there were 7.9% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender persons that were married to same sex persons. Gallup was interested in looking at how has that number changed since before Obergefell and after Obergefell?

                                             Well, in the first year, last year, that 7.9% went up to 9.6%, so went up a little bit, not a ton. 7.9, almost 8% to 9.6, so about 1.7% or so. This year, it rose to just 10.2%. That’s a pretty nominal increase to go from 9.6% to 10.2%, so it’s somewhat surprising, in a way, because you would’ve expected that after the US Supreme Court said, “Homosexuals have the ability to get married,” you would think that we’d see this massive increase, and we haven’t. There’s been only a pretty nominal increase, so another interesting piece of data with this is that same sex domestic partnerships have dropped. People identifying that they’re in same sex domestic partnerships has dropped a lot, so before Obergefell it was at 12.8% and last year it was at 10.1%, dropping, and this year it went all the way down to 6.6%. Gallup is trying to figure out what this data means, and one of the things that they’ve proposed is that this could be people identifying themselves differently. Maybe since Obergefell, people are kind of looking at themselves in different ways and maybe they’re not saying that, “I’m actually in a domestic partnership relationship situation.” Not really sure what you can interpret from that data, but it’s fascinating, nonetheless.

                                             Other things that were wrapped into the same study were they looked at people identifying as LGBT and they discovered that they’re considerably more likely to be married to a member of the opposite sex than they are to a person of the same sex. I don’t know if that’s a continued sort of social stigma that people are concerned that if they’re … They have to be married to an opposite sex partner or something like that, but it’s, again, just more interesting data without any necessary conclusions.

                                             In other news, there was a Arizona Court of Appeals decision, which I found extremely interesting. It’s a case called Schultz v. Schultz, and this came out last week. There was a new opinion there specifically related to child support, and what happened in this case was there was a divorce decree that said that the husband, Gus, was supposed to pay spousal maintenance, AKA alimony, to his ex-wife Taryn, in the amount of $3,000 a month for three years. Gus was paying. He wasn’t caught up completely but he was paying her directly, so Gus was paying Taryn, and he did so with checks, and over the course of time, he sent to her $18,210 in alimony payments, so the key to this whole thing is that he didn’t make the payments through Arizona Support Payment Clearinghouse. Now, if you’re unfamiliar with that, the Support Payment Clearinghouse is basically this governmental agency that collects payments for support, and it will take in either child support payments or alimony payments, accounts for them, logs them, and then spits them back out to the person that’s supposed to receive them, and the idea is we’re trying to create some accountability. There’s no confusion about did somebody pay? Did they not pay? Because you just look at the Clearinghouse records and it says something was paid or not and you can easily calculate everything through their system.

                                             Well, Gus wasn’t using the Clearinghouse to make these $18,000 in payments. The problem is that there’s a statute in Arizona, ARS-46441, subsection H, which says, quote, “Payment of any money directly to an obligee or to a person other than the Support Payment Clearinghouse shall not be credited against the support obligation unless the direct payments were ordered by the court or made pursuant to a written support agreement by the parties.” Taryn comes into this situation and she says, “Well, he didn’t pay me through the Clearinghouse, so because of the statute, he shouldn’t get any credit, meaning that I still am owed this back $18,210 in support payments,” so the trial court says, “Well, I don’t agree with that. That’s not fair. That’s not an equitable interpretation. He clearly paid you this money. You didn’t object to it, and you’re basically taking a hyper technical interpretation of the statute and just trying to get a windfall out of it.” She appeals it. Taryn doesn’t like that. She goes up to the Arizona Court of Appeals, and they agreed with the trial court. The Court of Appeals upheld the decision and they said, basically, Taryn’s interpretation would indeed create a windfall for her when Gus had come in and actually shown that he made these payments and she wasn’t objecting to them, about alimony.

                                             Now, I find this super interesting because I personally have had a number of cases that I’ve worked on where this exact situation happened, and it was sometimes in the context of child support, but somebody would pay outside of the Clearinghouse, would have clear records of it, go back to the trial court, and the trial court would say, “Well, sorry. There’s a statute that says, ‘You’re screwed.’ You don’t get credit for that payment and now you have to pay it again,” so I’m kind of happy to see this because every time I’ve seen that it’s devastating and if somebody just doesn’t understand that that’s the law, they’re completely screwed over, so now there’s a case law saying that’s not the case anymore.

                                             In other news, one more quick headline, back in 2015, also related to this Obergefell decision, you may remember that there was a woman named Kim Davis who was a Rowan County, Kentucky clerk and at that time, the court was required to issue marriage certificates to same sex couples. Well, Kim Davis stood up and said, “I’m not doing that. I’m following God’s authority and I’m refusing to issue marriage certificates because the clerk was required to sign off on these, and she wasn’t willing to put her signature on anything or anybody that was working under her. Well, she ended up going to jail for, I believe, it was five days, and was eventually released on condition that she wouldn’t interfere with the issuance of any subsequent marriage certificates.

                                             Well, this was all deemed moot back in December of 2015 because the governor there issued an executive order saying that the clerks didn’t have to have their names on the marriage certificates in order for them to be issued, but there was a civil suit that was enacted against Kim Davis and the county basically by the people that were denied same sex marriage certificates and that’s been sort of lingering dealing with some procedural stuff, and one of the issues that has been floating around is attorneys’ fees. Recently, we got … Friday of last week, the federal district court judge assigned to that case issued an attorneys’ fee award to the plaintiffs and the award was for $224,700 in fees and costs, and interestingly, the judge said that because Davis was an elected official, she has immunity, and therefore she’s not liable for any of the fees, but the state of Kentucky has to front the bill. Quite an interesting case, still more of the gay marriage stuff floating around in the press.

                                             All right. We’re going to take a quick break. I’m Attorney David Enevoldsen with Family Law Guys. When we return we’re going to be talking about the conflict dynamic, emotion, logic, drama, all of that. If you want to call in and ask any questions you can do so by calling 602-277-KFNX. You are tuned in to Family Law Report on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX.

Speaker 6:                         Family Law Report is hosted by Family Law Guys, an Arizona family law firm. Family Law Report is dedicated to confronting difficult issues related to marriage, divorce, and children. This can range everywhere from addressing the legalities and controversies in topics like gay marriage, to current problems with the divorce system, to simply providing tips to those getting married or going through a divorce or custody fight. Tune in every Sunday to Family Law Report at noon here on KFNX. If you want to know more, or to schedule an appointment with David or another one of the Family Law Guys attorneys, call 480-565-8680. That’s 480-565-8680.

David E.:                             Welcome back to Family Law Report. I am your host, David Enevoldsen, an attorney with Family Law Guys, an Arizona law firm, here with you every Sunday at noon on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX. If you want to reach out and schedule an appointment with myself or another attorney at my firm, Family Law Guys, you can do so by calling 480-565-8680, or you can check us out on our website at www.familylawguys.com. If you are listening and you want to call in and ask any questions or share thoughts, you can do so by calling 602-277-KFNX, and today, we are going to be talking about the drama and conflict dynamic that is at play in family court cases and I want to break that down a little bit.

                                             First, I want to hit our “Did you know?” though, and I want to do a sort of a weird “Did you know?” today in that I want to more respond to a question that I get all the time. One of the things that is incredibly catalytic, or I’m not sure what the right word is here. One of the things that causes divorces all the time is adultery. You’ve got two spouses, somebody cheats, and that seems to be the catalyst for the divorce. It blows everything up. One of the questions that I very often get is, “Does adultery impact the divorce?” I want to address that question as part of our “Did you know?” today.

                                             The short answer is, “Probably not,” in Arizona, at least. Now, there’s a couple different potential implications, and in terms of property division, we’re a community property state and you just divide up your property regardless of fault. I mean, so, there are places where you might take that into consideration. Arizona’s not one of them. One exception to that is that there is something called community waste, and so if you have community waste going on, you can offset the normal division of property. For example, let’s say that I’m married, and this is the example I use all the time. I’m married, I have a mistress, and I go to Vegas and I spend $10,000 on this trip with my mistress and I buy her jewelry and hotel rooms and all of this stuff and I took that $10,000 out of a community place, like it was out of my community bank account, and I burned all that money and then I’m going through the divorce and my wife finds out about that. She could come in and say, “Well, that $10,000 that David wasted on his mistress is not something that contributed to the community, so I should have my share of the community assets split, or offset, by that.”

                                             That is the one exception I can think of into Arizona situations where adultery can have an impact on the divorce, but other than that, if you can’t demonstrate that there was community waste going on, just because somebody simply had the affair does not mean that you’re going to have any real impact legally. Now, of course, this is a pretty major emotional impact on what’s going on, and it’s very often the cause of the divorce. Other situations you can look at are children. You have a right to see your kids regardless of whether or not you cheated on the other person, and so that’s not going to change anything. One interesting thing I was reading a little bit about in preparing for this show is that there are some jurisdictions, apparently, where you can get an STD during a marriage, you can contract something by cheating on somebody, sleeping with somebody that has an STD, contracting that, transmitting it to your spouse, and in some jurisdictions you can sue your spouse for damages based on that. That is not the case in Arizona. As I understand it, we have inter spousal immunity, meaning that you can’t turn around and sue your spouse even if you did, indeed, get something like an STD.

                                             This whole idea of adultery has changed pretty dramatically over the years and while I don’t think that it’s something we necessarily accept and it’s clearly still something that we view in a very negative way, it’s clearly more accepted than it used to be. In Arizona, it used to be criminal. It used to be a … Well, it still is criminal. It’s technically a misdemeanor to commit adultery in Arizona. There’s a criminal statute defining that out. Now, I’ve never heard of it being enforced during my lifetime that I’m aware of, and I’ve never seen anybody that would actually do it. I even remember reading an article where someone said that they tried to get the police to do it and they just kind of laughed at them. It doesn’t really go anywhere, and in that level, we have a very different understanding of adultery than we used to.

                                             If we go back a couple hundred years, I was reading about Puritan New England where it was not only illegal to commit adultery but it was punishable by death and while I don’t think that occurred every day, there are some accounts where it did. In fact, there was John Winthrop, the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, talks about, in a narrative that he has, a time when somebody was executed for adultery, and he writes, quote, “The woman proved very penitent and had deep apprehension of the foulness of her sin, and at length, attained a hope of pardon by the blood of Christ, and was willing to die in satisfaction to justice. The man also was very much cast down for his sins, but was loath to die and petitioned the general court for his life, but they would not grant it, though some of the magistrates spake much for it, and questioned the letter, whether adultery was death by God’s law now.” Everybody’s heard of things like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter back in 1850 and if you haven’t heard of that story, it’s a novel about this woman that has a child and it becomes clear that she committed adultery so she’s required to wear this letter A as punishment to tell everybody that she committed adultery and it kind of goes through her saga.

                                             The mindset has changed so much, and again, I don’t think it’s necessarily viewed as a positive thing. It’s not like people are usually going out and saying, “You should go commit an affair or have adultery,” but there are, actually, some that are saying that. As a general rule, I don’t think most people are, but if you just google on the internet, which I did yesterday, things about adultery, there are articles out there that talk about how it is healthy to have an affair, or to cheat on your spouse in some situations. In most of these articles, it was a little strange to me because you’re, on the one hand, saying, “Well, it’s bad,” but then they were saying, “It’s psychologically healthy in various ways,” so it’s a very, very different mindset that we have now. It used to be that you could get killed for doing it and now we just have a very different approach and it doesn’t really impact your divorce at all, and pragmatically, it can lead to dangers, so you want to certainly be careful if you have any sort of doubts about your partner, there’s things like STDs, obviously, it can destroy your marriage, but the mindset has changed dramatically, so that is our “Did you know?” for today, just talking, generally, about what the impact of adultery is and looking a little bit at the changes that have occurred over the years regarding adultery.

                                             All right, so today’s show, I wanted to talk specifically about the conflict dynamic that’s in family law, and there’s a couple different components of this, but this, in my mind, it’s not something that’s legal, per se. It doesn’t have to do with rights or obligations in a vacuum, which is normally what you would think of as what we’re talking about in family law, but I think that this is one of the most important pieces of any family law case because it is what underscores everything, and it is also one of the things that I find most interesting about family law because this stuff deals with relationships, deals with psychology, deals with human values and morals, it deals with the human condition, in general, and to me, it’s both fascinating and integral to family law and this is one of the pieces that I just think is indispensable. I am, of course, not a psychologist. I’m not a psychiatrist, so this is just coming from what I’ve observed and understand through my process of working in this particular area of law.

                                             Let me start with the quote that I heard from somebody before I became a lawyer. I was talking to another attorney who, at the time, practiced family law and I was talking to him about what it was to go to law school and become a lawyer and he made this comment to me that if I was going to do this, if I was going to go forward as a lawyer, I would have to redefine what I meant by right and wrong, and I remember hearing that and thinking, “What the heck?” Basically, if I’m going to become an attorney I have to go out and become amoral. I have to just throw away morals. That’s what I was hearing. I didn’t think much of it until recently when I’ve got, now, a very different perspective on this whole thing, and I think I now understand in a different way what he was saying, assuming that I’m correctly understanding, now, what he was saying.

                                             I think it has to do with understanding people’s values and morals and the conflict that they’re bringing to the table, so there’s a couple different pieces I want to go through to explain what I’m talking about here and specifically, it’s dealing with the storytelling systems that people use, the narratives that we go through, the values that we have, and the conflicts that arise from all these values.

                                             First off, let’s deal with the narrative component of this. There is this idea called narrative theory, and I think you have to understand this to make sense of the other pieces of this conflict dynamic and I’m going to get a little academic here, but I’m just stepping back for a second and trying to understand what’s happening with the whole thing. Human beings tell everything through stories. We tell everything through narratives. Everything that we do to make sense of the world around us, to reinforce the values that we have, comes through stories. It’s through narratives. We tell stories all the time.

                                             Think about little kids. You sit around, you’re watching somebody read a book and all the kids are just kind of glued to that, and there’s usually some message or theme in the book if you think about any of the children’s books you have, there’s … I have a ton of them that I’ve read to my kids, and you go through and there’s some little theme buried in each of these. We’ve learned from these stories, and it’s not just kids. As adults, we are glued like crazy to these stories. Think about the attraction of movies or books or TV, sometimes radio. When we go home at night, very often people will turn on the TV or they’ll put on a movie or they’ll sit down and read a book. All of these things are just buried with stories. There’s these narratives, these stories, that we go through and they’ll often tell us things about what it is to take moral actions, what it is to do the right thing or anything like that. Usually, the protagonist in the story don’t change or learn some valuable lesson, then we find the stories boring because that’s not how we’re wired to be attached to stuff.

                                             We’re getting this theme of what’s the right stuff? We watch people get rewarded when they do what the storyteller’s perceiving as the right stuff. We see people that aren’t doing the right things, the moral things, and they get punished, and so those themes can be all over the map. I’m going to continue this in just one sec. We’re going to take another quick break. I’m Attorney David Enevoldsen with Family Law Guys. When we return, we’re going to be talking more about this conflict dynamic, the logic, stories, emotions that go into it. If you want to call and ask any questions, you can do so by calling 602-277-KFNX. You are tuned in to Family Law Report on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX.

Speaker 6:                         Family Law Report is hosted by Family Law Guys, an Arizona Family Law Firm. Family Law Report is dedicated to confronting difficult issues related to marriage, divorce, and children. This can range everywhere from addressing the legalities and controversies in topics like gay marriage, to current problems with the divorce system, to simply providing tips to those getting married or going through a divorce or custody fight. Tune in every Sunday to Family Law Report at noon here on KFNX. If you want to know more, or to schedule an appointment with David or another one of the Family Law Guys attorneys, call 480-565-8680. That’s 480-565-8680.

David E.:                             Welcome back to Family Law Report. I’m your host, David Enevoldsen, attorney with Family Law Guys Arizona law firm, here with you every Sunday at noon on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX. If you want to reach out and schedule an appointment with myself or another attorney at my firm, Family Law Guys, you can do so by calling 480-565-8680, or you can check us out on our website at www.familylawguys.com. If you are listening and you want to call in and ask any questions or share thoughts, you can do so by calling 602-277-KFNX, and today we’ve been talking about the conflict dynamic and the drama and the emotion and the logic that goes into that, and right before break I was talking a little bit about my belief that the starting point of this whole thing is understanding narrative theory, and the idea behind this is that we make sense of the universe around us as human beings by dealing with stories.

                                             We are constantly watching stories. There’s movies, television, books. Everything around us is stories. Even the basic things we tell on a day to day basis, when we’re talking to other people, we’re conveying stories about what’s going on. Usually, in stories, there are these underlying messages, and these underlying messages will reinforce things for us. They will help us make sense of the world around us. They will give us guidelines by which to live on. They will reinforce those messages. They will tell us stories about particular people or things or how we should feel about things.

                                             Couple examples. Think about, just as a simple one, I think most people have seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’m talking about the original, not the remake, and if you watch that movie, it starts off with this child that’s been living in absolute poverty. Seems to be this super nice kid. He’s struggling with his family through life and in the end, he engages in a good deed. In the very end, he goes up to, after being yelled at and watching all these other kids get kicked out of the chocolate factory, he does this good deed by giving back this thing to Willy Wonka, and then all of a sudden, Willy Wonka jumps up and starts saying, “You won this contest. You get this whole chocolate factory.” He talks about, specifically, Willy Wonka says this one good deed that you did and then all of a sudden, Charlie wins. He gets everything. Now, he and his family, who’ve been living in this impoverished state, are rewarded, and they get everything they ever wanted.

                                             Meanwhile, we’ve got all these spoiled kids who embody all these traits that we don’t like, that because they’re embodying all these traits, they end up losing out on everything they ever wanted, which was to win this chocolate factory, so the whole story gives you this message of, “This is the way to live,” and we watch it and we reinforce that. That sets into the back of our heads, and we think, “Okay. This is the way that I’m supposed to be,” and we get the same message from other movies. Another example, the one that I like, there’s a movie called What Dreams May Come. It was an old Robin Williams movie in which this guy dies and he ends up going to heaven and while he’s there he discovers that his wife commits suicide, and because she committed suicide, she goes to hell, and so everyone around him is saying, “Don’t go to hell. Don’t go after her. You’re going to get stuck there, too. You’re going to lose out on heaven.” He says, “I don’t care. I’m going there anyway.”

                                             He ends up running down there and he almost loses himself, but in the end, he is reinforced by having his wife given back to him, he’s in heaven, he’s reunited with his whole family, and so the message that we’re given there through this movie, through this narrative that we’re watching that we indoctrinate into our brains, is family is super important and that you should do everything you can to prioritize family and do whatever you can to protect the people that you love and that everything’s going to be great.

                                             We get all these messages, and it’s not even necessarily just positive stuff, because it can be negative stuff. There’s a lot of dark movies out there, and those movies can, again, help us make sense of the universe by saying, “The universe is terrible and it’s horrible and you can’t control anything.” Whatever the message is, we are attuned, as human beings, to come back and look at those stories. Think about, also, the way that we teach things in major wisdom faiths. For example, in Christianity, the Bible is full of parables. It’s full of stories that we get all these little lessons from. Other major wisdom faiths do the exact same thing, and so, this isn’t even just in entertainment, though, and this is where this starts to bleed into what I’m talking about here, because we do this as entertainment, and the fact that we are so drawn to it in the entertainment universe, we watch a video game, and there’s a story built into that video game. We watch a movie and there’s a story built into that movie. We read a book, there’s a story built into that. Because we, as human beings, are wired to love that stuff, those things are popular because again, this is how we make sense of the universe.

                                             It bleeds into other things, too. I went to a seminar last weekend in which they were talking about marketing and one of the … They had this formula laid out for how you do everything, and they would say, “You should start every public speaking event when you’re doing a marketing activity, with a story,” because it draws people in. It catches people’s attention, and the reason that it catches people’s attention is that again, this is how we are wired. We love stories. We love to hear this stuff. Now, relate this down to your day to day level. What we do on a day to day basis is we tell stories to each other about what’s happening in our lives and we use these same stories to try to make sense of the people around us. When you’re going through a family court case you are going to start telling stories.

                                             Think about if you’ve ever been through a family court case or if you’ve ever been through some dramatic breakup or you’ve gone through something super emotional to yourself, what is the first thing most people do? They start running to their friends, their family, and they start repeating this story over and over and over and over and over ad nauseum, to the point where everyone around them is like, “Oh, my god. Please stop. I don’t want to hear this story anymore,” but, again, this is the default mechanism we do, I think, unconsciously to try to make sense of what’s going on, and so when we’re going through these little stories we start reinforcing the gossip that we’re portraying, the narrative that we’re talking about, and we do this for a couple of reasons. One is to make sense of things going around us, but also, consider that we’re very communal organisms and we want to align people around us against our enemies, and make people convinced that we’re doing the things that are right. We’re following these rules and I’ll talk about the rules in just one second.

                                             One example I’ve always given on this show is what I’ve always called the voice. Whenever you tell a story about somebody else, they may say something to you in a very normal way, but when you’re retelling this story back, when you’re doing this narrative, you want to paint this other person in this terrible way, so you will alter the voice when you’re quoting them. You’ll say something like, “Oh, well, the other person came up to me and started saying something,” and what they actually said may have been, “Hey. Did you … What happened? Why were you a couple minutes late to get the kids? Is everything okay?” Then, when you’re retelling the story to your family or friends it turns into, “What the heck happened? Why were you so late? Oh, my god. You’re a monster,” and so the voice changes and then all of a sudden you align this other person with, “Oh, my gosh. How could they talk like that to you? They’re a monster,” and now you’ve got someone on your side, you’ve reinforced this narrative in your head that this other person is evil incarnate and they should be destroyed and this is where it starts leading into the conflict dynamic.

                                             That’s part one is this whole narrative thing. There’s the narratives, the stories that we tell, the fact that we’re so drawn to them, the fact that we intuitively drift into this need to tell stories, and that we’re making sense of the universe. We’re driving our values out of these stories not only to reinforce what’s going on and sometimes that’s to affirm to ourselves, “This is what we’re supposed to be doing.”

                                             Part number two is values. Now, again, we’re communal creatures, and as communal creatures, we have to, I think, follow basic rules that are going to benefit us to make sure that we’re all working together. That can be things like, just basic example, when you see these in a lot of the major wisdom faiths, as well, stuff like it’s wrong to kill your neighbor. It is wrong to kill other people, because if you have everyone in a group, in a collective group of organisms working together and it’s okay to just start killing each other off, the system isn’t going to work very effectively to benefit everybody.

                                             Another basic example, don’t steal from your neighbor. It’s generally assumed that to steal things is a wrong thing. Most people don’t even think much of that. Same basic reason. If everybody’s able to steal from everybody else, then what’s the point of being in this collective group? We’ve got other things like don’t rape your neighbor, don’t burn your neighbor’s house down, don’t hurt other people, don’t do things that you wouldn’t want to have happen on you. That’s the golden rule, right? Don’t do unto others that which you wouldn’t want have done to you, or vice versa.

                                             That’s the foundation of our values system, and we’re also very, very drawn to these values. Now, these values get reinforced with the narratives and people are constantly asking, “What is the right thing to do?” I hear that constantly when I am dealing with family law clients, is they’ll say things like either, “What should I be doing? What is the right thing for me to do?” Or, “I want him or her to just do the right thing.” I’ve heard that a lot, and it’s always pointing to these value things that we define. Now, the problem is that we can say some very simple ones, like, it’s wrong to kill, and most people will accept that idea, although some people don’t think that’s necessarily the case, but when you get into more specifics, values deal with all sorts of little basic things and they can be all over the map. Once we’ve articulated, again, they’re very generic, it’s conceivable that people would come out with different things, but they’re not necessarily. Consider some basic examples that we talk about as being acceptable in our culture, things like don’t kill, don’t injure other people physically, and look at the past, and you can see how these notions have changed. As a society, we have come to accept certain value points.

                                             One simple example. Let’s say right now it’s a very different perspective on how it is to treat someone of a different color than you would have had 300 years ago. You go back in time, it was okay to engage in slavery. It was okay to beat someone or rape someone in these situations, completely deprive them of basic human rights, and if you said something to the contrary, you were the crazy person, because that was conflicting with the normal social values at that time. Now, obviously, I’m not in any way advocating that that’s what should happen, and clearly, today as a society, we have a very different viewpoint, but this, to me, shows that there’s this shift in values in the core stuff that you can have that is very different from how it could potentially be in different ways.

                                             All right. We’re going to take another quick break. I’m Attorney David Enevoldsen with Family Law Guys. When we return we’ll be talking about the conflict dynamic, drama. If you want to call in and ask any questions you can do so by calling 602-277-KFNX. You are tuned in to Family Law Report on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX.

Speaker 6:                         Family Law Report is hosted by Family Law Guys, an Arizona Family Law Firm. Family Law Report is dedicated to confronting difficult issues related to marriage, divorce, and children. This can range everywhere from addressing the legalities and controversies in topics like gay marriage, to current problems with the divorce system, to simply providing tips to those getting married or going through a divorce or custody fight. Tune in every Sunday to Family Law Report at noon here on KFNX. If you want to know more, or to schedule an appointment with David or another one of the Family Law Guys attorneys, call 480-565-8680. That’s 480-565-8680.

David E.:                             Welcome back to Family Law Report. I’m your host, David Enevoldsen, attorney with Family Law Guys, an Arizona law firm, here with you every Sunday at noon on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX. If you want to reach out and schedule an appointment with myself or another attorney from my firm, Family Law Guys, you can do so by calling 480-565-8680, or you can check us out on our website at www.familylawguys.com. If you are listening and you want to call in and ask any questions or share thoughts, you can do so by calling 602-277-KFNX, and today we have been talking about the conflict dynamic that is present in the family court process because I see a lot of conflict and what we’ve been talking about so far is a couple of pieces that I think feed into this whole thing. One is the normal human proclivity for storytelling, this narrative theory, this idea that everything we do to either make sense of the world around us or to talk about values is buried in stories, and we’re intrinsically drawn to these stories and these narratives in everything we do, in movies, in television, in video games, and radio and just normal gossip that we have.

                                             Second is the value piece of this, and this is where we were right before break. I was talking about the fact that we’ve got some very broad brush values that we, as a society, hold, but then we narrow it down into much more minor value points, so I had given the example before of the fact that these can be so all over the map in that there’s some things we tend to take for granted, like, for example, it’s sort of assumed that most people will tell you, should a person of color be treated equally to a person who is white? Most people are automatically going to say, “Yes, of course,” but go back several hundred years and that was not at all the case. You can have other things. Earlier we talked in the “Did you know?” about adultery. Most people are going to tell you, “That’s wrong.” Most people today, I can’t imagine very many people would say, “You should murder someone or execute someone because they committed adultery. I think that most people would find that pretty shocking now.

                                             There’s been a pretty dramatic shift in the values, but it can be much smaller things, much, much simpler things. For example, you could have things that are not that dramatic, like, “It’s just wrong to not clean out the coffee pot when you’re the last one to take the coffee out of the pot at the office,” or, “It’s just wrong not to put paper in the copier if it runs out,” or this is one that I said today and yesterday to my kids, “Put the toilet seat down. It’s wrong to leave it up.” You can have these little tiny rules, these little tiny values that we create, and reinforce all of this stuff through the narratives, and that’s kind of putting these pieces together now. We watch the stories, we have these little rules that we buried into it. We reinforce the rules, not only the values that we’ve got but also, simultaneously, the values about various people and the particular value that any person is going to have.

                                             Think about things like Jerry Springer. Maybe I’m dating myself now in talking about that, or Maury Povich. Those were some of those shows where they would always bring somebody out, there was some story underlying that person, and you would watch them, and you would have a rule that was intrinsically built into whatever they were talking about. Somebody was cheating or somebody had multiple girlfriends or there was some crazy fact pattern come out. The audience would boo them. We’re reinforced with this idea, we’re drawn to it intrinsically. People who love Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, or stories like that, don’t even know why, and you lock in, and you just want to boo this person, like, “No. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re a monster.”

                                             We’re so ready to do this, and so we’re having this two-fold effect. One is we’re aligning against somebody else and the other is we’re reinforcing these underlying values. We do this on a day to day level when some sort of conflict is going on. We tell these gossipy stories. Again, remember, the first thing people want to do when they’re going through some sort of conflict is to start reiterating the story and saying, “Oh, my gosh. Can’t you believe this is crazy?” I do this, too. I have a ruling from a judge that I don’t agree with, and then I run to all my friends and I say, “This judge is crazy. I can’t believe they’re doing this,” or, “This other attorney did X, Y, Z to me.” Now, I don’t actually think these people are necessarily crazy. Well, sometimes I do, but the idea is that intrinsically, intuitively, we want to run to somebody else, tell the story about what happened, and then get confirmation that this other person is crazy, that they’re violating some basic rule tenet and that they should be evil incarnate, reinforcing these values and reaffirming everybody around me is going to be aligned against these other people.

                                             Another couple things that strike me is stories about detectives. Detective shows are always you’ve got to catch the bad guy. The bad guy’s done something terrible. If you recall the show Cops, what was the song that they would always play at the beginning? “Bad boys, bad boys. What you gonna do?” That whole thing is built around this idea that the other people are bad. What they are doing is violating the law, and the law is super valuable and cops are great and cops aren’t doing anything wrong, and if you just do these right things, we’re going to align against these bad criminals and then you’re going to be good if you’re not doing the things that they’re doing and we’re going to align against them.

                                             Put all these pieces together, now. What happens in the family court process is you run into these budding of heads of basic values and it doesn’t necessarily have to be these broad brush things. You can have people that agree that it’s wrong to kill somebody else, but they, through whatever’s happened in their lives, they’re reinforcing these different things that each one is looking at. Really classic example, in my mind, is parenting styles. You’ll have people, for example, that one parent feels like it’s super important, their value structure is built around being regimented, being super disciplined, like going to bed at a certain time, having the kid do their homework at a certain time, making sure that everything is right on task, and meanwhile, you can have another parent who says, “You have to enjoy life and you can’t be that regimented and when you’re going out and you’re having something that regimented, you’re a monster because all you’re doing is turning the child into this machine.”

                                             Meanwhile, the parent that is regimented is looking at the other parent and saying, “You’re just a big flake and all you want to do is goof off and mess around and you’re never doing anything that’s right,” and so now, you’ve got this conflict that starts blowing up and both parties are going to fixate using those value structures to reinforce these narratives around them to increase the idea that this other person is evil incarnate, and then everything just starts to blow up, because you come in and you start screaming at the other person about all these things that they’ve done that are wrong based on your value set that’s in the back of your head. Meanwhile, the other person’s doing exactly the same thing. They’re saying, this other person, that you are wrong and that you are creating this value set that’s completely wrong, but they’re operating out of their own value set.

                                             There’s this idea called the Karpman drama triangle, and if you’ve heard me in the past, I’m kind of obsessed with it, and the idea underlying it is that you have … People love to inject themselves into this drama triangle, and in the drama triangle, there’s three points. On the three points there is a victim, a persecutor, and a rescuer, and within that, the victim is somebody who feels that they’ve been wronged. They’re somebody that looks at somebody else and says, “You’ve done this horrible thing to me. You have wronged me. You’ve hurt me, and you’re a monster because of it.” You run to the rescuer. You tell this narrative to this person. You reaffirm that this other person is a monster, that they are a terrible person and that they’ve done some wrong to you. Now, you’re aligned against this other person that you’ve labeled as the persecutor, and the persecutor is the one that’s done the wrong to you.

                                             Very often, the problem with this drama triangle dynamic is it inflames conflict. If I just take a classic example, this is one I like to use, say you have just actual domestic violence and somebody’s beating the crap out of their wife and so the wife runs to some guy and says, “Oh, my gosh. Can you believe he did all this stuff to me?” The rescuer, or the person that they’ve run to says, “Oh, my gosh. I’ve heard this a million times. If I just had five minutes alone in a room with that guy, I would tell him what’s what.” Then, let’s imagine that happens. He runs over to the guy, the abuser, beats up the abuser, gives him a black eye, whatever. Now the abuser’s going to go back to the wife and say, “What did you tell this guy? You told him all these lies. Now I’m going to hit you more,” and everything just keeps blowing up and blowing up.

                                             The difficult part of this, and these things can pop out of the littlest stuff. Let me give you an example here of something that happened in a community laundromat I went to one time. I was going. All the machines were taken and I was in there waiting and waiting and waiting and I was getting irritated that this person wasn’t there and I kept thinking, “This is kind of screwy because I’m always making a big deal of trying to be there right on time to get my stuff out so other people can use the dryer,” and then finally, this person showed up and … Well, actually, they were using the washing machine, excuse me. Finally, this person starts moving their stuff into the dryer and this woman had kind of a meltdown over the fact that somebody hadn’t cleaned out the lint trap. This is a pretty basic thing that you … She was fixated on one value set. I was fixated on a totally different value set. We could’ve come into conflict in that.

                                             The big question is what do we do with all this stuff? Because now that we’ve got these basic concepts in place, we’ve got a family court system that is, in many ways, very conducive to inflaming all this because we want to come back and tell these narratives and getting sucked into these narratives, these stories that represent these conflict of values can just make everything worse, so the key to this whole thing in my perspective is to get away from these narratives, number one. Get away from trying to tell this story about how the other person has done something wrong, and they’re going to keep doing the same thing about you. They’re going to keep trying to point the finger. You’re going to feel wronged, just like in this drama triangle, and you’re going to combat. Just be super careful about that. Try to resolve the issue and not try to inflame the narrative. Don’t try to go back to … I’ve heard counselors before say, “Let’s not talk about what’s happened in the past. Let’s talk about how we’re going to fix this thing going forward.” I think that’s one of the key pieces of this whole equation. It’s just so important to not get stuck in that narrative, that conflict dynamic to just calm it all down.

                                             All right, that is about all the time we have for today’s show. You have been listening to Family Law Report. I am your host, David Enevoldsen, an attorney with Family Law Guys, an Arizona law firm, and we’ve been talking today about the conflict dynamic. Join us again next week on Sunday at noon for more of the latest on family law here on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX, and remember, it is really important to talk to a family law attorney if you’ve got a case going on. Check us out on our website, www.familylawguys.com. Thank you all for listening, and have a great week.

Speaker 6:                         Report is hosted by Family Law Guys, an Arizona Family Law Firm. Family Law Report is dedicated to confronting difficult issues related to marriage, divorce, and children. This can range everywhere from addressing the legalities and controversies in topics like gay marriage, to current problems with the divorce system, to simply providing tips to those getting married or going through a divorce or custody fight. Tune in every Sunday to Family Law Report at noon here on KFNX. If you want to know more, or to schedule an appointment with David or another one of the Family Law Guys attorneys, call 480-565-8680. That’s 480-565-8680.

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