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Practical Advice from a Family Law Mediator

Filling In the Blanks

Filling In the Blanks

Angela Lee
August 9, 2016

I always try to encourage my clients to avoid making assumptions about things they don’t know for absolute certain. “Avoid filling in blanks.”

“Filling In the Blanks”

I always try to encourage my clients to avoid making assumptions about things they don’t know for absolute certain. “Avoid filling in blanks.” When in the middle of conflict, our brains are flooded with a nearly uncontrollable urge to assume the worst of others. This is especially true if recently separated from a spouse. We used to know everything: what they had for breakfast, what time they went to bed. Now they live somewhere else, doing god-knows-what with god-knows-who. One such common “blank” I’ve seen people fill in is if the bank account is lower than we thought it should be. It is natural to automatically go to “that rat who cheated on me is trying to hide money somewhere.” 

Similarly, in probate disputes, all the complicated baggage of a lifetime of family dynamics tends to bubble to the surface. If handling Mom’s estate is taking longer than we think it should, we can’t help but wonder if that brother of ours is doing it on purpose because we declined to attend his new wife’s thanksgiving dinner last year. After all, he’s always been vindictive… remember the time he popped your bike tires on purpose because you rode his to the neighbor’s without asking?    

Negative energy is inevitable in conflict situations, especially those involving the legal system where anxiety is generally at a lifetime peak. The thing to remember, though, is that it isn’t helpful in any way. It is important to be as objective as possible. This can only be accomplished by gathering facts. Current facts. Wonder about the bank account? Ask for a statement. Not sure what’s taking so long with the probate? Ask about specific facts such as “What is the next step?”  or “What are the challenges?” Resist the urge to spend your energy and time filling in blanks with negative assumptions. Ultimately you will be doing a favor by limiting negative thoughts to things you know for certain. 

-Angela Lee,J.D.
Attorney and Mediator



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