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Health & Spirit

Person to Person: How to fight a fair fight in a legal dispute

Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen, Tribune News Service on

Published in Helping Yourself

Are you caught up in a divorce, property dispute, or conflict over job issues at work?

If so, your situation will always include "relationship" issues. You have to deal with real people in the midst of the madness.

We live in a world where neighbors, lovers, tenants, landlords, teachers, and business professionals will send some heavy-duty problems our way -- sooner or later.

While it's always tempting to do some name-calling or fantasize about duking it out with our fists, most of us know this is fantasy. Sooner or later, we have to pull ourselves together and deal realistically with the problem.

Legal issues are somewhat different from personal disputes because they usually involve monetary gain or loss.

Here are some tips:

-- Put your emotions in a separate basket from the facts. For example, if you've caught your husband of 15 years cheating on you, it pays to make mental notes about protecting your financial interests right away.

-- Get outside advice to protect yourself. Let's say that you and your neighbor are fighting over a property line. Visiting a lawyer can save you a lot of trouble. Why? Speaking for yourself will likely escalate the tension.

-- Don't veer away from decent behavior. Once you've acted like a complete fool, it's hard to regain your inner calm. Stay centered; it'll help you to think straight. The mind you must depend on to have a good outcome is your own.

"When someone is throwing mud at you, it's tempting to throw mud back," says a woman we know who is filing for divorce. "Never in my life has it been harder to concentrate. I just keep picturing my husband and the other woman together. It sickens me, but I will force myself to focus on saving my assets and getting my fair share."

We all know that staying unemotional is likely impossible in a hurtful situation. None of us are that tough or cold. However, part of the day, we can deal with our emotions. And, part of each day, we can focus on logical steps to take.

Here are some strategies that can help you cope:

-- Keep a notebook of steps you must take. This might be making phone calls or calling someone for advice. Take at least three steps each day. Consistency is the key. Don't take a hit-and-miss approach to figuring out the problem.

-- Give someone a chance to help, even if there is tension between you. For example, ask your ex-to-be if he or she will make a list of your assets together. Having some cooperation is better than none. But, don't falsely rely on help the other person will not give.

-- Don't put friends and family in the middle. For example, don't ask your sister to call your ex-husband to ask if he will pay child support. Do that yourself. Present yourself as a competent adult, no matter how crazy things seem.

-- Ask what the offender is really after. For example, if a tenant tries to avoid paying rent, that's one issue. But, if a tenant is dealing drugs out of your property, get the drug task force involved. There's nothing worse than under-estimating your opponent.

Managing yourself well, along with the steps needed to resolve the issue, is something you absolutely must do yourself. No one else can do it for you.

(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe at Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

(c)2017 Person to Person

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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