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DivorceProperty DivisionIs rock, paper, scissors or picking odds/evens a better way to settle a case?

June 9, 2006

One federal judge, miffed at lawyers who could not agree on how to handle a dispute, ordered the lawyers to appear on the courthouse steps and resolve their petty squabble by playing rock, paper, scissors.  Judge Makes ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ Ruling.  Perhaps this is a good method of alternative dispute resolution.

Clearly this judge would not have the patience to hear matrimonial disputes where the litigants oft argue like little children over personal property of little or no value.  Combative parties to a divorce will spend thousands of dollars on attorneys’ fees and court costs to fight about some object  of personal property, not because they really want it, but because their spouse expressed some interest in retaining it.  The tug-of-war over assets could easily deplete the marital estate so that in the end, after paying all the costs of litigation, there is nothing left to fight about.   I have often thought that when my clients become so entrenched in this type of battle, I would be doing them a service if I simply took my opposing counsel shopping and merely bought an identical set of dishes so that each spouse could “win.”

I think this Judge was correct in forcing the litigants to recognize their foolishness. Perhaps, rather than enabling some of the petty disputes that are common in a divorce, we should force the parties to recognize their counter-productive and immature behavior. This will certainly help to reduce the over crowded court calendars and reduce the cost of obtaining a divorce.

If dialog and reasonable negotiations fail, we can always resort to rock, paper scissors.

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