HEART VS HEAD: Making Wise Decisions in your Divorce

By Felicia Soleil, Attorney/Mediator

When facing a difficult decision, are you overcome by your emotions or do you tend be strictly fact based? In my work as a mediator or lawyer for clients facing separation and divorce, I see clients who acknowledge their responses to settlement options may be influenced by too much emotion. Likewise, I see clients who too often use the phrase, “Let’s just treat this like a business,” because to delve into the emotional components of their situation would be too painful.

Wisdom resides in the middle...of your heart and your head

When I become aware that a client seems either overly influenced by their emotions or leaning too hard on the facts to the point of self-sabotage, I suggest they consider the following perspective. Imagine a spectrum for handling challenging decision-making, with emotions on one end and facts on the other end.  Wisdom resides in the middle. In other words, wise decisions are made from analyzing facts while paying attention to the emotional reactions potentially triggered by those facts, and not relying on either factor exclusively.

When mediation clients arrive for a scheduled meeting, I need to be aware of their particular approach that day to be able to make sure they are aware of how their mood may affect their decisions. Can they sift through their emotional reactions to allow the weighing of the facts?  Just as important, can they break open their tough fact-based shell to allow themselves to experience the emotional impacts these decisions may be having on them? If the answer is yes to either, chances are the issue they are contemplating will be resolved in the best way to meet their long-term needs, because they’ll be better able to sift through all the noise to make the wise choice.

Wise choices in action

Two examples come to mind from my practice. The first one involves decisions about the family home. The second one pertains to decisions about children. With respect to the home, it is very common for clients to come to their separation and divorce emotionally attached to their home and unwilling to compromise on relinquishing it at the expense of their financial security. Obviously, holding on to a home provides a different kind of security for them during a chaotic time in their lives. However, this purely emotional perspective can lead to serious detrimental financial issues in the long term.

A more fact-based approach to the issue of retaining a family home might be presented as one or both parties believing there is no alternative other than to immediately place the home up for sale, without consideration of timing, effects on children, or associated costs (whether financial or emotional) that otherwise might be reduced if time and thought are applied to this decision.

A wise decision for the house would weigh both the practical, financial and logistical issues along with the intangible, emotional, and other feelings-based issues so that an ultimate decision can be made that make sense financially in both the short term and the long term, as well as provides the comfort that a familiar home base can provide during times of family transition.

The second example of emotional versus fact-based thinking is when a residential schedule for the children is being decided. I know parents want to see their children as much as possible, and that sometimes leads to clients suggesting multiple exchanges during a school week and/or long commutes just so a parent can spend a few hours with their children. However, parents who apply the wisdom approach can acknowledge everyone’s feelings, including their children’s, while exploring the practicalities of negatively impacting their children’s routines that keep them healthy and successful in school, while maximizing interaction during everyone’s time off from other responsibilities, and agreeing to be flexible rather than adopting rigid schedules.

Follow your heart, but remember your brain!  

The bottom line is that professionals are here to help you sort through these conflicting perspectives and find a path to wisdom. Or as a recent phrase from my “thought a day” calendar suggests: “Follow your heart, but take your brain with you!”

Felicia Soleil is a family law attorney and mediator located in Gig Harbor. She helps her clients in achieving resolutions that foster both a compassionate ending to their union and a healthy new beginning for them and their families so they can focus on moving on, rather than simply moving out.  Felicia can be reached at 253-853-6940.  All consultations are strictly confidential.


Published on May 7, 2020