Monday, February 25, 2013
Disputing parents divide the pie
When parents locked in litigation complain to me about legal fees draining their financial resources, I tell them a story related by Francisco Ingouville in his book, Onthe Same Side.
Two boys who had received a pie in payment for a job couldn’t agree how to share it. When their argument turned violent, an older neighbor stepped in and asked what was going on. After learning what the argument was about, the neighbor said that what they needed was an impartial arbitrator, a role he immediately took on. After bringing out a knife and cutting the pie in two, he inspected the two halves. Concluding that one piece was larger than the other, he picked up the larger piece and bit off a large portion. He compared the two halves again but now it was the other half that seemed larger. Without hesitating, he applied the same strategy to the now larger piece, taking a sizeable bite. But once again, the half that was too small was now the larger of the two. The two boys, who were still at odds, stood and watched as their halves grew smaller in turn until there was nothing left. Yet no one could deny that the neighbor had imparted justice, since the boys received exactly the same.
Disputing parents who rely upon third parties to resolve their disputes risk more than financial resources—their pieces of the pie. They also lose the opportunity to build a positive working relationship for co-parenting in the future, to create novel solutions, to feel pride in a job well done, and to make decisions based upon their interests rather accept an authority’s decisions based upon their legal rights.