The artist, the engineer and the emotional divorce

The artist, the engineer and the emotional divorce.

When I was in law school, a comment by my Constitutional law professor, Robert Sedler, remains imprinted in my mind.  Professor Sedler commented something along the lines of: “the problems with stereotypes is that they are usually true.”  When I first heard this, I disregarded it as having no purpose or value.  After all, what do stereotypes have to do with the study of law?   Almost 25 years later a single stereotype appears to be true in Michigan divorce and family law cases.


While no two people are alike, experience suggests that most people express themselves predominantly as an artist or an engineer.  While I am certain there is some perfectly balanced individual that has both qualities, that person is likely as elusive as a unicorn.

  • The artist can look at an abstract painting with an emotional reaction.  The engineer will look at the same painting and see nothing.
  • Give an engineer a detailed plan of the universe and he/she finds order, the artist sees nothing but scribble.
  • To the artist, fairness is tempered by happiness.  To the engineer, fairness equals happiness.
  • The artist is more willing to give something up in exchange of peace while to the engineer peace requires equality (or better).
  • In the context of divorce, the artist arrives at the attorneys office without an understanding of the nature and extent of the marital estate.  Ask an artist the balance on their mortgage and they respond with a blank stare.  The engineer arrives at the attorneys office with a three ring binder, containing every asset, liability and an approximate value of each and every item of personal property acquired during the course of the marriage.
  • The artist is more attentive to children than the engineer, attending every school function, taking the kids to the doctor and is responsible for the social calendar.  The engineer believes quality parenting time is more important than the quantity of parenting time.

Just like a square peg in a round hole, you cannot make an artist an engineer or an engineer an artist.  It simply is not possible.

Both the artist and the engineer require special attention by a divorce lawyer.  It is the job of the divorce lawyer to understand both the artist and the engineer.  When representing an artist, the divorce lawyer needs to become the engineer, and provide an understanding to the artist of the nature and extent of the marital estate.  When representing an engineer, the divorce lawyer needs to become an artist, and provide perspective on emotional issues, often related to parenting time.

When thinking about a conclusion to this article, I was reminded of an article I wrote several years ago on emotions and divorce something shared equally, but differently by the artist and the engineer.  A revised version of the article is below:

The emotional divorce

There are two paths in every divorce, the legal path and the emotional path.

The legal path tries to be objective like the engineer. There are statutes and case law that spell out in particular how a court should decide issues of custody, property division, child support, and alimony. A qualified divorce lawyer understands the statutes and the case law and applies them with argument to their client’s favor in order to advance their goals.

The emotional divorce path is subjective, like the artist. The artist is often better situated to address anger, jealously, and other deep emotional triggers than an engineer.

The emotional path is more difficult to navigate. There are no rules, rather feelings. It is the lawyer’s job to counsel and caution you on both the legal and emotional paths of your case. It is not uncommon for simple “legal” cases to become complex (and expensive) “emotional” cases.

So what can a client do to tame the emotional divorce component? I offer three recommendations:

First, do not have extramarital sexual contacts or an affair during the divorce process and if you are, use discretion. Nothing seems to stir up more emotion than the “other man” or “other woman”.   It is normal for an illicit lover to invoke an emotional response from another party. This emotional response can make it difficult to settle an otherwise simple case, and make your divorce an emotional divorce and if you are having an affair.  Sometimes the legal perspective is different than the psychological perspective. So from a legal perspective, if you are having and affair, do not tell your spouse.  Nothing legally good comes from the disclosure.

Second, do not share your troubles with the world. Talking with a good friend, clergy or trusted family member can be therapeutic. However, discussing your troubles with everyone you cross paths with can be damaging. While you may feel better sharing your troubles with the world, it rarely seems to help. Neighborhood gossip tends to incite conflict in a divorce rather than solve your problems.  Facebook and other social network sites are not a proper forum to air your dirty laundry.

Third, employ a qualified therapist. A therapist is best situated to help you navigate an emotional divorce. However, finding the right therapist is often difficult. A good fit is a must for therapy to be therapeutic and a bad fit can be harmful. Rely on friends, family or your physician for a referral.

Both the artist and the engineer require special attention in a divorce case.  We want to help you manage your situation.

About Findling Law

I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades.  The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.

That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.

We want to help you manage your situation. Let our exceptional legal team help you . . .


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By:  Daniel Findling

About the author

Daniel Findling is a divorce and family law attorney in practice for over 20 years and managing director of Findling Law, P.L.C., a divorce law firm with attorneys who share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their life without compromising principles.   Daniel is a proud father of three, private pilot, prolific blogger and lecturer.  A 1971 graduate of Shaarey Zedek Beth Hayeld, very good student award, a 1993 graduate of Wayne State University Bachelor of Public Affairs, magna cum laude and a 1997 graduate of Wayne State University Juris Doctor, cum laude.  A member of Pi Sigma Alpha – National Political Science Honors Society, recipient of the Bronze Key Certificate – Wayne State University Law School, a DBusiness Top Lawyer, Super Lawyer, Crains Detroit Business Top Lawyer, Hour Detroit Top Lawyer and Avvo Top Divorce Attorney.

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