By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.
Why is it so hard to say that two letter word? No. No! No. Many parties going through a divorce are put in positions where they need to say exactly that – no. This often arises when the soon-to-be spouse asks a favor of them, or their lawyer offers a settlement suggestion, or a question is posed when testifying.
It is okay to say no. It really is. Oftentimes, not only is it okay, but it is a good thing. Boundaries need to be established as the intact marriage is morphing to a divorce. Declining a request from the spouse starts firming those boundaries.
A lawyer is simply to advise the client. The client gets to make the final choices. If the lawyer makes a suggestion, the client has every right to disagree. It is the client’s case, the client’s life, and the client’s facts that are known by the client better than anyone else. Lawyers appreciate an actual discussion with clients, and this kind of frank talk usually evolves into a team effort with a thorough plan.
If the answer to a question is in the negative, the fact that it is asked on the stand does not change the accuracy or appropriateness of the answer. It is okay to say no in testimony, as long as it is accurate. If there is a need to explain the answer, counsel can assist with follow up questions.
Perhaps the greatest need for saying “no” is when, during the divorce process, a party is simply overwhelmed. That can happen with deadlines, and emotions, and concerns about the future, and trying to keep life normal for the children, and, and and… When asked to do something more, such as man the school bake sale or run carpool, it is okay to say no. In fact, it is a good thing.