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Pick Your Battles and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Nov 23, 2022 | Written by: William J. Rudnik, Esq. |

You may have heard the phrases “they won the battle but lost the war,” “pick your battles,” and “don’t sweat the small stuff.”  I believe these words of wisdom are interrelated and provide us with prudent guidance in divorce situations, as well as in everyday life.  Both in life and in divorce situations specifically, we want to focus on the big picture and not “battle” over every small issue.

In a divorce, the parties are often highly emotional and sometimes tend to focus on every small issue and turn it into a battle.  Sometimes this relates to one party feeling the need to try to control all of the issues, while it may also relate to one party pushing back against what he/she perceives is the other party trying to control all of the issues.  Worrying over every small issue leads to additional stress and attorney’s fees, and a loss of focus on the more important issues.

The goal in every divorce case is to get the case settled in a fair manner as efficiently as possible.  The attorney should guide the client to maintain focus on settling the main issues in the case, to avoid the additional stress and attorney’s fees that come from battling over every single issue.

While there certainly is a difference in the stress levels in cases that settle/resolve as compared to those that are highly contested, the financial difference can be substantial.  It can mean the difference between spending a few thousand dollars versus tens of thousands of dollars (or even more) on attorney’s fees.  As an attorney, I would prefer to have more cases that resolve sooner rather than fewer cases that consume more time and result in substantially higher attorney’s fees, simply because the quicker cases are usually less taxing on my clients.

With any issue that comes up in a divorce, each party must decide whether it is worth the aggravation, the stress, and the financial cost of the “battle”.  While certainly there are situations where there are significant differences on major issues and it may be worth spending the money and incurring the added stress of going to “battle,” the smaller issues should be easily resolved.  Pick your battles and don’t sweat the small stuff.  There is no reason the parties in a divorce should be arguing over one hour of parenting time every week or a few dollars of either child support or alimony each month.  Clients have the ability to pick their battles and they should do so only when there is a significant issue that is important enough to spend the time and money, otherwise parties need to learn to “let go” of the smaller issues.

Divorce can create stress that is not far behind events like the unexpected loss of a job or a physical illness/medical issue.  It is well-documented that high levels of stress are extremely bad for your health and potentially can take years off your life, as well as decrease the quality of your current life.  Clients should not suffer through a highly contested divorce that causes high levels of stress if it can be avoided by resolving issues.  In addition, divorce lawyers have a joke that they often tell clients: “Do you want to pay for your own vacations, cars, and children’s college educations, or those of your lawyer?”.  Avoid substantial attorney’s fees by resolving your divorce issues and, at a minimum, do not stress and waste time and money on small items. 

Choosing our battles and not battling over the smaller issues (i.e., not sweating the small stuff) can also help us focus on the bigger picture.  When smaller issues can be resolved, the more likely the parties will be in the right frame of mind to resolve the larger issues.  This is a tactic often used by mediators, where they start by trying to resolve “easy” or “smaller” issues to build momentum toward the larger issues.  While nobody “wins” in a divorce, and hopefully the divorce is not a ”war,” the parties can “surrender” on the smaller issues (losing the “battle”) and “win” the “war” by settling the case. 

We should also follow these lessons in life; we should not sweat the small stuff and we should not battle over everything that may bother us.  Battling over everything is a recipe for disaster in our relationships with co-workers, friends, family, and significant others.


William J. Rudnik, Esq. is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC.  He is certified by the NJ Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Law Attorney.  In addition to handling divorce litigation, he is qualified as a Mediator in the field of Family Law under the New Jersey Court rules, and he is trained in Collaborative Divorce. Contact Mr. Rudnik at 908-735-5161 or via email.

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Any statements made herein are solely for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice.