Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls – Five Ways to Avoid Stress During a Divorce or Custody Fight

Some of us have already trekked through, or are currently sludging through, the stress-filled streets of a divorce or custody fight. If you’ve been there, you know. The sheer volume of information necessary for property division alone can be overwhelming. The intensity of the hurt and anger from the breakdown of the marriage can feel unbearable. And the deep fears involving custody can overtake us. Luckily for us, TLC provides a catchy chorus of family law advice. Here are five ways to avoid stress during a divorce or custody fight, brought to you by TLC’s song “Waterfalls.”

  1. “Don’t” – I have said it before, and I will continue to say it: just don’t. The other person involved in your case may know exactly how to push your buttons. Or, that person’s apathy may push you to the brink of sanity. DO NOT ENGAGE. Do I make this point every single time I write a blog? Yes. Is there a reason? Yes. This is by far the greatest mistake any client or opposing party can make during a divorce or custody battle. Every text and email you send could be an exhibit that could come back and bite you later. Just “don’t”.
  2. “Don’t go chasing” – As I said above, the paperwork in a divorce case can be mountainous. Oftentimes, the other side will send you hundreds of questions and requests for documents. According to the rules of civil procedure, only documents within your possession, control, or custody are to be provided. What does this mean for you? If you have the actual papers in your home or workplace, or they are readily accessible on a website or app, you need to get the papers and provide them to your attorney. You do not have to go chasing documents from your bank, your pension provider, your employer, or your investment provider. Is it easier for your attorney to know those numbers and have that information? Sure. But if the process becomes overwhelming, limit yourself to what you can actually provide and leave the rest to your attorney or the other side. You do not need to chase.
  3. “Don’t go chasing waterfalls” – when you are reaching resolution with the other side (whether with attorneys or without), try to reach agreements on the smaller issues first. If you and the other party disagree entirely on what the parenting time plan will look like, try to tackle smaller issues like agreeing on doctors, dentists, and schooling. Read through the South Dakota Parenting Guidelines ( together and try to agree on holidays, since a holiday schedule will likely look the same regardless of the actual parenting time plan. Take on smaller issues first. See how it feels to co-parent or agree with that person. Then, take that momentum and feeling into the larger issues. Don’t go chasing waterfalls.
  4. “Please stick to the . . . lakes” – waterfalls are beautiful and majestic and powerful. But when you are already reeling from the emotions of a divorce or custody battle, beautiful and majestic and powerful things can be overwhelming. Instead, you need a calm presence around you, not one that threatens to overtake you. Counseling and certain therapy groups are perfect to provide serenity in the midst of a storm. Please do not be afraid to seek out counseling. Speak to someone who will care for your emotions and provide a safe environment. Perhaps you should seek out a trusted friend who will listen and hear. You need a “lake” during this time – there’s no shame in the therapy game.
  5. “Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to” – familiarity feels safe. When a spouse of many years is no longer a constant in your life, you should continue with the other constants in your life. If you regularly attended church before your divorce, keep going. If you enjoyed working out before the custody battle arose, make your gym trips a priority. If you had weekly coffee dates with your best friend before everything blew up, do not stop meeting with that person. Your world will feel like it is shaking during the battle. It helps to have familiar landmarks to remind you of where you are and who you are. Please, as much as you can, stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.

Divorce and custody issues will be stressful. This great 90s throwback could be just what you need. When you feel your blood starting to boil, close out of your text messages and your email; and let T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli soothe your soul.


The Power of Humility in Custody and Divorce Cases

Betty White’s rendition of “Get Low” in The Proposal is one for the ages. Most of us understand the song itself has very little to do with custody, divorce, or humility. But Lil’ Jon has unwittingly provided some of the best legal advice around when dealing with an emotionally-charged situation like divorce or custody: get low. Let’s work it out.

Humility is defined by Google as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.”  Another source, the Bible, states: “do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.” Romans 12:3.  Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Jesus, Martin Luther King, and Abraham Lincoln will go down in history as some of the greatest leaders of all time.  They come from different backgrounds, different religions, and different ethnicities.  What is the one characteristic each of these individuals shares? Humility.  There are two main aspects of humility we can glean from their lives in our own efforts to “get low”.

  1. Humility can feel like martyrdom: if you are in an emotional relationship or the aftermath of an emotional relationship, it can feel like you are the only one sacrificing when it comes to compromise. You may even feel like giving in or coming to an agreement with the other person is agony. Ye,t if you approach disagreements or discord with sober judgment, understanding how you contributed to the situation, you think more clearly and rationally. And good decisions come from rational thinking. Am I promulgating that you live in or agree to situations which are dangerous to you or your children? Heck no. But, instead of always placing blame on the other side for each issue you face, review your own actions with humility. It may not feel like it, but humility (“getting low”) is a powerful tool when used correctly.
  2. Humility’s power may not be immediate, but it is lasting: when you think about the people listed above, most were not appreciated or praised during their lifetime. Rather, their impact was felt many generations later. J esus, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi, and Abraham Lincoln were so despised during their time that they were murdered. And yet, there are few humans who have had a greater impact on the world. In almost every custody case I have seen, the person who exercised humility during the hard times becomes the parent that the children eventually choose on their own. It may not happen immediately. It may not happen for years. But it will happen.

Getting low is hard (especially for those of us who know this song well, which also means our joints are not what they used to be). Getting low in emotional situations is even harder. But humility is worth the effort. And, humility will leave you, in the long term, 3-6-9 so darn fine.

Family Law Legal Advice from Vanilla Ice

My name is Mindy Werder, and as you may have already seen, I am a new attorney with Lynn Jackson. I have been practicing for almost nine years, and I have handled a gamut of family law issues in that time. Because of that oftentimes tumultuous tenure, I offer three words of advice taken from the great philosopher, Vanilla Ice: stop, collaborate, and listen. Let’s break it down.


Divorce and custody issues are emotional. They involve the deepest parts of the human experience: love and children. And while there is no fault in feeling passionately about either or both, emotions cause unintended hurt, reckless words, and atypical reactions. When the rude email comes, when the phone dings with that tasteless text, or when the idea for a perfect low blow social media post arises, take a breath. Take a minute, an hour, or even longer. Respond with thought, if a response is necessary. The low road comes back to bite us in the end, and there is plenty of room on the high road. In the immortal words of Scott Hoy, made famous by Jimmy Fallon, “please stop”.


According to Google, the definition of collaborate is to “work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something.” See generally Google, self-explanatory, available at (in case you live under a rock). Whether you and your significant other have children, a business, wealth, or sometimes debt, you have created something together. And while we are here to step in if working jointly is no longer possible, feelings and money can be saved if you just give collaboration the old college try. As parents, we often forget the miracle that exists in our children. They are tiny creations. And these tiny creations benefit most when we as parents do everything in our power to work together. This will sometimes take time – wounds must oftentimes be healed and better methods of communication must be learned. But collaboration was worth it the first time, and effective collaboration will always be worth it in the future. 

And Listen.

Have you ever had someone truly hear what you were trying to say? Did you feel the empowerment that came from another person truly listening? It is a wonderful feeling to be heard. A lot of frustration can diminish to nothing when someone takes the time to listen. You can also learn a lot about someone else by simply listening. Listening can lead to revelations about another person, whether those revelations cause you to stay or to go. But taking the time and putting forth the effort to listen costs very little, and extraordinarily fruitful benefits could emerge.

The 2020s may not be ready for a re-emergence of parachute pants or any of the 90’s dance moves. We could, however, heed this dated advice from VIP Vanilla Ice: stop, collaborate, and listen.