The Strain of Divorce

This week in Bass Lake, California, James Williamson may have feared he was about to lose everything he had worked for his whole life when he shot his wife and her divorce lawyer outside a popular lakeside resort Wednesday during a lunchtime court recess.

These tragic events are not common, but they occur more often than you might think. Divorce, or any matter involving children and money, is stressful. People’s lives are turned upside down. People are often desperate. While these feelings are often to be expected, the real question is what happens to make a person actually carry out a violent and often deadly act

Sometimes there is nothing anyone can do; some people suffer from mental illness. But many people do not suffer from a mental illness, but rather they just “crack”. Parties and lawyers need to be hyper-sensitive to the fragility of the situation. We do not know if the lawyer and her client in the Bass Lake murders were aware of mental illness of the husband; nor do we know the vigilance with which the divorce may have been litigated. We should not second guess what occurred in that situation because no matter what, it is a tragedy.

What we can learn is to remember to be mindful of just how raw people’s emotions are during a divorce or custody proceeding. Working with a lawyer who is aware of these dynamics and who can balance the academics of the law against the practicalities in life, is the best opportunity for the best outcome from a very difficult situation in one’s life.