Have You Framed Your Situation Optimally?

Things go badly wrong if you believe things that, while maybe not exactly true, are strongly held beliefs. One of the costly flaws in our society is that there are people who know how the frame is wrong and yet can make a good living feeding into other people’s wrong beliefs.

One example of this is our court system.

Ask a question

Suppose I ask you, do courts supply or help supply justice? If you answer yes, you are in the wrong frame and should you ever need to go to court for anything, you will suffer. The courts are seen to be part of the justice system, but justice is not their job.

Former Chief Judge and formerly Attorney General of Ontario, Roy McMurty, has explained it to me like this. “You don’t go to court for justice; you go to court to have the rules applied. Only the legislature can create a set of rules that might be just.”

While that highly objective idea of what judges and courts do works best, courts are moving away from it. That leads to problems because justice is really just a set of preferences, and that set of preferences is not universal. A judge can make very curious “just” decisions if they ignore the rules in favour of some preferred result.

Think about this

Suppose people went to Family court to get a just result. Most of the time, they will be unsatisfied, angry, and bitter. The lawyers will be well compensated, though.

On the other extreme, suppose the people know the rules that apply. They know the guidelines for dividing assets, for child and spousal support, and they know how courts have acted to deal with shared custody of children. Most civil court actions resolve easily as long as people know the rules and accept those as governing.

In family court, in the beginning, emotion rules. In some cases, it is the last chance to hurt someone who has hurt you. Eventually, people wear down and go bankrupt to pay lawyers to fight over things known in advance. As my father used to tell us, “Don’t fight if you don’t have to.” and in most cases, in family court, you don’t have to fight. Take the first deal you can live with. As a codicil to his first thought, he also said, “If you do have to fight, win.” If you have to fight, be sure you have a lawyer that knows how. Some lawyers fight; others negotiate. None do both well.

The bit to take away.

You can solve problems with the courts faster if you know how it is supposed to work. Sort that out before emotions overwhelm the process.

Going to court to have the rules applied is good frame. Know the rules and minimize the emotions.


I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software startup, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning. I have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Federal Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at don.shaughnessy@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: