Lori R. Holyfield Attorney at Law

An Advocate Through Life's Transitions

The "Principle of the Thing" Is a Trap

If I had a dollar for every time a client has told me that "it's the principle of the thing," I would be a very wealthy woman.  (I am not even marginally wealthy, but that's neither here nor there.)

Principle, first of all, is expensive.  Does it make good financial sense to spend $20,000 litigating who gets the rocking chair the wife inherited from the husband's mother, when said rocking chair is worth $500 on a good day?  I understand sentimental value, but even if you win the rocking chair in the divorce, is it going to remind you of your deceased mother-in-law, or is it going to remind you of how much you can't stand your ex-husband and how much money you wasted?

Listen, I get it.  I care about sentimental items, too.  I have an old-timey radio my deceased grandfather gave to me, along with a very sweet and sentimental handwritten letter.  There's no amount of money that would make me sell it.  I have an autographed first edition of The Firm that I paid $2 for.  It's probably worth at least $300, but I'm keeping it.  I have trouble getting rid of cars after I wreck them.  It takes me too long to throw away old purses and shoes.  I'm not a hoarder, but I have a decent amount of feelings about my stuff.

I guess, technically, I shouldn't be telling people this.  I'm probably breaking the lawyer code, but here it is: you should do a cost-benefit analysis of whether paying your lawyer to do something, trying to gain XYZ dollars, will cost you more than XYZ dollars in legal fees...and if it will, is that something you think is worth doing anyway?  Some things, like my grandfather's "wadio," I would fight over no matter what the cost.  Some other things I would let go.

Ask yourself, why are you fighting about it?  Is it really about the item or the money?  Are you trying to get back at your ex for something?  Or is it simply the infamous "principle of the thing"?

Principle is expensive.  Choose wisely.

Lori R. Holyfield focuses her practice in divorce and family law and serves Shelby, Tipton, and Fayette Counties in southwest Tennessee.

Find Lori R. Holyfield on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Avvo

Legal information posted or made available by Ms. Holyfield on or through this website is not intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship between any individual or entity and any attorney, including Ms. Holyfield. Such Legal Information is intended for general informational purposes only and should be used only as a starting point for addressing your legal issues. It is not a substitute for an in-person or telephone consultation with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction about your specific legal issue, and you should not rely upon such Legal Information.

Certifications of Specialization are available to Tennessee lawyers in all areas of practice relating to or included in the areas of Civil Trial, Criminal Trial, Business Bankruptcy, Consumer Bankruptcy, Creditor's Rights, Medical Malpractice, Legal Malpractice, Accounting Malpractice, Elder Law, Estate Planning and Family Law. Listing of related or included practice areas herein does not constitute or imply a representation of certification of specialization. (This disclosure is required by the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys.)