Kansas Man Pursues “Trial by Combat” to Settle Dispute with Ex-Wife

frustrated with legal system, man undergoing divorce case requests sword fight

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

The Des Moines Register reported that a man has requested a sword fight with his ex-wife to settle their divorce. Frustrated by the court process, he filed a motion pursuing the physical contest. Trial by combat isn’t the only way to negotiate a conflict resolution.

Woman in suit holding a sword
In conflict resolution cases, the resolution process can be facilitated through several methods other than resolving issues with swords in “trial by combat.” Photo by Milles Studio / Shutterstock

According to the Des Moines Register, Kansas resident David Ostrom filed to pursue a trial by combat, hoping to meet his ex-wife and her attorney on “the battlefield” to settle their divorce with Japanese swords. Ostrom told the paper that “he got the idea after learning about a 2016 case in which New York Supreme Court Justice Philip Manardo acknowledged that duels had not been abolished.” His ex-wife’s attorney has, in turn, filed a resistance to the motion, pleading with the courts not to allow it.

While conflict resolution is a vital skill for professional and personal life, dueling is rarely the recommended method.

Conflict Resolution: Opening a Meeting

When two people have a conflict and have decided to resolve it with a meeting—as long as weaponry isn’t involved—the next step is to conduct that meeting in an orderly fashion. In order to do so, it helps to be in the right frame of mind.

“First, come prepared; be ready to explain your point of view,” said Dr. Michael Dues, Senior Lecturer in Communication at the University of Arizona. “Have suggestions for solving it, but don’t be overly committed. Don’t push them to positions that they have to follow, but be prepared to make suggestions.”

Dr. Dues also suggested several things for being a better listener. He mentioned preparing yourself to really listen, rather than just waiting for your turn to speak; listening to their views and feelings; and being open to suggestions.

“Getting myself prepared in a frame of mind to listen is an important part of preparing.”

When the other person enters the room, Dr. Dues advised immediately and sincerely thanking them for taking the time to resolve the conflict, which will also help facilitate the resolution process. The next step should be stating the issue of conflict at hand then the purpose of the meeting—namely that you wish to arrive at a solution that works for both parties. Next comes a part that a lot of people fear: relinquishing some control and hearing the other side of the issue.

Conflict Resolution: Listening

“Now I can ask the other person how he or she wants to proceed in the meeting,” Dr. Dues said. “They may want to talk first; they may want to explain further; they may want to be expressing their own suggestions right away. I want to ask them how they want to proceed because they’ve probably done some thinking about this and they’re ready to talk, too.”

Sometimes the other party will insist on speaking not about your issue, but a different issue instead. Dr. Dues said to agree to that—and even offer to discuss it in the same meeting if they’d like—but not allow their issue to be addressed before your issue.

“If they say ‘Why do we have to talk about yours first?’ and they want to get to theirs first, you can smile and say ‘because I asked you first,'” Dr. Dues said. “Any kid that ever survived on a playground already understands how to do that.” After all, they agreed first to discuss your issue and if their issues are surprising to you, it isn’t fair to you for them to expect you to be prepared to talk about them.

Finally, if feelings and explanations start to get repetitive, refocus on interests and goals.

“What we want to do here is to stay on-track as we go,” Dr. Dues said. “We’ve got goals clearly in mind; we’re getting suggestions out and we’re considering the suggestions that come up. You want to steer this conversation towards something you can agree on and you want to be choosing these based on some kind of objective criteria.”

Just leave the swords at home.

Dr. Michael Dues contributed to this article. Dr. Dues is Senior Lecturer in Communication at The University of Arizona. He earned an M.A. in American History from the University of Louisville and a Ph.D. in Communication and American Studies from Indiana University.