Every person going through divorce will face one fundamental decision time and again: Do I compromise or do I stand firm in my position? Certainly there are times for both. As often as possible, however, we recommend taking the high road and giving a little of yourself for the greater good of your family. This may not seem like good advice coming from a divorce lawyer. After all, isn’t it our job to stand and fight to the bitter end with sharp claws and gnashing teeth (have you seen those silly attorney yellow pages ads yet…the ones with growling grizzly bears and wolves featured prominently)? Each case requires a little different approach.
At this point in time, compromising probably doesn’t seem like the best thing to do for yourself. Nor is it the best for your lawyer’s pocketbook. But, a lawyer who truly has your interests in mind will attempt to position your case for settlement and speak with you about how to approach a case in a sensible manner rather than unnecessarily drive up the costs of your case through contentious litigation. We often say that any fool (referencing the attorney) can turn a $3,000 case into a $30,000 case. Aggressive lawyering typically yields greater fees and much of the time it simply isn’t necessary.
Unfortunately, in some cases we can do nothing but litigate. We’ve been there many times and enjoy trying cases. This entry is not intended for parties who have been victims of severe domestic violence or whose children are in danger while in the care of their other parent. In those situations, and others, we must take a very aggressive approach. However, the vast majority of cases do not involve such situations and can be resolved much less expensively (in terms of dollars, time and emotions) in a manner that is consistent with what the court will ultimately do with the case if asked to decide.
Consider how your soon-to-be-ex feels about things. Think about your children. Discuss solutions that work for everyone involved in the case, not just you. Most importantly, it is irresponsible to intentionally create or fuel ongoing conflict during a divorce. In our experience, clients who are bitter, angry and relentless in their approach wind up hurting themselves and living with much more pain than those who come to the table with a sense of flexibility and reasonableness. We find they are also far less satisfied with the legal process.
We are not suggesting the divorce process will be easy for you. Everyone knows that it is very difficult to make reasoned decisions in the middle of an emotionally charged situation. It is our job to help with that. We understand you may hurt because of infidelity, irresponsible spending on the part of your spouse or chemical dependency issues. But, the bottom line is that the court does not care about such things, unless they have a direct impact on the welfare of the children. For that reason, it is important to focus on the things that do matter to the ultimate decision-maker in your case.
We find the couples who resolve their case through settlement feel much better about the result. They own the agreement. They haven’t been told what they are going to do some person in a black robe. They conclude their case in a much shorter time frame than expected. They have more financial resources to draw on in the future. And, most importantly, their children seem to benefit from the fact that their parents, despite the dissolution, have found a way to work things out. The experts agree that divorce is a very stressful and difficult time for the litigants. But, those same experts also agree that it is even more stressful and painful for children. The longer your case lasts, the more harm will be done to your children.