When you’re on the brink of divorce, it’s normal to go through the whole gamut of emotions: grief, anger, sadness, spite, and so on. The advice from well-meaning friends, family, colleagues and even strangers on the street can be just as varied: “Fight hard. Don’t fight. Take your spouse for all they’re worth. It’s about winning” and so on. So, which advice is right? Do you fight, or do you give in?
Our advice – avoid litigation at all costs. When couples fight, their divorce can take years to resolve at the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Do you really want to waste a small fortune while dragging your divorce through the mud for the next 12 to 24 months? Don’t do that. You deserve a better experience; you deserve a better outcome.
You may have had a well-meaning friend or two say, “Don’t hire a pit-bull attorney who encourages you to fight” and he or she was right. The divorce lawyers who push clients to fight may have their priorities mixed up. After all, the longer the couple is in divorce court, the more attorney fees they have to cough up. The more the marital estate is drained.
Perhaps your spouse had a year-long affair and now he or she is moving in with their romantic partner. Or, perhaps your spouse blew all of their 401(k) on a risky investment, a failed business venture, or even a substance abuse problem. Perhaps their out-of-control spending habits devastated you financially and ruined your FICO score. Despite the roller-coaster ride they’ve put you through, not fighting them during the divorce process has multiple benefits, such as:
- Saves a LOT of money.
- Allows divorce to be final much sooner.
- Avoids draining the marital estate.
- Promotes a larger divorce settlement.
- Shields the marital assets.
- Expedites the healing process.
- Promotes an amicable divorce.
- Less stress on all parties involved, including the kids.
- Allows spouses to maintain control over the outcome.
Not Fighting Shields Marital Assets
When people spend hours in their attorneys’ offices refusing to reach a compromise, they often think their stubbornness is giving them the upper hand, but what is the benefit? We want to be clear: We’re not talking about being a sheep among wolves. If your spouse is hiding assets from you in the divorce, you need an aggressive attorney to uncover them. If your spouse is trying to take your child and run to a foreign country not protected by the Hague Convention, or financially support their boyfriend or girlfriend behind your back at the tune of $5,000 a month, then yes, you absolutely need to stand your ground and fight your spouse in court.
But what about the small details, like who gets your children over the summer, who keeps the German Shepherd, Max, or who gets to keep the family albums? Often, divorce sparks strong emotions, especially in the event of a bitter breakup. People are wired to “win,” and sometimes they’ll fight so hard, they lose focus of what’s important, like keeping the children stress-free and preserving the marital estate. When you’re prepared to win “at all costs,” you can lose a lot of money.
The must win attitude requires constant going back and forth between your attorney and your spouse and their attorney. It isn’t cheap. Even if your spouse is having to fork over thousands more in attorney fees than you, it’s still coming out of the marital estate, which under California’s community property laws, you’re entitled to half of. When a couple cannot afford to pay $15,000 or even $50,000 or more for their divorce, they will continue to fight by putting it on their credit cards, dipping into their IRA or 401(k), or borrowing the money. Is paying taxes and penalties on your 401(k) or 20% interest on your credit cards worth winning in divorce court?
A Better Alternative to Litigation
Our advice – don’t become a divorce horror story. Instead, strive to work out your difference with the help of your respective attorneys. Even if you’re dealing with painful face-to-face encounters, heated text messages, stress-ridden phone calls, and hurtful emails, you should be able to reach an agreement with your spouse on most, if not all aspects of your divorce. What about your lawyer fees? They’ll be at a fraction of the cost of full-blown divorce litigation.
The sooner you and your spouse can agree on asset and debt division, child custody and spousal support (where applicable), the sooner the Parenting Plan and marital settlement agreements can be finalized, and the sooner you can be officially divorced. Once all is said and done, you can finally start the next chapter of your life and without the constant, looming fear you’ll be dragged back to court by your ex-husband or wife.
Avoid Projecting Pain on Business Decisions
Divorce can be extremely painful, especially when infidelity, narcissism, or controlling behavior led to the demise of the marriage. The pain of divorce can be so intense, it causes rational people to engage in risky, irrational behavior. Sometimes such behavior is borderline illegal, whether it involves concealing assets or destroying a spouse’s personal property. In effect, bitter spouses project the pain of divorce on their business decisions during the divorce process, which can lead to costly, irreparable mistakes. This “getting even” attitude can come at a very high price – literally and figuratively.
It’s not always easy to rise above. It may be a struggle, but once all is said and done, you’ll be glad you took the high road and opted for a collaborative divorce instead of divorce litigation, a much costlier and time-consuming endeavor.
For divorce representation in Los Angeles, contact Claery & Hammond, LLP.