Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You Can Both "Win"

Or, why it's OK for your spouse to come out of the divorce in good shape, too.

For many different reasons (competitiveness, anger, revenge, control or mental illness, among others) parties going through a divorce often feel like they have to "win".  But, as Charlie Sheen showed us, "winning" isn't everything.  In fact, in divorce, the drive to win can be very destructive and certainly raises the cost of the process.

Here are some ideas to consider as you start out in a divorce.

1.  If there are children, both you and your spouse will remain the parents of your children, and the kids should feel good about their parents.  Unless your spouse has done something really heinous, he or she will be a part of the children's lives forever.  The children feel like they are a part of you and a part of your spouse.  You certainly don't want the kids feeling bad about a part of themselves.  Destroying your spouse will hurt your children.

2.  Making your  spouse mad at you can lead to more problems for yourself.  Sure, everyone gets upset during a divorce, but you can try to limit the damage by limiting how rough you act.  If you (and your attorney) always play hardball, your spouse will probably be much angrier than he or she would have been if you had taken a more reasonable approach.  Think about how your spouse acts when he or she gets mad.  You don't have to rollover and let your spouse get everything, but there is certainly a middle ground between that and hardball.

3.  A bad result can cause financial problems for one or both of you.  One or both of you may have credit problems. Savings and credit lines are often used up. Struggling financially post divorce, especially if you have kids, can lead to problems for the other spouse:  joint bills not being paid, extra expenses having to be covered by the other spouse, tight budgets, etc.  Even after the divorce, there is still some financial connection for at least a while, and often longer.  Going overboard with the divorce fight can drain the resources of both of you.

4.  You will look good to your family, friends and the community.  That's a good thing.  Whether you believe in Karma or not, the good you do will come back to help you later in life.

5.  A happy ex-spouse may help you later one.  You know that from experience in other contexts.  You don't have to become life-long enemies.  Ex-spouses often work together better post divorce.  It happens all the time.  Yes, your spouse may be the one who never gives you a break, but it's worth it to try.  If you have kids, you will need help and cooperation from your spouse.

CAVEAT:  Sometimes one party wants to "play nice" and the other one wants to take a scorched earth approach.  If you want to be the nice one, you may not be able to be as nice as you want, but you don't have to go all the way in to the opposite extreme to counteract your spouse.  All the above points are still true.  You will do better and feel better if you can look at things from a long-term perspective, rather than just an immediate battlefield point of view.  Good luck!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

7 Bad Strategies for Divorces

Attorneys handling divorces hear and see a lot of things that are signs or symptoms of problems for their clients. If you are going through, or about to go through, a divorce, and you say or do any of the following, you are going to make your life more difficult and probably more expensive.

1. Saying that cost is no object. That's literally true for very few people. For most people, there will be a point when they realize the cost is starting to exceed the expected benefit. As that scale tips, people become unhappy. They realize that they have spent a lot of money and still haven't accomplished all that they wanted. It's better to be realistic from the beginning and put limits on your spending for attorney's fees and other litigation expenses.

2. Being too cheap. "Nickel and diming" everything. If you can't afford reasonable costs, you should reassess your approach or just stop for a while, if you still can. While being frugal is often good, you should not cut back too much on essential expenses. Work with your attorney to come up with a reasonable budget for what you need to do.

3. Listening too much to others. That can be a serious problem, especially if you decide that you want to do something or not do something because of what someone (other than the lawyer) has told them. Each case is different. Laws are different from state-to-state. It's much better and safer to strategize with your attorney.

4. Being in a hurry. Most legal matters take much longer than clients want or expect. If you are in a hurry, and especially if the other side becomes aware of that, you will be at a significant disadvantage in negotiating. The party who's not in a hurry can easily put pressure on the other party by simply slowing everything down. When your goal becomes a speedy resolution to the issue, you lose a lot of your bargaining power for getting a good result.

5. Having another significant other waiting in the wings. The "other" will probably encourage you to be in a hurry to settle. See #4. In addition, if you ex finds out about the "other", your ex may become angry and uncooperative. Finally, people tend to make bad decisions on the rebound. Be careful.

6. Using the kids as a weapon. This is such a "no-no". Don't threaten to keep the kids away from the other parent. Don't trade visitation or money for time with the kids. Try to focus on what's best of the children.

7. Signing an agreement without legal advice. Sometimes people try mediation without attorneys or negotiate or go to court without attorneys. Be sure to take any proposed agreement to a Family Law attorney to review before you are finally committed to a deal. It's safer to have an attorney advising you all the way so you can avoid problems that you may not even be aware of.

If you will avoid these seven bad strategies, your life will be much better. If you think about taking any of these approaches, be sure to discuss your ideas with an attorney. Good luck!