Many couples start the divorce process angry at their spouse and ready to do battle. They are unwilling to compromise and want to “win” every dispute no matter how costly. Often, they get upset that the legal system, judge and attorneys do not seem to support their point of view. However, the laws governing divorce are very clear. They are intended to encourage couples to resolve their conflicts efficiently and avoid lengthy litigation.
Over the years, matrimonial law has increasingly taken a more business-like approach to disputes. Divorce is an emotional process and those negative feelings carry over into the divorce proceedings with parties taking out their anger on each other using the legal system. Judges do not want to be arbiters of blame for the divorce. Their job is to follow legal procedures and make decisions based on the law. To the extent possible, they urge parties to come to their own solution. Judges want to see that both sides are making efforts to settle. If there are matters that cannot be settled, then there must be a genuine dispute and not a conflict grounded in the parties’ animosity toward each other. When couples insist on continuing their battle, the judge must decide and often neither party is happy with the result.
Attorneys are advocates for their clients, but they are subject to the same law and procedures that govern judges. They cannot make frivolous legal arguments or seek to excessively prolong litigation. They must give clients an honest evaluation of the strength of their case and help clients understand the cost of litigating their case – both in terms of the legal fees that will be incurred and the risks of having a judge decide the matter.
Couples who are willing to compromise on at least some issues will spend less time and money on the divorce and demonstrate to the judge that they are genuinely seeking to resolve matters themselves. Spouses can work with a mediator to help this process. In mediation, the parties still have their individual attorneys to advise them, but a neutral party facilitates communication and negotiation.
While mediation or settlement is not always an option, clients must understand that the legal system will make decisions based on the law, not the couple’s feelings toward each other.
If you are considering divorce, contact us to learn how we can help you achieve a positive result in your matter.