By its very nature, a divorce proceeding is an adversarial event. But adversarial doesn’t have to be the same thing as bitter or filled with antagonism.
With the high cost of litigation—not to mention the potentially devastating emotional damage on spouses, partners and their families—it makes sense for the parties involved to try and step back, look to the future and consider a time when all this will be behind them. Doing so may lead the parties to push aside their personal feelings about each other and come up with answers to the various issues raised by their impending dissolution.
Generally speaking, the less complicated the issues are, the more likely it is divorcing parties can reach an amicable resolution. By “less,” I mean situations where a marriage hasn’t lasted very long or involves no children and little property to divide. By comparison, marriages that have endured for several decades, involve numerous offspring and include episodes of domestic violence are far more difficult to end in anything like a friendly manner.
Based on my own experience as a family law attorney, I believe there is always hope for an amicable resolution. In one uplifting recent situation, a husband and wife with four children, huge disparities in income and a mountain of debt, nonetheless succeeded in handling their divorce as cleanly and expeditiously as possible. Both partners were working professionals who still had feelings for each other, but realized they could no longer live together. Upon making the decision to separate for good, they entered discussions with a couple of key principles in mind:
- When dealing with children, try as hard as you can to set aside your personal feelings and do what’s best for them. For example, if your job compels you to travel frequently or work 60 hours or more a week, with little to no flexibility in your work schedule, you probably shouldn’t get stuck up on arguing for primary physical custody, knowing you likely won’t be available to attend to your children’s continuous physical well-being.
- While making arrangements to dissolve a marriage or partnership, understand this isn’t the end of the world. No matter how painful things are right now, there is light at the end of the tunnel and a time will come when you can put these troubling emotions behind you.
In the case I’m talking about, the two people were concerned about how quickly legal fees can escalate when negotiating a divorce. They wanted to minimize the costs involved and the traumatic effect divorce would have on their children. In the end, the husband willingly agreed to pay more in support, so his ex-wife could remain in their marital residence until their kids had graduated from high school.
It may not seem like it at the time, but both parties in a divorce proceeding have a lot of control over how things work out. For one thing, consider the wisdom of arguing with your estranged spouse about who gets ownership of a $500 treadmill against the thousands of dollars in fees it will take to get things your way.
Divorce is never easy, but by keeping emotions under control and looking ahead to a brighter future, it needn’t become a permanently embittering experience.
Are you in need of legal counseling or have any questions about the above topic? The Law Offices of Ian S. Topf offer free consultation in a variety of issues, ranging from family law/divorce, bankruptcy, and estate planning to criminal/DUI matters and landlord/tenant disputes.