Have you ever wished that your divorce case could be amicable? That you could cut through the BS and the fighting and just get your ex to accept reason?
The difficulties are structural, that is, built into the nature of the divorce system. It’s hard to have an amicable divorce when:
- The spouses have strongly conflicting emotions regarding the family breakup;
- The spouses are at different stages of acceptance about the divorce;
- The divorce process requires an adversarial lawsuit in court with winners and losers;
- The laws are not designed to achieve fairness or justice.
Having an amicable divorce is easy if there is no marital property, no children, the spouses are both self-supporting, in short, if there are no issues to fight about. But for the rest of us, there are some strategies that, when used from the outset, will make an amicable divorce much more likely. This is true even in large estates, marriages with children or where one spouse is in need of significant financial support from the other.
I can’t guarantee that you’ll have an amicable divorce, because much depends on the behavior and attitude of the other person. What I can tell you is that there are certain attitudes and tactics that will make an amicable divorce much more likely, whether or not the other person also does them. I’d like to take each one separately, so stay tuned for the next 4 weeks.
Here are 4 solid attitudes/tactics that will put you on the road to saving money and heartache on the road to dissolving your marriage:
1. Don’t be a hater—try to see the situation from his/her point of view.
2. Have a mediated conversation with the other person.
3. Opt out of the adversarial system.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Tactic one: Don’t Be a Hater.
It should come as no surprise that most people’s exes are not their favorite person. Many people I know harbor resentment and anger toward their ex for years and years following the divorce.
In the classic book by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, the author describes the famous bank robber Al Capone as feeling that he himself was misunderstood. Though a hardened criminal and murderer, Capone saw himself as a good person.
I don’t know your ex—but I know this much about him/her: He or she does not share your negative view of him/her. He or she may think of himself/herself as the wronged party.
Even if the other person has destroyed your life with drinking, or has had multiple affairs, there is some level on which they feel justified and wronged. It is vital to humanize that person, and not treat them merely as someone to be opposed at every turn.
Humanizing the other party is not the same thing as saying that everything they did was okay. It’s operating on the proposition that everyone acts out of an ultimate motive to be happy, though some people have a twisted way of going about it. If you are a leaving spouse, it’s important for you to understand the impact of your decision on the other, even as you remain resolute in your decision. The other person may cling hard to what is left of their family life. Many fathers will find new interest in the children that they didn’t have before the breakup. Many will react with fear to the prospect of financial loss. For many, money equates to survival.
If you are the left spouse it is often hard to think beyond the tragedy and loss you are experiencing. But try to remember that no decision to divorce is taken lightly, and most people don’t pull the trigger on leaving until they feel that it is their only option.
By contrast, hating and fighting in litigation is self-reinforcing. The satisfaction you feel at taking him to the cleaners is short lived, and often not worth the thousands in legal fees. In my experience, the deeper the parties get in spending on litigation, the more they feel they have to keep going. And, even after the trial and the court’s judgment, post judgment issues such as support and child custody guarantee the opportunity for future rematches.
I will repeat what I have said in earlier posts: saving money on divorce depends on creating trust—not the trust that you had when you were married, but the trust that says that I’m not going to try and screw you, I’m not going to try and alienate the children from you, and I’m going to follow through on my commitments.
Deciding not to fight the divorce battle from two armed camps is not the same thing as waiving the white flag of surrender. I’m not suggesting that you abandon your own interests for the sake of peace. Such a peace is an illusion, coming as it does at your expense.
What I am suggesting is that you take steps at the outset to understand the other’s concerns so that you can talk more easily about the issues and ultimately opt out of the traditional litigated system.
Your kids and your wallet will thank you.
Very truly yours,