Posts Tagged ‘Divorce Mistakes’

Cumulative Share of US Marriages Ending in Divorce - Click for Larger Image The NY Times, along with several other news sources, recently published an article examining, once again, the “50% Myth” of divorce rates in the USA. I commented on this back in June of 2014 (see US Divorce Rate: The 50% Myth). This is of course a very complex issue with multiple levels of interpretation and analysis from an array of viewpoints both statistical and sociological. However, three main trends are evident:

1) Divorce rates surged in the 1970s and 1980s, but since have dropped significantly, first in the 1990s and even more so in the 2000s.

2) Couples are marrying later in life: The median age for marriage in 1890 was 26 for men and 22 for women. By the 1950s, it had dropped to 23 for men and 20 for women. In 2004, it climbed to 27 for men and 26 for women.

3) Fewer couples are getting married per capita: many younger couples are living together prior to or instead of marrying, which reduces the divorce rate for couples in their early twenties.

Of course, this is also a simplified view. Much statistical analysis can be applied to these data. For example, one recurring source of the 50% “rule” is that approximately 2.4 million couples marry in a given year, and 1.2 million divorce. 50%, right? But these divorces are not drawn from the same set as the marriages, or, put another way, half of those married in any given year do not divorce in that same year. More significantly, the number of divorces and marriages are taken as totals from the general population, and not from more definitive samples: the percentage of divorces among second (60-67%) and third (70-73%) marriages is much higher than among marriages that don’t end in divorce, skewing the numbers.

A more accurate approach would be to calculate how many people who ever married subsequently divorced. Calculated in this manner, the US divorce rate has never exceeded 41 percent, and in fact is currently dropping. According to the 2001 survey of the Fertility and Family Branch of the Census Bureau, the rate of divorce for men between 50 and 59 was 41% and for women between 50 and 59 was 39%.

In any case, divorce is a real consideration in marriage, ultimately affecting close to 4 in 10 couples. If you find yourself in the 40 percentile, consider consulting a qualified divorce attorney to examine your situation and the best way forward.

Q/AQ: What is the most common mistake that is made in family law cases? 

A: Parties become so emotionally involved that they fail to act calmly and rationally.  These cases, by their very nature, are stressful. If a party can’t handle that stress, they are at a disadvantage and  will frequently sabotage their own case!  In practice, there are many different ways that this will manifest itself.

Some of the the most common instances of this include:

1) An overwhelming need for a “quick” resolution – even if it doesn’t make sense for the party or the family;

2) An unwillingness to comply with orders of  the Court – which almost always creates greater difficulties for the party;

3) The hiring-firing of multiple lawyers and/or the unwillingness to really listen to and implement the advice of counsel;

4) Acting rashly and impulsively and taking major actions without consulting with counsel.

An experienced family law attorney will understand that these are stressful times for his/her client and will try to keep clients calm or recommend therapeutic help when appropriate. Parties who find themselves overwhelmed by the process may need to seek professional counseling.

There is an old saying in the family law profession: “In criminal cases you have bad people on their best behavior and in divorce cases you have good people on their worst behavior.” 

Parties need to understand that emotional behavior is not the  path to the successful resolution of a family law matter.

Often people look at divorce as a bitter, spiteful, angry battle between two uncompromising sides, but this is the extreme case. While two people may have come to realize that they no longer belong together—for whatever reason—the divorce process itself may range from amicably collaborative to viciously combative. Where your divorce falls on this spectrum depends on the answers to several questions.

How easily will you and your spouse settle on key issues like dividing assets, child custody if children are involved, and future payments?

Are you and your spouse separating on good terms or are one or both of you driven by anger, resentment, or bitterness?

Will you and your spouse be able to compromise in divorce negotiations or will one or both of you fight tooth-and-nail for what you think is rightfully yours?

Do you have full information as to your spouse’s financial situation and are you sure that your spouse is not hiding any income, assets or debts?

Do you believe that your spouse also desires to finalize a divorce in an expeditious manner or will the collaborative process be utilized as a delay tactic and pressure you to settle?

Who has selected the collaborative divorce attorney and are they likely to side with one party or the other?

Are you a good negotiator and can you avoid making impulsive, emotional decisions?

Do you understand enough about divorce to be able to compare likely outcomes of the collaborative process with the likely outcome of a contested judicial process?

The difference between a collaborative divorce and a litigated divorce is substantial. The parties in a collaborative divorce, with legal counsel on both sides, make decisions outside of the courtroom, only going to see a judge to get the details signed when the negotiations are concluded. In contrast, in a litigated divorce the courtroom is center of activity, with witnesses, challenges, and evidence presented before the judge. This also inevitably raises the cost of the divorce, both emotionally and financially. In financial terms alone, the difference between a collaborative divorce and a litigated, combative divorce can be thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.

An experienced divorce attorney can advise as you as to whether a collaborative divorce is a good option for your particular situation. There are many times when a collaborative divorce is not a good option and a litigated divorce is your best option. In such a case, you want a lawyer with substantial court experience, who can be appropriately aggressive when needed, who knows the judges, and who can best look to your interests.

Be prepared for your first meeting with your divorce attorney by planning ahead. A major step in this direction is to gather all of your Essential Papers in an Essential Papers File in a safe place. You will then bring this file with you to your initial meeting with your attorney, so that these items are ready for review at the start of the process.

What are Essential Papers? Documents such as copies of your tax returns for the past three years; the deed to your home and any other real estate, plus any items that may affect the cost basis of your home, including receipts for major repairs or renovations; your birth certificate; your marriage certificate; your passport; automobile title(s); insurance forms; bank account statements; outstanding debts; and stock certificates and other investment documents.

Also include a listing of names, addresses and contact info for key people or businesses such as your attorney, accountant, stockbroker, financial planner, creditors, and executor of your will and estate.

You may also want to consider recording a video of your home and its contents to document the value and appearance of the house and valuables. Keep this tape or digital recording with a list of valuables, including description, when and where acquired, original cost and current value (if a collectible), and where possible the serial number of the item (included with all electronics but not necessarily with other items), in a safe place, preferrably not in the marital home.

Armed with these items, your attorney will be better able to advise you from your very first meeting. However, if you think that divorce may be imminent, it is important that you get the advice of an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible. Don’t delay doing this because you are gathering documents and information. Your divorce attorney will advise you on how to best proceed.

Usually divorce clients are seeking advice regarding what they should do in a divorce. But there are ten things you should NOT do.

1. Do not sign anything just because your spouse says you should. Always have any documents reviewed by your legal counsel.

2. Prior to the divorce, do not panic, do not make any major decisions or take any actions (such as leaving the marital home) without first consulting legal counsel.

3. Do not discuss the divorce with the children; however, you shouldn’t hide the divorce from your children, either. They will be sensitive to the situation, and honesty is the best policy with them. Let them know that the divorce is not their fault in any way, and that you and your spouse have your own issues to cope with.

4. Likewise, do not use your kids as “go-betweens” or in any way put them in the middle of the conflict. Do not bad mouth your spouse to your kids.

5. Although you may feel deeply violated and wronged in the marriage, do not threaten your spouse with vindictive claims like “You’ll never see our kids again!” or “I’ll take you for everything you’re worth!” Instead, take the high road and let your attorney and the court work to resolve all issues.

6. Do not agree to capitulate and surrender everything just because you want to get out of the marriage as quickly as possible, or because you still love your spouse and you think that by giving in, he or she will not go through with the divorce.

7. No matter how well-intended or similar to your situation a friend’s experience may be, do not take your friend’s advice as legal counsel. Only a qualified attorney is in a position and has the wide experience needed to give the best legal advice.

8. Do not procrastinate: the temptation to remain in the situation you know, however unpleasant, can keep you from getting out from under a dysfunctional marriage. Remember that staying put is much easier than making a major life change, but that that change may be what is best for you in the long haul.]

9. Do not overlook the small things, however insignificant they may seem, may be important later: make duplicates of the family album, videos of the kids playing, or other small, personal items, so that neither of you feels cheated. Buy duplicate CDs or other items that are deeply sentimental for both of you.

10. Do not complain to your family and friends about your insufferable marriage or how horrid your spouse is.

Joe and Cindy have been married for 12 years. They have two kids, ages 6 and 10, and bought a 3-bedroom ranch in a western suburb of Boston seven years ago. They have since remodeled, adding a porch, a car port, and expanding and redesigning the kitchen. However, they started having marital problems two years ago, as Joe spent more and more time at work and Cindy began donating ever more time for various causes, until both began feeling abandoned by the other. So Joe moved out of the house 10 months ago, months before they decided to seek a divorce, and now he finds himself angry at having to support his new home as well as the home he left, and feeling cut off at the same time.

Often the first spouse – in this case, Joe – to move out of the marital home is at a disadvantage. The spouse that remains in the home – such as Cindy – may have leverage as to obtaining more support to pay for the mortgage and support. The situation may worsen for the spouse who moved out in a case where the spouse who remained in the home seeks to buyout the first spouse, as that party will often delay to gain more leverage in negotiating a better deal. Often the process will drag on and the spouse who has vacated will settle for less to be able to move from their “temporary situation.” Other times, a better deal can be negotiated with a spouse who is unhappy (dare I say miserable!) to be still residing with their soon-to-be ex. However, the potential for a restraining order can also be a danger for a spouse who chooses to remain in the marital home during the pendency of a divorce. Bottom line – don’t make hasty decisions; your best bet is to discuss your particular case with an experienced divorce attorney that can advise you of the pros and cons of vacating a marital home.

The information contained in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. The use of this Blog does not create an attorney/client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Barry R. Lewis. If you are considering divorce or if you are involved in any legal matter, you should hire an attorney.

Massachusetts Divorce and Family Law
Attorney Barry R. Lewis — Divorce Law Specialist
Locations Throughout Eastern & Central Massachusetts :: 508-879-3262