Let me do the bad news first– if you are getting divorced, your assets will definitely take a hit, and if you have to pay alimony and/or child support, your monthly income will be going down substantially until your ex and/or your kids are off your payroll. On top of all this, if you have to litigate, the national average for a litigated divorce is about $25,000 per person (that basically covers 83 hours of an attorney’s work at $300/hour, which is a bargain in most major cities). So, given that in general the less you fight, the more you save, from a simple economics point alone the goal should be to avoid court and try to work things out amicably through mediation or collaboratively with counsel trained to keep things calm.
The good news is that over 70% of divorcing couples do work out an agreement without the need for a trial, and afterwards they manage to maintain at least a civil working relationship for the benefit of their children. Furthermore, studies show that most children are resilient, and that as long as their parents do their best to minimize disruptions and not put them in the middle of heated arguments, kids can weather this setback and bounce back just fine. (For more detailed info, check out Robert Emery’s “The Truth About Children and Divorce.”) As for the adults, most will be able to stabilize things within 2-5 years, during which time they create a new social life, find new meaning in their lives, and enjoy their new-found freedom away from all the pain, sorrow, or loneliness sustained in a loveless marriage.
Now let’s talk about the ugly, which I purposefully saved for last. These are the 30% that want to fight and air all the dirty laundry. I avoid these like the plague more and more because there are some seriously destructive forces at work here. There is a lot of negativity and hostility between couples in what we call “high conflict cases” and inevitably, litigators absorb all this negative energy around them. Dark forces are seriously at work when two people absolutely hate each other and want to spew venom at one another at any cost. These cases usually involve severe mental health issues and addictions, often with multiple incidents of domestic violence and/or emotional abuse. This is a side of humanity I would prefer never to have seen, yet on a weekly basis I am reminded that it exists, and what I have learned beyond any doubt is that no court order can ever do justice to the pain and suffering endured in these cases, which is why it is up to the individuals involved to put an end to all the madness.
To be perfectly candid, if I advocated for everyone to have their day in court, I would make a lot more money, however, my joy comes from helping people minimize the bad, see the good, and avoid the ugly. I see it as my duty to save people from their hellish situations at home, but each client alone must decide whether s/he chooses to walk towards the light or into the darkest parts of their soul. Hearts of darkness do exist, and if you opt for an ugly divorce you will be walking into the heart of pure darkness. Instead, I hope you choose the light and keep this quote from Helen Keller in mind: keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.