This post is from Curtis Harrison, a collaboratively trained family law attorney working for the law firm of Albin | Harrison | Roach in Plano, Texas. He is board certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas.
We’ve all seen news accounts about the financial nightmare called divorce. You may have heard tales of woe that go something like this: “The Smiths just got divorced and John told me it cost over $100,000 – for each side!”
Such a price tag might draw a yawn or a snicker from the blue-blooded family dynasty members, the technology titans, and the Hollywood elites. But for even the vast majority of the so-called “working wealthy” (i.e. those who have been labeled by the taxing authorities as “rich” but who still have to work five to six days a week to pay the mortgage), an expensive divorce would devastate the family’s financial future.
Divorces don’t have to cost as much as a college education, nor should they. So why is it that some do? Why do otherwise rational people consciously choose to put their and their children’s financial future into a potentially terminal nose-dive? The simple truth is that they fail to recognize that divorce is not a rational process for the participants. It’s an emotionally-driven one.
People in the midst of a divorce make emotional (read “irrational”) decisions almost as frequently as you or I might accelerate through a yellow light – and with about as much forethought. For example, a judge recently told me about a trial in which the husband took a gallon of white paint and literally walked up and down the wife’s closet pouring paint all over her shoe collection. What was the logical reason for that?
In another case, the parties argued over every knife, fork, and spoon in the house, and even placed values on the picture frames – separate from the pictures themselves. At the conclusion of the trial, one of the parties filed a motion for new trial because she wanted a lamp that the judge had awarded to the other party. What was the logical reason for that?
Examples like these defy reason because the decisions are rooted in emotion – negative emotion. Left unchecked, these negative emotions tend to manifest themselves in ever-increasing acts of lunacy that divorce lawyers call the “crazy cycle.” Once the spouses step onto the crazy cycle the legal meter starts spinning faster than your electric meter. Phone calls, e-mails, letters, motions, depositions, hearings and trials – they all take the lawyer’s time, which means they all cost you money. What is the logical reason for that?
To make matters worse, the traditional method of getting a divorce, litigation, actually exacerbates the problem by intentionally pitting the spouses against each other in the arena of a courtroom. In some cases the arena seems to more closely resemble an MMA grudge match than a crucible for truth. Litigation, by its essence, encourages the parties to attempt to destroy each other emotionally and financially. What is the logical reason for that?
Logic doesn’t drive the divorce train. It’s an irrational, emotional process from start to finish. But that doesn’t mean it has to be ugly or costly. Even some of those Hollywood elites are choosing to step off the crazy cycle.
If you are facing a divorce, beware of the crazy cycle, beware of litigation, and beware of divorce lawyers who seem a little overly eager to wage war on your behalf. You do have options and you can avoid or at least minimize all three dangers briefly outlined above with a little foresight, quality solution-oriented professional guidance, and some self-discipline. Properly trained and experienced family law attorneys can serve as professional guides through the minefield. They can match clients with financial experts, counselors, or pediatric therapists as appropriate in order to minimize the collateral damage typically wrought by divorce.