Most people facing a divorce (called dissolution of marriage in Washington) have heard the horror stories about the cost of divorce proceedings. We have heard and witnessed these stories too. However, in many cases there is one major way to combat this problem: compromise on issues of lesser importance during the proceedings, and be as kind as possible under the circumstances. In our experience, couples who go through the divorce process amicably spend less money than acrimonious couples.
This sounds easier than it actually is. During the divorce process people are dividing their shared lives. This can include their home, their hard-earned investments, their pets, and even their children’s time. This is a very difficult experience for many people. As difficult as it may be, we encourage our clients to do a cost-benefit analysis and see if it is worth it to fight for things that they may want, but don’t need out of their divorce. It is important prioritize those things that are the most important to you, and those things that are of less importance. By prioritizing the issues of your divorce you can properly apportion resources based on how important a particular issue is. This can include emotional resources. If an issue is not of great importance, it might be a place where you can show your willingness to compromise and gain some goodwill for future negotiations.
The less time spent negotiating and litigating issues of lesser importance, the more time and money that can be saved. Some divorcing spouses use the divorce process as a chance to try and punish their former spouse for misdeeds during the marriage. While the urge to do this may be warranted, we know that in most cases entering divorce proceedings with this goal in mind will end up costing both parties unnecessary time, money, and their emotional well-being.
Oftentimes willingness to compromise on an area of less importance to our client will encourage the other party to compromise on another issue. This can multiply the potential savings of being willing to compromise.
In addition to saving money, getting along during the divorce process can set up life post-divorce for success. Having a friendly divorce is especially valuable if you have children. Children are usually going through enough stress during their parent’s divorce (changing houses, changing schools, not living with both parents), and they do not need the additional stress of hearing their parents yelling into the phone or bemoaning the other parent to their friends. Also, raising children post-divorce goes much more smoothly when parents are willing to be flexible about scheduling and other child-related issues. Having a friendly divorce starts the post-marriage relationship off on the right foot.
Obviously there are circumstances that compromising is not going to help a client during or after the divorce. Some soon-to-be-former spouses will not respond well to showing a willingness to compromise. Some personalities or circumstances are such that getting along will not be in the cards. That said, a large number of the cases we see do have some room for compromise and goodwill.
Divorce is not the only proceeding that we encourage clients to seek areas of agreement and compromise. Almost all areas of family law (and perhaps law in general) can, under the right circumstances, be made less painful and less expensive when the parties are willing to compromise.
An experienced family law attorney can assess your circumstances and help you decide whether and where you should consider compromising and where you should stand your ground. If you would like to speak with a Seattle family law attorney, please contact us.