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The Price for Peace
There is so much literature, thousands of articles and hundreds of websites on what to do and how to prepare for a divorce or custody case. More and more I am seeing articles that encourage divorcing parties to mediate and settle out of court to not only save time and money but to save their sanity and the health and wellbeing of their children.
Still I do not see very often articles that "talk" to you straight about the emotional and financial realities of divorce. No matter how much you prepare for the act of divorcing your spouse, no matter how amicable it will be and no matter whether you choose a traditional divorce with lawyers on each side or mediation, there will be a point when you are going to be at a crossroad having to make the touch choice - would I rather be happy than right, or right than happy? Am I willing to let go of an idea, a dream, a monetary figure, a possession to be happy? What is my Price for Peace?
After twenty years of divorce litigation I find most individuals who go through any family law matter, divorce, or custody action, are never forewarned about what I call the "Price for Peace". Clients reading this article know this saying because either during the initial consultation or at some point during their case there comes a time when together, we make that choice - what am I being asked to do, give up, concede, let go of - what is the price for peace I am being asked to pay?
Attorneys, regardless of whether they are litigators or mediators, try to calm their client who is in pain, distraught, afraid, vulnerable and overwhelmed, and reassure them that things will work out and that we will be there every step of the way. We want to make you feel better and let you know that you will get through this and you will come out the other side with a future ahead. What I also share with a client to truly prepare them for the divorce process and the road that lies ahead are all the things no one wants to talk about - the inevitable. So what is inevitable in almost every divorce or custody matter?
You have entered into the process with unrealistic goals and expectations and perhaps had several attorneys assure you they could get you the result you want. No matter how good the attorney or mediator you will find yourself having to let go of something you hoped for whether it be relating to the custody or visitation or a financial goal.
Set realistic goals as to the emotional and financial outcome of your case.
This way you will not be disappointed, you will not feel like you lost and your spouse won and most likely will feel satisfied and accepting of the result. I see it quoted all the time that "A successful divorce is when both parties are unhappy". Yes there is sadness and grief at the conclusion of a case. But parties start the process very unhappy so I cannot support a definition of success that presumes continued unhappiness. This just does not seem right.
You have entered the process assuming because you were the "wronged" spouse that your spouse will be punished in some way either financially or through an award of sole custody of the children. Connecticut is a no-fault state. Although fault is considered as one of a dozen other factors I have seen cases involving domestic violence, and other heinous acts where the behavior is not considered, dismissed or minimized. Parties litigate for over a year or two waiting for their day in court only to find that when the day comes, little was gained and much was lost.
Do not litigate in the hope your spouse will be punished.
With regard to custody matters there is a presumption of joint custody and as to the financial side of the case, there is a presumption that a marriage is a partnership and the parties share equally. Yes presumptions are only that but the burden to overcome those presumptions and prove to a court or your spouse that the presumption is neither fair nor reasonable is great. And remember most judges also believe that it takes two to end a marriage or a relationship.
You believe a court is the best venue to obtain a fair and just settlement. You and your spouse have a history. You know your children, your employment histories, your backgrounds, education, earning capacities, your finances, your lifestyle, your faults, and your assets. A judge will see your file minutes or perhaps just days before your trial. Why would people put their trust and confidence into the legal system to best decide a fair parenting plan and division of the assets?
You and your spouse are better informed and able to formulate a settlement of your custody, parenting and financial issues than anyone else.
Yes a judge can hear a case for days, weeks or months and render a decision. But that is only after you and your spouse have told the judge in court what each of you already know - YOUR STORY. Put aside your anger and emotion and decide, together what is best for your family. Remember you will always be in each other's lives either through your children or within the memories you carry with you forever.
I heard a long time ago that we often learn more from people about what not to do, than what to do. So unlike most articles and books about what to do as you prepare for and participate in your divorce or custody matter, I wanted to share some insights about what not to do, what not to expect and what can happen when there is a decision by one or both parties not to heal. A successful divorce or custody action is not when both parties are unhappy, it is when both parties leave the process with dignity and integrity, with healthy and happy children who have been protected from hostility and conflict, with their finances intact and with a feeling that they contributed in a positive and productive way to a good and reasonable result with an agreement that works with their lives and their values and their family. It is your story. So who better to write the ending? And always remember there is a Price for Peace.
Connecticut requires a pure "equitable distribution" of the property. This means that all property of the parties is subject to distribution. This includes property that was acquired before the marriage. When dividing property, the court considers the length of the marriage, the cause for the divorce and whether either party is at fault, the age, health, occupation, and employability of each party, the needs of each of the parties, and the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation value of the property.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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