As Philadelphia divorce lawyers we meet a lot of clients who receive bad advice from family members and friends before they ever walk through our doors. This advice is almost always well-meaning, and comes from a place of love—and anger—on behalf of the divorcee.
Some of the bad advice is subtle. A lot of people assume just because things went down a certain way during their own divorce that it will all shake out the same way during yours. Thus, they’ll tell you exactly what they think is “fair” and “reasonable” without knowing the full picture, the judge you’ll be standing in front of or the scope of the law that governs your case. This may create expectations that entice you to push for divorce terms which aren’t at all feasible for your case.
Some advice is more openly destructive. Family members and friends see you’re hurting: to them, lashing out and “punishing” your spouse may seem both natural and just. That’s when you start hearing advice like this:
“Take him for every penny he’s worth.”
“Well, make sure you get the house.”
“You keep fighting till you get everything you want.”
Here at Sadek and Cooper we encourage you to ignore any advice, speculation, or scenario-building that doesn’t come directly from the mouths of your lawyers. In addition, you should be careful about fighting tooth and nail. You may lose far more than you gain with such a strategy.
Take this story, recently featured in The Huffington Post:
“Don, my divorce lawyer, pointed to the pyramid of cardboard that reached the ceiling. ‘It’s a divorce case I’ve been working on for two years—two years! Do you know how much money they’ve wasted on this? $75,000! It’s the biggest mess I’ve ever seen. Don’t do that.”
There are always going to be some issues worth fighting for. If your spouse is abusive then protecting the kids is Mission Critical. If you spent 40 years as a house spouse supporting the career spouse who now makes over $200,000 a year pursuing some spousal support might be key to your survival.
In general, however, there will only be 1-3 issues which are truly worth fighting over, or for.
Issues that usually aren’t worth fighting for?
Who keeps the house? You probably don’t want it anyway; you may not be able to afford it on a single income. Same for who keeps the car.
Quibbles over parenting time? Ask yourself whether that extra 30 days spread throughout the year is really that unreasonable. Your spouse is your child’s parent; he or she has just as much right to see your children as you do.
Who gets this or that piece of property? Consider whether it costs more than the hourly rate you’ll pay your lawyers to keep it. Unless it’s an old family heirloom you might just want to buy another one. Truthfully, if it’s an old family heirloom from your side of the family? It might just be non-marital property anyway.
The average cost of divorce in America ranges between $15,000 and $30,000, but couples who choose to focus on the big picture and treat the divorce as a final negotiation that allows them both to get on with their lives, rather than as a war to be won, tend to get out for a lot less. Their kids fare better too.
You might have to swallow some of your pride. Your family members might be aghast at your decisions.
But sometimes, getting out of a divorce as unscathed as you can is just a matter of picking your poison.