The best-case scenario is when my client has a small upbeat step, their shoulders are held high and they look up with brightness in their eyes at the end. In most cases, people come to the realization that it’s a compromise; they didn’t get everything they wanted, but they substantially completed their goals and needs. In the best case, both sides get that because that creates a better chance for a durable parental relationship, since they will still see each other for important events, like weddings, holidays and funerals. It’s better for people to think highly enough of their ex-spouse and not be bitter about everything that’s happened to them.
When I started practicing, you couldn’t have an agreement on anything; you had to go to court, but now, the only cases that go to court are people with nothing to risk and nothing better to do with their time than to ask a judge to make rules for them. It happens all too frequently, but in the cases I handle, I try to get them to listen and realize there is a better way to come up with a solution with their spouse and the helping professionals like me and the other lawyer, rather than delegating it to the judge who will try to do it all in 15 minutes before moving on to the next case. I’m not faulting the judges; they just have so many cases.
I had a hearing just a couple months ago, which was important to my clients and me, but we had to wait behind an endless stream of attorney journal, CPS types of cases in which they’re doing a reset; things like you can’t smoke crack in front of your step-granddaughter, or you can’t run around naked with your children; you hear all of this stuff, and bless these judges for refereeing people like that; they’re not my type of clients because many of those people have a hard time chewing gum and rubbing their stomach at the same time and the courts deal with all types of people.
Do Bitter Divorces Take Longer to Resolve Than Amicable Ones?
A divorce will take a minimum of 61 days from the date it’s filed, when there is a total agreement, but my record was more than five years from beginning to end of the divorce. It wasn’t a pitched battle; just people going into reconciliation and cancer and things like that, but it depends on the court you’re in. In that case, the court just forgot about it; in most courts, if you don’t do something within a period of months, they will dismiss your case and make you start over.
Some people come to the consultation and, after hearing what I have to say, they decide they don’t want to file for a divorce now, and the record between the initial consultation with the client and when they came in to hire me for a divorce is 20 years. In that particular case, they were pregnant with their first child and hired me when that first child was in college. In hindsight, that client got more property after being there for so long, but she lived with a less than ideal situation for many years.
Does The Outcome Depend on Cooperation Between Spouses or their Attorneys?
If you come in for a consultation, I can give you a sealed envelope with maybe half a dozen or so lawyers’ names on that list. If their spouse hired one of those, it would mean they were in for the most expensive and contentious thing you will ever do. In fact, there are certain lawyers who, if they filed the case, the other spouse cannot hire me to go against them. It’s not because I’m afraid of the lawyer, but because I know the silliness that will go on, and until the other client realizes that their lawyer has led them down the gangplank, I’m not interested; I’ve been there, done that, and it’s not a way to do things.
Remember I have cases with many lawyers and every lawyer remembers who does it “right” and treats process and parties fairly and honorably and who doesn’t. You just need to know who you’re dealing with. I prefer to do the right thing and I hope the others I’m dealing with will do the same, so that together can help people see that their self-interest is to come to a deal acceptable to both sides.
A deal can’t be something that is 100 percent for one and zero percent for the other because otherwise, the other side won’t take it and if the court imposes it, they’ll file for an appeal. I’ve been doing this so long; I know that part of my job is to help my clients avoid the silliness that can happen if you don’t get a case off on the right foot.
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