Friday, April 13, 2012

What's the Score?

When you watch a football game, you know at the end of the game who won and who lost.  In the legal world, when a criminal case goes to trial, either the prosecution or the defense will prevail (with limited exceptions).  Throughout our lives, at least until children’s soccer games begin being played without keeping score, we were taught that when there are two sides to a game or a dispute, one side would be deemed the winner.

This begs the question, should we keep score in a divorce matter and crown a winner at the end of the case?  The short answer:  No.  Keeping a tally as to whether you are ahead or behind in negotiations is a dangerous line of thinking, particularly in a case involving children.  In the vast majority of divorces, there is not a winner and loser.  In reaching a settlement, there will inevitably be give and take and neither party will get everything they want.  Even in cases where a final hearing is necessary, it is common for both sides to get only part of the relief they requested.  This is because judges are faced with exercising their discretion, often times with limited time and/or evidence available, and entering orders that are in the “best interests” of the parties’ children.  Such guidelines do not lend themselves to accurate scorekeeping.

Becoming obsessed with “winning” your divorce case can lead to an (even more) emotionally and financially exhausting process .  Are there times when you should go to court for what you believe is right?  Absolutely.  We as your lawyers will pursue what you believe is the correct position.  However, before disagreeing over who gets the tea cups, or refusing to agree to an extra overnight once a month, you should ask yourself:  Am I taking this position because I believe it is right, or because I really don’t like my soon to be ex-spouse?  If your answer is the latter, take some time to reevaluate your position.

The vast majority of divorce cases reach a resolution, whether through negotiation or mediation, before a final hearing is necessary.  During that process, it is important to determine what objectives are most important to you, which objectives you may be seeking out of spite, and what objectives are in the best interest of your children.  We at Hollingsworth & Zivitz take a measured approach toward cases and advise our clients to consider what is most important to them and do everything within our control to assist our client to meeting their objectives. 

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