The old lawyer joke is criminal lawyers generally deal with bad people acting their best and divorce lawyers generally deal with good people acting their worst. Emotion is an inescapable part of a divorce. Ultimately, nobody gets married hoping to be divorced and their are many feelings and emotions involved in a divorce, which by its very nature is an ending, and perhaps even an admission of failure.
In my years of practice I have seen lawyers who have (in my opinion) stoked the fires of anger and resentment to make a case more litigious. It’s rare but I’ve seen it. I’ve also had clients whose emotions likely ruined their chances at a positive outcome. I’ve tried to limit such situations but we can only help those who wish (or can) help themselves. I’ve had other clients tell me they were sometimes unhappy with my lack of emotion during the divorce but later thanked me for moving the case forward and that in hindsight they saw the value in a more stoic and rational thought-process. Most judges tend not to like blowhards. The goal in most litigation (yes, perhaps even family law) should be to appear the most sane and logical person in the room. Sometimes this is lost. Many family law attorneys suggest that their clients undergo therapy throughout the process. This can be a benefit for the client, the lawyer, and the outcome of the case.
Family law itself is fairly simple if severed from the emotions. Our state is generally going to recommend a near 50%-50% split of marital assets. Alimony and child support standards are fairly well known amongst family law attorneys. Custody and parenting time are often best worked out between the parties themselves. What can make family law cases difficult is the need to get 4 people on the same page. Both parties and their lawyers. If one or more of those people do not wish to settle the case, wish to drag it out, or wish to make the process overly emotional then the case can stall. The system is not set up for a fast divorce unless the parties can agree on a resolution. Otherwise, cases languish and the waves and crests of emotion push the case back and forth across time, costing many thousands of dollars more than perhaps necessary.
Ultimately, a divorce is litigation like any other. It should be viewed with an analysis of the risks involved. A cost-benefit analysis should be considered, including the cost of attorney’s fees before any motion is filed, any letter is sent, any cause of action is pursued. In civil litigation this is the process followed, in divorce law and family court in general there can be more of a free-for-all. But to what benefit? Some call family courts the “Wild West,” for this reason, but to what end?
Anyone considering a New Jersey divorce, considering two wrongs make a right litigation tactics, or otherwise making mountains out of molehills should consider the ultimate costs of their actions. Lawyers are in many respects conduits to out clients desires. Ultimately, however, it is our clients that make the decisions. Good communication is the key and many marriages end due to the parties losing the ability to effectively communicate. As lawyers perhaps it’s our job to help our clients communicate with one another (through counsel) more effectively to smoothly move a case forward to its resolution. With increasing use of collaborative law and mediation there have been some steps made. But in the heat of battle sometimes it’s hard for all parties (I myself not being fully immune from this) to take a step back and survey the carnage, emotional and otherwise. And to perhaps ask–at least once in a while, was this worth it?
If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options. You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.