It often appears that a divorce is the first time a person hires a lawyer. There are many questions about what happens during a divorce and what results might be expected. The best answer is “it depends.” Each person is different, and each divorce is different. What may be true in a neighbor or friend’s divorce, may not be true in yours.
Here are some basic concepts for those who have never been in a divorce case:
- Nobody is “taken to the cleaners.” No matter how badly the other party has behaved, a judge will not leave a party with basically nothing (assuming the parties previously enjoyed a reasonable life style). The theory is that it takes two people to have a marriage, and two people to end it; it is rare to find one spouse totally surprised by the divorce. There are very few instances where a court will sanction “revenge” against a party. This does not mean that every property and income division will be 50-50, but it certainly will not be 90-10. The division of income, assets and liabilities depends on the nature, amounts, needs of the parties, and other factors. Each divorce is unique, and the result must be “fair and equitable” in order to be approved by a judge.
- The other parent will not take the children away. The law protects the rights of a child to each parent, and the rights of each parent to each child. Parenting plans set forth each child’s residence, parenting time, vacations, and activities. Relocation of one parent from Connecticut can be an important issue to resolve. Of course, a parent’s problems with substance abuse, illness, criminal record, etc., will influence the terms of a parenting plan. Generally speaking, most divorcing couples do their best to make their children’s lives as good as possible.
- “Barracuda” lawyers are (fortunately) becoming an endangered species. The image of a “barracuda” is a lawyer who makes unreasonable demands on the other side, doesn’t give an inch, and generally makes life miserable. The truth is that just about any lawyer can be a “barracuda”—all it takes is a lot of money for legal fees. The only way a “barracuda” can intimidate the other side is to refuse to negotiate and threaten to litigate every single issue in court. You will have to go to court a couple of times. Upon arrival at court for Short Calendar to have a motion heard, the procedure is to first go to Family Relations to attempt mediation, and if unsuccessful, then take the matter before the judge. You may not reach a judge that day. Your motion might be postponed for a month or more. When the motion is finally litigated, and you may have to wait four (4) months for a decision—and maybe the problem has resolved itself by then. The “barracuda” doesn’t win every court decision—it’s the unreasonableness and intimidation that make the reputation. Each court date requires preparation by each lawyer, which is expensive, as is the actual time spent in court. After two or three billings for trips to court and months of waiting on a decision, most couples see the wisdom of thoughtful and reasonable negotiation.
Lawyers can be tough and work hard for their clients, but the good ones take reasonable positions to solve their clients’ problems and thereby achieve good and lasting results.