Divorce negotiations… not easy. Compare it to a regular negotiation between businesses or individuals where there is no emotional animosity to cloud the communication and the eventual result.
I’ve said this before, but if you’re new to me, I’ll say it again:
A divorce is nothing more than a business transaction between two people.
Easier said than done, I know. But, that is all it is when you really look at it. Let’s not forget why you are getting divorced in the first place. It’s not because you’re happily married and in love with your spouse. If that were the case, you would be using the money it costs to get divorced to go to Bora Bora. (I’ve never been, but all I want is to be in a hut with a transparent floor over the ocean).
During a divorce, one or both of you can’t stand the other. Communication between has likely broken down to the point where you need a third party (therapist) to bridge the gap, or it’s past the point of no return.
And when it comes to any negotiation, what is the one ingredient that is needed for it to be effective? Surprise, communication!
A divorce negotiation, whether it’s over assets or parenting time with the children, is stressful and hard enough even when both sides have attorneys. If you don’t have an attorney and are doing it yourself (pro se), it’s even tougher because it’s you having to communicate with your spouse whom you are trying to separate from, legally, emotionally, physically…totally.
Whether you have a lawyer or don’t, everyone wants their divorce over with as soon as possible.
I don’t blame you. The only people, from my experience, who enjoy the process and want it to last for years are narcissists, psychopaths and malcontents.
You know who you are.
It’s not uncommon for one or both parties, in an effort to get the divorce completed sooner than later, to “give in” or acquiesce during the negotiations phase. I understand the desire to do this, but often times it leads to feelings of regret and additional animosity later.
The question this article poses is, should you agree to something that will force you to continue to communicate and rely on your ex after the divorce is completed?
What do I mean by this, you ask?
For example, you both own the marital home. Let’s say you (mom) want to stay in the house with the children until they complete high school, at which time you will sell the house and live somewhere else. Dad agrees with this and you work out the financials of who pays what during this period.
Your Property Settlement Agreement (PSA), which was prepared by an attorney (as it always should be) has very specific language about how the house will be sold and the procedure of how it will work. So far, so good!
Fast-forward a couple years.
The children graduated and are getting ready to go to college and it’s time to sell the house. Dad (somebody has to be the bad guy in this hypothetical) is causing problems and refusing to abide the PSA. He won’t put the house up for sell. What happens now???
This is the situation many divorcees find themselves in. During the negotiations of the divorce, they agreed to keep the marital home for a few years and then sell it, together, later. Key word there is together. You bound yourself to communicate and work together with someone who you probably can’t stand and/or communicate effectively with anymore.
At this point, your only real option, if you can’t agree on what to do, is to go back to court and enforce the PSA you agreed two years ago. Win or lose, it’s a process that takes time, money and maybe most importantly adds a bunch of stress to your life you don’t really need.
The PSA or whatever document you have that outlines the terms of your divorce is THE document that controls any situation once the divorce is finalized. That’s the only thing a court has to refer to if an issue arises. That’s why PSA’s are typically large documents. Good ones have specific language to cover most foreseeable post divorce issues.
Now, things always come up that weren’t contemplated or are the fault of neither side, whether that’s a mass disaster, or loss of a job. But, for the most part, your PSA should cover most of what may happen after the divorce for both assets and children, i.e. college.
Unfortunately, if you agree to terms in your divorce that require you to deal with your bully, narcissistic ex, then don’t be surprised when difficulties arise later on.
You may have to go back to court to enforce the terms of the Agreement if he doesn’t comply.
One option is to put in language in the PSA that requires you both go to mediation before going back to court. This typically is a quicker and cheaper alternative. However, both sides have to participate in good faith or the process won’t work. Then, you will end up in court anyway. So, if you think mediation will be a waste of time, don’t put that language in your PSA.
If you do have to go to court to enforce your PSA, some states allow you to seek fees if you prevail. For example, in New Jersey, if you hire an attorney to represent you to enforce your PSA, the court may force Dad to pay your attorney fees for having to drag him to court. Check with your State’s laws, as they vary.
If you make a deal with the Devil during your divorce negotiations, don’t be surprised when the Devil rears its ugly head and you find yourself back in court.
Jason Levoy, a/k/a The Divorce Resource Guy, is an attorney who teaches people without a lawyer how to navigate the divorce process and represent themselves in court. He regularly provides free advice via his blog, VIP newsletter and Private Divorce Facebook Group
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