Many times in my practice, once I am familiar with all the facts of a case (including both my client’s version and the version of my client’s spouse) I can predict a range of outcomes that’s normally very accurate. Despite this, it can be difficult to settle a divorce case, raising legal fees tremendously and causing both parties a lot of stress. Here are 8 of the reasons why this happens.
1. The other divorce lawyer. I do agree with the common perception that lawyers can make things more difficult than need be. The reasons for this are somewhat complex. Some lawyers are overly aggressive. This isn’t solely the lawyer’s fault – clients going through a divorce often want their lawyer to be aggressive. Aggression isn’t the only problem – an inexperienced lawyer may not be reasonable simply because they don’t know what a local judge may decide.
2. Unreasonable clients. One thing about being a divorce lawyer is that even though you’ve dealt with a situation many times before, a client knows more about it because a friend of a friend said something. Whether you like what the law has to say or not, for most middle-class couples in fairly average situations, the law is pretty clear. But it can be difficult to resolve a case if one spouse doesn’t agree with what the law is. (As a side note, I agree that in a lot of cases, the result isn’t fair, but that’s a political, not a legal, issue).
3. Child Custody Disputes. In most cases, you can say it’s just money, and move on. With the children, you can’t do this. Custody disputes are one of the most difficult types of case to settle.
4. Delay. It’s usually in one spouse’s interest (normally the payor) to delay settlement, even if it is just a matter of postponing the inevitable, while it’s best for the other spouse (normally the recipient) to resolve things as quickly as possible. Add in delays because each spouse’s lawyer is busy at a different time and it’s no surprise that divorce cases aren’t resolved quickly.
5. Revenge. Often the divorce process is used as a way of getting revenge on a spouse. Yes, you really can make you’re spouse’s life miserable through the divorce process if you wish to. And despite the high financial cost of doing this, many people choose to go this route. This is particularly the case where one spouse has had an affair.
6. Legally Aided Spouse. Normally, high legal fees are an incentive to settle a divorce case quickly. Every dollar in legal fees is a dollar that is taken away from the children and from both spouses. However, where one spouse is legally aided and the other one isn’t, one spouse bears all the financial consequences of a divorce battle while the other’s finances aren’t affected.
7. Spouse Not Working. Where one spouse isn’t working – say they’re a homemaker or disabled – I’ve found that cases are much more difficult to resolve. The non-working spouse seems to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the divorce case, and coming up with ways to make it complicated.
8. Interference from family. I’ve had a number of cases where I think that the two spouses could actually work things out amicably – maybe even without the help of divorce lawyers. But there is a meddlesome family member who just won’t let this happen, and who seems to have a large influence in one spouse’s life. I find that this is particularly the case for younger couples, who probably still have a closer attachment to their parents than do older couples. It is also particularly prevalent in couples of Far Eastern origin where family has quite a different role and meaning in their lives than for people who are born and raised in Canada.
In a future post, I’ll discuss some of my thoughts on how to resolve these roadblocks.
Please let me know what some of the roadblocks are that you’ve encountered in trying to settle your divorce.