In 2004, Parade Magazine reported that a typical American divorce costs $20,000-$50,000 in attorney fees! You can be sure that the cost is much higher today! Another, more recent article, reported that the average cost of a litigated divorce in California averages $45,000 for each party. Most of these costs are attorney fees, and in litigated divorces, attorney costs rise rapidly, and continue for a long time.
Mary and William have been divorced for 2 years. They have one child, Donna, who is 8 years old. Their divorce was a hotly contested one that took almost 2 years to finalize. During that time they had been to court on various motions all related to their daughter Donna, who lived with Mary. The disputes ranged from how much time William would have with Donna, to what school she would go to, what summer camp she would go to, what extracurricular activities she would be enrolled in, and how all of those things would be paid for. Both parents lived in Bergen County, New Jersey, close to the George Washington Bridge.
Originally, Alimony (sometimes called “maintenance” or “spousal support”) was designed for a system where the husband’s role was to support his wife. If a couple divorced, the husband continued to be responsible for supporting his ex-wife financially until she remarried.
In modern times, the purpose of alimony is to allow the recipient (usually the wife) to maintain financial independence and, if possible, to maintain a lifestyle similar to the lifestyle that she enjoyed during the marriage.
There are a number of types of alimony, designed for particular circumstances.
Today we celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
Before he was president, Lincoln was a very successful lawyer who represented a variety of clients,
including railroads, and he won many cases. Here is what he said about litigation:
“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can.”
Abbie and Jorge came to me when they wanted to get a divorce through mediation. They had been married for 15 years. They had 2 young children, ages 7 and 9. Jorge worked in a civil service agency and earned about $60,000 per year. Abbie had a part time job in a hair salon and earned about $25,000 annually.
At their first mediation appointment, Abbie and Jorge they told me that when they first married they bought a brownstone “fixer upper” in a rather undesirable neighborhood. Over the years they slowly fixed up the house using a combination of their own “sweat equity” and paid contractors. Meanwhile, their neighborhood became extremely desirable, and since their mortgage had been a 15 year mortgage, they now owned their house “free and clear”.
Ben and Clare were married for 18 years. Their daughter, a high school student, was 17 years old. Ben was a contractor who had made quite a good living until two years ago when the economy tanked. Before that Clare had occasional part time jobs and she volunteered for several charities. The glue that held this marriage together was Ben’s ability to support the family. When that started unraveling, so did the marriage.
I know a woman who, on the day that her divorce was finalized, put a large Statue of Liberty on her lawn!
On July 4th we celebrate our independence from England. And, although there were stormy years after Independence, the two countries had common interests: There were times that the USA had to help England and that England had to help the USA.
Many people think that divorce results in complete independence. In some ways, it does. But if there are children, there will always be issues that the Parents must resolve. For example: Divorced couples will need to adjust parenting plans as the kids get older. Problems like job loss or serious illness may make it necessary for them to change their plan or agreement.
Albert and Diane were married for 19 years before they decided to get divorced.
Soon after they married, they bought a one-bedroom condominium in a neighborhood that, at the time, was not very desirable. A few years later, the 2 bedroom apartment next door was up for sale and they bought it. They combined the two apartments into a 3 bedroom unit. Over the years, the neighborhood improved a lot and they had two children.
When they decided to divorce they came to me for mediation.
Their main issue was the apartment which was worth a lot more than what they paid for it. They agreed to divide it to the original 2 separate apartments, but they couldn’t agree on who would get the larger 2 bedroom which faced the street, and who would get the smaller 1 bedroom apartment which faced a brick wall. The children were preteens and old enough to have strong opinions: They both wanted to keep their own rooms!
Every February, Americans are privileged to celebrate the birthdays of two of our greatest presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Both served during war, but undoubtedly each would have preferred a peaceful resolution to the problem of his times.
Washington was a soldier who led many battles. Yet, he wrote to a friend, “Unhappy it is, though, to reflect that a brother’s sword has been sheathed in a brother’s breast, and the once happy plains of America are either to be drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative.”
New York has enacted a no-fault divorce law that took effect this October 12, 2010. Prior to that date, the only grounds for divorce in New York State were Cruel and Inhuman Treatment; Abandonment for at least one year; Imprisonment for more than 3 years; and Conversion of a judgment of separation or a written signed separation agreement after living separately for at least one year.
The decision to seek a divorce or separation is a very difficult one for most people. Most often, either the husband or the wife makes the decision to break the news to the other only after thinking about it for a long time. The decision is accompanied by many negative emotions such as frustration, anger, despair or fear. The term I use for the person who first decides to separate or divorce is the ” initiator”. I call the other spouse the “non-initiator”.