Once I realized that my spouse and I were going to separate, I contacted a family lawyer to assist and to help guide me through the process. The first lawyer that I saw started by working on a plan to “cut off this and cut off that” and was adamant that I do everything in my power to hurt my partner financially and “bring her to the negotiating table on her knees”. The anger and aggression emanating from this individual actually scared me and I realized that this was not the right lawyer for me… I was scared and confused enough without looking for more conflict.
The next attorney that I contacted was helpful in arranging a separation agreement, but kept asking for meetings with myself and my (now) ex-wife to review the terms and firm up the agreement so that it could serve as the template for a divorce agreement. This process took over 2 years and several thousand dollars and at the end of this I was absolutely no further ahead in negotiating an agreement.
I then contacted a family lawyer who had helped a friend with a “high conflict divorce”. My divorce proceedings were not “high conflict”, and my ex-wife and I were able to meet and verbally agree to terms for the divorce several times. However, after we had agreed between ourselves to terms, the agreement was sent to one of our lawyers to write up and ensure that all was legal and acceptable. The agreement that came back from the lawyers, either hers or mine, was never what we had agreed to between ourselves and materially changed almost every element of the agreement…. I started to realize that we were never going to settle this with lawyers who were eager to continue to alter our agreed upon terms and kept circling back to “having our day and kicking some butt” in family court. I was now several years separated and had spent over fifteen thousand on legal fees without any progress.
With the help of mediators in the community, we were finally able to agree to divorce terms and find lawyers who were not pushing us into a courtroom and we were able to finalize a divorce agreement on the terms we had agreed upon several years earlier but could never seem to get either of our attorney’s to write into a legal document.
My experience with the attorneys that I had worked with was that my wishes and my desire to ensure the comfort and security of my children was always secondary to the lawyer’s desire to get into a courtroom and battle it out. I never wanted that; the last several years had been painful and expensive enough. While their intent may have been to “protect my interests”, the reality was that I was spending time and money on a process that wasn’t what I wanted and that was, ultimately, unsuccessful. Breaking the cycle of endless letters and office visits and just working on what we both wanted was the key to a mutually acceptable agreement that allowed us both to move on with our lives and put my focus on what was truly important to me and not my attorney.
Author: John A.