You can’t expect to resolve all Texas Divorce cases amicably and without the assistance of a Texas Divorce Lawyer. However, I am often surprised at the number of potential divorce clients that didn’t think their “simple divorce” would become a year long legal battle. Is your “simple divorce” a nasty contested legal battle just waiting to strike? In my experience, the contested cases tend to have one or more of the following characteristics that you should easily recognize and try to fix before filing a Texas Divorce:
- Your spouse is angry about you wanting a divorce and now they want “payback”
- Your spouse is unwilling to compromise on child custody or child support provisions
- Your spouse is unwilling to compromise on property divisions.
- Your marital estate has complicated assets requiring expert evaluation of property (like business entities) and creative structuring and drafting of liens, notes, and other contractual provisions
- Your spouse simply refuses to be transparent about assets.
If none of these characteristics have manifested in your divorce discussions, consider yourself luck. All that you need to focus on now is completing your Texas Divorce Forms accurately. Of course, our Uncontested Texas Divorce Courses will help you with that process. However, if your spouse happens to fall into the “angry spouse” category, but you don’t have any of the other problems listed above in your case, you might find that giving your spouse a little time to process that the divorce is going to happen, is all that’s needed to get them on board with an uncontested divorce. As long as the “Angry Spouse” appears to be more frustrated and sad than feeling they need revenge or payback, you may have lucked out. If that’s the case, holding off on hiring a Texas Divorce Attorney attorney for a little while to evaluate your spouse may save you lots of money because attorneys often make the divorce process far more complicated than it needs to be.
How do attorneys complicate things? Well, those of you that have dealt with attorneys in the past probably have a general understanding of how difficult lawyers can be in getting deals accomplished quickly. Yes, they are supposed to be looking out for your best interest by thinking of all the things that could possibly go wrong and they they are nit-picky about the wording of seemingly trival provisions in legal documents. That’s their job, more or less. But, sometimes, Attorneys (especially Divorce Attorneys) go over-board in “protecting your best interest.” Don’t’ get me wrong, I’m not saying these divorce lawyers are complicating things for their own self interests, although messy complex divorces benefit them financially. Sure, there are some divorce lawyers out there that complicate things for the side benefit of racking up more billing time, we all know this happens, but that’s probably a small minority of divorce lawyers. In my opinion, I think some divorce lawyers (I can only speak for divorce attorneys I’ve encountered in Texas) tend to focus their client’s attention more on the short comings and negative aspects of divorce settlements, and go out of their way to talk about all the potential things that can go wrong, because the attorneys want to ensure they are immune from liability if something goes wrong either during the divorce proceeding or even years later after its done. This is unfortunate for both the attorneys and the clients. Everyone should understand, much like in medicine, there is risk in almost everything we do and focusing disproportionately on the negative aspects without giving the positive benefits of a potential deal sufficient attention, probably influences many clients to proceed toward trial and needlessly suffer financially and emotionally.
For instance, let’s say that your spouse has agreed to divide the marital estate with you receiving 40% of the estate and them getting 60%. On paper this may appear unfair and that your spouse is “taking you to the cleaners” (I hate this divorce expression). However, let’s imagine that part of that deal includes you getting the house. Even so, some attorneys might immediately dismiss this settlement offer and say “no we want 50/50 “ or encourage you to fight because “you deserve more because your spouse cheated on you and was emotionally abusive.”
On the surface, these might all be valid reasons to reject the deal. Perhaps if you went to court you could get a judge to divide the estate closer to 50/50 or maybe even give you more. Sure, its possible but no one knows for sure, not even your lawyer. But, lets stay with this settlement scenario and assume further that to truly achieve a 50/50 division of the marital estate requires the sale of the house to free up equity. Now, on paper this looks good, right? The spread sheet reads 50% for both spouses and how could the lawyer have done a bad job if you got 50% of the estate? Well, in my opinion, they often screw up because they focus only on the seen and ignore the unseen.
What do I mean by this? I always remind clients in situations like this, where one party gets the house, that there is value in not having to move. Considering that almost every move I’ve made probably cost me $5,000 – $15,000 in unanticipated expenses from hidden moving costs, repairs, and the cost of just setting up the new residence (i.e. getting new household supplies, setting up internet and cable, putting down deposits, loan processing fees and etc). Another thing I like to remind my clients of is their credit score. What does your’s look like? Could you get a loan today? Some spouses have terrible credit, especially if they didn’t really work during the marriage, and the chances of them qualifying for a loan to purchase a house again may be bleak for the next few years. Some of my clients would never be able to purchase another house absent marrying into money or receiving some type of financial windfall (i.e. win the lottery, inheritance, lawsuit settlement or something similar). Here’s the point. Some settlement offers on paper might not appear “fair” to a divorce attorney which leads to their rejection simply because the focus is on the easy to see negative aspects of the deal while little, or no, attention is given to the unseen costs the client will suffer by rejecting the deal. Lawyers in general (much like doctors) don’t always think outside the box. Instead, many give “text book” answers that are procedurally deemed correct even though they are not the best or only solution to the problem.
Never lose site of the fact that there is value in not having your life tied up in a stressful divorce case for a year or longer. Wouldn’t you like to get this behind you as soon as possible? What’s that worth to you? Do you want to hand over another $10,000 to $20,000 to your divorce lawyer and roll the dice on the chances that maybe, just maybe, the judge or jury will give you a better deal? What if you litigate the case and the result is substantial the same or even worse? Trust me, things can always get worse at trial.
Finally, perhaps most importantly, you must realize that litigation is not in any way pleasant for the litigants. This isn’t always true for the lawyers involved though. I must admit that in some hearings or trials I had a blast grilling someone on the witness stand or making my opposing counsel look foolish in their arguments. Even in some cases where the results for my client were far from what they had hoped for, I still enjoyed litigating the unique facts of the case. In many cases, the client’s experience will not be the same as the attorney’s who might be having fun even when its not going well for the client. As I reflect on some of the “successful” occasions in court when everything went smoothly for my case and we appeared to “win,” I could tell that my clients’, although pleased with the results, still suffered from anxiety and emotionally exhaustion from the experience. They “won” but it was still a very unpleasant experience.
The point is divorce lawyers and family law attorneys go to court all the time. Seeing people questioned, harassed, and embarrassed is just part of the job. To us, it isn’t a big deal, just part of the litigation process, and it’s easy to forget that our clients are not used to it. I read somewhere once that the number 1 fear for many people is public speaking. Are you one of those people? If so, think very hard about going to court. I had a client one time that I prepared thoroughly to testify and I felt we had the case in the bag. However, when he got on the witness stand everything fell apart. He froze up, forgot important details, had little to no charisma, and gave brainless responses to questions asked by opposing counsel. I didn’t have fun that day, and the client who was “prepared” for all out war from the start of the case, was now ready to settle at any cost, even if it meant reconciling with his wife that he despised. I’m not exaggerating things, he really was terrible, but I also have to give credit to his wife’s excellent Dallas divorce lawyer who picked my client apart on the stand. You can never be assured that you have the “best” case or even a “good” case to litigate. When there are two skilled attorneys involved, nothing will appear “clear cut” to the judge.
If I told you that your spouse is offering a terrible deal and that we can get much more if we go to court, how would you feel? Pretty confident right? But what if I followed that up by saying your spouse will use every bad fact, half-truth, or even lies that they can think of to make you look like like a terrible spouse and/or parent, and that your friends, family, employer, employees, pastor, therapist, counselor, doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, children’s teachers, and other “factually important” people in your life might end up on the witness stand, subpoenaed by your spouse, to testify about private, embarrassing, maybe even illegal, things about your life. Would that change your mind about litigation? Does the deal look better at this point? If so, you need to think very hard about moving forward. The problem is, most divorce lawyers don’t put enough emphasis on this.
For some of you, litigation will be “unavoidable.” I’m sorry about that. However, before you jump to the conclusion that litigation is the only option, I hope you consider this article first. I still feel that the key to resolving a divorce amicably and in an uncontested fashion without attorneys is to always keep communications open and explore settlement options. If however, you do hire an attorney, keeping communication open is still vital. Don’t just communicate through the attorneys unless your spouse is abusive. Frequent communication will help you and your spouse explore as many settlement scenarios as you can. Rest assured that your spouse probably doesn’t want to go to court either as the same things that make litigation unpleasant for you probably make it equally as unpleasant for them.