Sometimes a spouse will pretend to be cooperative with the divorce, telling you that they want to work everything out without the involvement of lawyers. Initially this may seem like a great idea, as you can save money and hopefully move on from the marriage as friends rather than enemies. What could go wrong in such a scenario? I will give you several examples that I have encountered in my practice.
Scenario One: The “Family Friend” Lawyer
Your spouse may tell you that neither of you should waste money on hiring two attorneys. There is an attorney who is a family friend who has agreed to help you reach a settlement. This may seem like a good idea, but it’s actually a bad idea. The friend cannot represent both of you. Also there may be issues that you do not feel comfortable discussing in front of the family friend that you can discuss with the attorney. You need your own attorney to make sure that your interests are adequately represented.
Scenario Two: The “Mediator”
Mediation is a good thing. I am also a trained mediator, so I support the notion that sometimes a neutral third party can help couples who are at an impasse. However, many people who claim to be mediators have no training in mediation. For mediation to be effective the parties must enter into a mediation agreement that sets out the nature of the relationship, the goals, and the ground rules. It your mediator does not do these things then you should be suspicious of the mediation. I recently had a client who went to a “mediator” that his wife found. He reported back to me that he felt the mediator advocated for the wife and did not listen to his concerns. As it turns out, the “mediator” was just an attorney that the wife had contacted to help draft a settlement agreement. The parties never signed a mediation agreement and there were no ground rules. Needless to say the so-called mediation was not productive.
Scenario Three: Scare Tactics
One spouse will tell you divorce horror stories – that s/he knows someone who fought their spouse in the divorce and walked away with nothing. Why? S/he wants to intimidate you into making a settlement that is against your interests. Don’t listen to your spouse — listen to your lawyer. Your lawyer is a professional who is representing your best interest. Your spouse is only trying to gouge out a bigger piece of the pie for him/her self.
Scenario Four: Scorched Earth Policy
One spouse will start to close credit cards and remove money from bank accounts, attempting to leave the other party financially crippled. Why? It’s hard to hire a divorce attorney when you have no access to cash, as most, if not all, require some sort of retainer up front. If you believe divorce is imminent you should open a credit card in your own name, as you may need it for legal expenses and the costs of setting up a new household.