Jun 9, 2021
Christine Lombardo-Zaun Esq., Attorney-Mediator at Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation discusses.
I have learned so much as a divorce litigator, which I believe makes me a more effective mediator. One major lesson learned while litigating is that nitpicking can be exhausting and very costly. I once had a case where my client fought with his soon-to-be ex-spouse for one week over a $20 wall hanging. The bill for that one week of legal fees was alarming to my client. I tried to warn my client to avoid the trap of nitpicking but he could not help it and fell prey to it.
When a couple is going through a divorce, and as amicable as it may seem, there is always stress. There are always emotions running high at different points in the process. For some parties, the nitpicking starts, and then becomes something like a train running off the tracks and it can become very costly – in many ways.
There are those parties who will fight tooth and nail to get what they want because of the principal of the matter. Those are the people who are spending thousands of dollars on their divorce. Thousands. Just to prove a point. It is obvious that this is not the prudent way to move forward if you are trying to save money. I hope to share some reasons how avoiding nitpicking during divorce can not only save you money but it can save you in other ways.
If you really want to get divorced and “move on” as many say, then do as you say and say as you do. Make a list of what is really important to you and identify the things you must have versus the things the law says you must have. Some people believe they HAVE to follow the legal guidelines but the key to negotiating a good settlement is to think past the law. Sure, the law is there for a reason, but sometimes, looking at the bigger picture helps a couple divide assets and liabilities more fairly. As a mediator, I try to ensure that both parties end up with appropriate levels of cash flow and retirement savings.
Nitpicking and fighting over every little thing to “be right” or to get what the law says you should get sometimes backfires. I have seen it many times in the courts. A couple might have a support agreement but then one parent feels like they were ripped off, maybe because a friend old them about their agreement, or maybe they read something somewhere…whatever it is, but then they return to court and try to get more. This almost always backfires on the party trying to get more. They “lose sight of the forest for the trees” and they most likely end up losing more than what they were originally awarded.
I have found that the couples who agree not to nitpick end up divorcing in a much healthier way – both emotionally and financially. Those parties make concessions and both have a goal of making sure each can start their own chapter as equally as possible. This is why mediation works for those parties. This is why couples who mediate their divorce save money, time, and stress. There are always things to concede, especially with a lengthy marriage. Identifying these items will help the process. What could be important to you might not be so important to the spouse.
Finally, think about the big picture. How much time do you want to spend tied up in a divorce? I have seen parties consumed with their divorce and it affected their health, their careers, and their wallet. One party spent $47,000 to hire a forensic accountant who ended up finding nothing. That money could have been better spent on their children’s education. One client got so sick that her hair started falling out and she ended up spending thousands on medical bills, including therapists and diagnostic testing. I advise my clients to let go of the little things as that is just what they are: little. Do not fight over a crystal vase – just go out and replace it. Your health, well-being, and wallet will thank you for it.