You Want to Win, Don’t You?

Go ahead, say it, it’s ok.  YOU WANT TO WIN!

The question is, what do you want to win? More money?  Assets?  Are you looking to inflict more pain on your spouse? (Why would you want to do that, come on!)

The reality is, there is no winning in divorce.  When you take away the emotional baggage that too often plays a leading role in the process, a divorce is nothing more than a business transaction.  You and your spouse married and joined assets, but when you get divorced, you now are splitting up the marital household and going back to two separate lives.

Right, except there IS emotional baggage; after all you once loved each other and have shared I don’t know how many intimate moments with each other over the years.  You can’t just separate that out from the negative feelings you both have for each other now, hence the reason you’re getting divorced.

Easy enough, except when you share children, don’t make equal incomes and you both want to live at the same lifestyle you are accustomed to during the marriage.

I can’t speak for divorce law in other states because I practice in New Jersey, but it’s common for divorce courts to focus on equitably dividing the marital assets so there is no “winner.”  It’s supposed to be equitable, not the same thing as equal.  It’s not like on television.

Divorce is just as much about psychology as it is about money and assets.  You need to focus on your emotional well being in addition to your financial health.  Take the following example from an actual case I had:

Wife and Husband were in the middle of a contentious divorce.  They had one child together and the husband was the primary bread winner in the family.   Wife was consumed with getting a certain amount of alimony and child support so she could maintain a certain lifestyle that she felt she was entitled to.  She was a good person, but her priorities were out of whack and her expectations needed adjusting.

When things were not going the way wife wanted (meaning she was being told by husband’s attorney and hers that she was not going to get the alimony she was looking for) her mental health spiraled.

She became unstable and erratic, to the point where she was about to lose primary custody of her child.  She consumed herself with the court case and filed motion after motion trying to get the court to side with her, but that never happened.

Why am I telling you about this?  She was so focused on making husband bleed financially that she lost her emotional health and almost her child.

Winning your divorce should be about coming out with your head intact and having a stable and healthy emotional core.  Of course you want your fair share of the assets and enough support to live on your own and support the children if you have them, but you will be a winner if you come out emotionally healthy.

So, how you do you win your divorce?

1. Get therapy during the process and start from the beginning if you can.

2. If you have children, make sure they are in therapy during the process too.  Your kids are not as sophisticated as you…if you are having difficulty dealing with your divorce, chances are your kids are dealing with it too, just in different ways.

3. Understand the reality of dividing one marital household into two individual households, which requires two incomes to support.  Find realistic alternatives for your new life, understanding that your spouse will have to do the same.  Most of the time, neither spouse will be able to live at the marital lifestyle after the divorce, so there is no winner in this respect.

4. Understand the dissolution process for what it is; a process to legally separate yourself from your spouse.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Don’t let the emotional baggage get in the way.  Of course this is easier said than done, but that’s why you need to be in therapy; do deal with it there.  The court is not your psychologist.  At its very core, a divorce is a business deal.  The trick is treating it like one.  This is where the therapy helps.

Custody And Your Children.

Let’s talk about the children.  If you think winning means that you keep the kids most of the time and can use them to manipulate your ex…well, I would tell you this is not winning.  If you don’t believe me, go talk about it with your therapist.  I’m an attorney, although I like to play therapist sometimes.

If it wasn’t for those statistic courses in college…

In New Jersey, courts decide issues regarding custody issues according to what is in the best interest of the children.  Think about this for a second.  Is what your doing in the best interest of your children?  Unless there is a really good reason (I’m talking criminal reasons) you should want your children to have a good relationship with both parents.  The law presumes this.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard stories about children being alienated from one parent during a contentious divorce only to find out later in life and then they rebel, harshly, against the parent who encouraged the alienation and have a great relationship with the alienated parent in adulthood.

Do you want to risk this?

Is it worth it?

Do you think this is what your children would want?

Remember, just because you are divorced doesn’t mean you can’t communicate and co-parent well together.  Many people often have better relationships after the divorce than when they were married and that, in turn, creates a great environment for the children.  Maybe you just weren’t mean to be married together, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends, friendly and great parents to your shared children.

Final Thoughts

From an attorney’s perspective, I would say that winning your divorce means a few things.

First, you didn’t spend what money you had on attorneys and getting evaluations for your children because you couldn’t agree on anything and because you were smart you came out with assets to start your new life with.

Second, you’re emotionally healthy.  I mean, stable, positive and have a general positive outlook on life.

Third, your children were not collateral damage of the divorce.  Both parents have a decent relationship with the kids and willing to co-parent and do what is in their best interests (as opposed to what is in the parent’s best interest).

If you can say yes to these things, congratulations.  You just won!


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