Having Your Day in Court and Eating It, Too

Having Your Day In Court And Eating It, Too by Fabienne Swartz

{2:56 minutes to read} Television shows and movies love to show characters who want nothing more than to have their “day in court.” Usually, they have been wronged in some way, and by taking their issue to court, they are able to level the playing field in a spectacular fashion and win the day.

When it comes to divorce, usually the opposite is true. My cases have always settled—sometimes just right before they were starting the trial, but they have always settled. But one case seems to be threatening my track record.

It started when one of my clients came into my office with a copy of the proposed divorce settlement. Looking at it, I realized that this person had just dodged a bullet by getting a “second set of eyes” on the agreement. I asked if they understood the document, and they indicated that they did not—and they were feeling the pressure to “just sign it.”

Their spouse had really crowbarred in certain demands that were incompatible with a realistic post-divorce life given the couple’s circumstances:

  • The spouse wanted half of the assets, whether they were separate property or marital property.
  • The spouse demanded 50-50 custody, perhaps in a ploy to avoid paying child support.
  • The spouse had no parenting skills.
  • Their visits with the children usually only lasted two or three hours.
  • The children were less than enthusiastic about spending time with this parent.

Compounding this already difficult situation was the spouse’s penchant for hiring and firing lawyers who told them things they did not want to hear. They agitated until they were able to convince all parties that a forensic analysis of their family should be performed, with an eye on determining who was the better parent.

Forensic analyses are expensive, intrusive, inconvenient, and generally not a pleasant experience for everyone involved. Most forensic analyses will indicate that both parents are suitable to a certain degree, but in this case, the report came down hard on the spouse. It stated that my client should have sole custody, which is both extreme and rare.

Following this defeat, the spouse decided to hire yet another attorney. This attorney was certainly professional and ethical but did not understand how to read a spreadsheet. I found myself in an untenable situation: How could I work with someone who does not have basic math skills?  

So I told my client that going to court may be the best option. I’m not happy about it, but there’s a first for everything, as they say.

If you are in the middle of a divorce and people are pressuring you to “just sign it,” take that as a clue that you should not sign it. Just as articles need to be reviewed by independent editors, divorce agreements need to be reviewed by independent divorce experts. Had this client not come to me (or any other independent divorce professional), they would have been living a difficult and uncomfortable life.

Fabienne Swartz JD (Belgium) CDFATM
Certified Divorce Financial AnalystTM
500 Mamaroneck Av.
Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
(914) 798-6940

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