As in any human endeavor, in divorce matters, myths abound. In divorce, to paraphrase Churchill, truths are so valuable that they are often surrounded by a bodyguard of myths.
Here are 10 of the most common:
1. Divorce is not going to break your bank and it will be relatively inexpensive
This is absolutely not so. Any time there are any issues in a divorce case, costs rise geometrically. The simplest thing often requires much lawyers’ time. The law is a blunt instrument. It is a bit like two rhinoceroses making love. There are many pre-conditions, posturings, lots of effort and unpleasantness before the job gets done.
2. Leave it to the lawyers
It would be great if you could pay a lawyer to do everything necessary in a divorce case and the litigant can stay out of the mess or, at least, stand on the sidelines. I tell clients if they believe they can stay out of the situation and leave it to the lawyers, “You have better things to do with your money and I have better things to do with my time.” Divorce is not a human endeavor where you can sit in Palm Beach sipping Mojitos and let the lawyers duke it out. It just does not work that way.
3. We can remain friends after divorce
The only participants that usually can remain friends after a divorce are the lawyers. The logical question is: why would anybody want to remain friends with someone who has caused them to spend lots of money, time and emotional currency simply to get rid of each other?
4. I can always open up the divorce settlement at a later time
Because it is such a painful process, people usually are in a rush to finish up their divorce. They often naively believe, or talk themselves into believing, it is a simple matter to open it up once again as time goes by. They may or may not be abetted in their belief by the lawyers. Most of the time, the lawyer merely informs the client that in certain cases the divorce settlement can be opened up, i.e, custody; child support; etc., and then the client goes forth changing the lawyer’s comments to a declaration of certainty. Then they convince themselves that they can always go back to change a settlement.
5. Two can live as cheaply as one
This is true if one of the people is Bill Gates. The simple truth is most people live pretty close to the bone, so that there is no way two people can live as cheaply as one, unless one of the people sleeps in a park and can do without food.
6. In a divorce, terror tactics work
Terror approaches do not cause people to cave. The human reaction when threats or all kinds of horrible accusations are made is that the other side is to resist. More terror; more resistance.
In the Second World War, both the British and the Germans believed that indiscriminate bombings of cities would destroy the morale of the enemy population and cause a surrender. History has shown that the exact opposite was true.
7. Confidentiality clauses work
A confidentiality clause is a protective clause in an agreement designed to prevent a spouse from releasing information about the other spouse or the divorce. Today, with intrusive media and the Internet forum, everybody from the neighborhood doctor to a movie star wants to hide their light under a bushel. They insist on confidentiality clauses, but that usually simply means that if one spouse wants to reveal anything about the other and it would violate the confidentiality provision in an agreement that provides financial or other punishment, they will have to figure out a way around it. Then what happens is, the spouse tells their sister-in-law, who in turn would tell her husband who passes it on to somebody at work, who in turn knows somebody who works at the newspaper. Enforcement is usually seldom effective to fix the blame on the guilty spouse.
8. My lawyer will feret out all my spouse's hidden monies in the financial discovery process
The unhappy truth is that the husband who plans to hide money from his soon-to-be ex-wife, has also, long ago, developed a scam to hide his money from a much sterner, oppressive and competent force – the IRS. I tell clients that the best a lawyer can do is to protect her against getting raped. But they should reconcile themselves to the fact that the lawyer probably could not protect her from her spouse stealing a kiss.
9. At the end of a case, all the inequities will be adjusted at trial
During the course of a case which, after spread out over many months or more, one or the other party may have overpaid or underpaid the other. The usual mantra is: “Don’t worry, when we settle the case, we will make adjustments.” When a case is settled rather than being tried, as it happens in 99% of cases, these interim inequities fall between the cracks.
10. Save it for the Saturday night dance
During a case, evidence and things of all nature that are damaging to a spouse may fall into the hands of the other spouse. Many lawyers advise their clients to hold it back and spring it at trial. But, most of the time there is no Saturday night dance, meaning the trial is never held because the parties have settled. Then the damaging material, which has been held back, is worthless and the mileage that could have been obtained from it has been wasted.
Raoul Lionel Felder is perhaps America's best known divorce and family lawyer representing in a legal trajectory of more than forty years representing both ordinary citizens and celebrities in over a thousand cases. He has written seven books and has published numerous articles related to matrimonial law, politics and social issues and has been a television and radio spokesperson, host and moderator.