Divorce from Hell
April 12, 2013
My father was a family physician and used to say that the definition of a mild heart attack was someone else’s.
Same goes for divorce. So, when an article calls a case the “divorce from hell” it’s worth examining.
What defines a divorce from hell? I would suggest the following elements:
- One of the parties is pro se
- Continuous litigation
- The value of the issues is exceeded by the cost of the litigation
- No one wins (except, perhaps the lawyers)
In this case, check, check, check and check.
The interesting part of this case is that apparently, the husband punished the wife for not accepting his first offer.
I’ve seen that scenario, where an offer is made, then withdrawn. Where circumstances have changed (e.g., a business failing) that may be necessary. Otherwise, withdrawing an offer is an aggressive act which usually means that the original offer was never a serious one. After all, if it was such a good offer, why wouldn’t it still be on the table? Making an offer, then withdrawing it and making a lower one (otherwise known as “backwards negotiating”) is really a means of saying to the other side “you were stupid for not accepting it and now I’m going to punish you for being stupid.”
That is not legitimate negotiating. That is simply being mean.
Fortunately, these scenarios are rare. The end result was hardly a victory for the husband. It was a loss of both parties.
A number of years ago I had a “divorce from hell” case where the husband wanted to punish his wife (my client) for divorcing him. I overheard the other lawyer say to him: “This is not a gladiator contest where one comes out alive and the other dies.”
Trying to “win” a divorce case almost always results in both losing. There is rarely a “win-win.” Sometimes there is “lose-lose.” Most commonly, it’s a “tie-tie.”
There is nothing wrong with a “tie-tie.” If both parties would accept that at the beginning, it would make the process much easier. But, some never will and the result, unfortunately, can be the divorce from hell.