What The Wall Street Journal Got Right and Wrong About Divorce
In the Personal Finance section of The Wall Street Journal on November 9th, Veronica Dagher opines that amicable divorces are not likely in the current financial market in the United States. The author of this article makes valid points about how the economy is impacting couples contemplating separation and/or divorce or are in the midst of a separation and divorce. Rising mortgage rates, inflation overall, inflated home valuations, the cost of residential rentals, and the recent decline in the market all contribute to the stress of divorce, an already incredibly stressful process. I agree with Stacy Phillips, a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles who was quoted in the article who said that people are angry and acting out. People are also afraid of the future, worried about their financial security, and frustrated. These are common emotions divorcing couples experience and are not unique to our current circumstances; they do seem to be, however, exacerbated.
An Amicable Divorce is Always Possible, Regardless of Market Conditions
I disagree with the author’s premise that an amicable divorce is not possible in this market. To the contrary, non-adversarial processes like mediation and collaborative divorce offer couples the ability to create workable and amicable solutions to the issues they are facing in a way that works for them and their family, instead of asking a judge to decide for them. Mediation and collaborative divorce, unlike traditional litigation in court, allow separated and divorce couples to use creative ideas that a judge would not order, and allows couples to implement trial periods for parenting concepts like nesting, as noted in the article. In my experience, judges will not order nesting arrangements, because they are fraught with possible ongoing disputes, only some of which are noted in the article, and require a great deal of cooperation between the parents.
Through effective mediation or the collaborative divorce process, couples can try different parenting schedules and concepts instead of being forced into one court ordered plan. These processes also give couples the ability to work through financial issues together and modify them as their needs and circumstances changes, whereas utilizing the judicial system (court), typically costs significant counsel fees when one party or both want to change an existing order.
Judges in New Jersey will not typically order the sale of a marital home pendente lite (while the divorce is pending) unless the home is in danger of foreclosure. As a result, divorcing couples generally have to address the temporary retention of the marital home, and the financial and physical protection of it while the divorce is pending. Mediation and the collaborative divorce process offer them far better options of finding workable, feasible, and reasonable solutions. There are often other creative opportunities available; they just need to be explored.
The article also seems to indicate unfairness to a parent whose income is not increasing but will face an increase in child support. What is missing is the other side of the issue: there are children who need more support to maintain their lifestyle because of inflation and rising prices. Their needs are not changing and the costs of maintaining those needs increasing. While it may seem unfair to the paying parent, no increase in child support may be unfair to the other parent and the children. Again, mediation and the collaborative divorce process offer parents the ability to work through these issues cooperatively and in a way that both can feel is fair, equitable, and appropriate under the circumstances. They can even make a temporary adjustment and agree to review it as circumstances change or as the economy improves or further declines and/or inflation continues at these record rates.
Mediation and The Collaborative Divorce Process Is Market Neutral
While mediations and collaborative divorces may take longer and cost more due to the current financial circumstances in the US, they remain far better methods of dispute resolution for divorcing couples and parents. The alternative is way more expensive, limiting, and adversarial. Litigation, arguing in court before a judge, creates a win/lose scenario while mediation and the collaborative divorce process offer couples and parents a win-win possibility.
* * * * *
BorgerMatez, P.A. is a Cherry Hill, New Jersey law firm which concentrates its practice in the area of family law and whose attorneys are familiar with and experienced in alternative dispute resolution. Contact us at 856-424-3444 or use this form for a consultation with one of our attorneys, all of whom have more than 30 years of experience.