There is no TRY in divorce. That doesn’t stop clients from trying to fix their own problems before even asking for help. When a client walks into my office for a first consult with a printed spreadsheet detailing the division of the estate, I am impressed and worried at the same time. He/She will proudly explain to me that “everything is decided. All you have to do is draft it.” Famous last words.
This same client will explain that even though their estate may look complicated, it’s not. Even though their spouse may seem needy, hateful and strange, they are not. They might even brag, “This is the easiest divorce you will ever have. I bet we’ll never even have to talk again.” We can TRY. But, I have a sneaking suspicion, that what we DO it, things may not seem so simple. I am a person who enjoys efficiency and streamlining. Thus, when I define a divorce as complex, there is a good reason. I refuse to over-promise and under-deliver. So, ladies and gentlemen, here is the not-so-scientific formula in life to define a complex divorce:
- Can you tell me in three words, why the other party is crazy?
- Are you or opposing party psychologically diagnosable?
- Is parental alienation occurring?
- Have there been one or more stays in rehab or a mental institution by children or parties?
- Is there a history or pattern of family violence, child abuse or neglect?
- If you had to add the LPC’s and Ph.D’s on this case, is the number greater than 2?
- Do we have assets with difficult values to assign?
- Are we dividing special or hard to value “stuff”?
- Are you or your spouse obsessed with the fact that there are hidden assets?
- Are you uncertain the nature of the asset- when or how you acquired it?
- Is there a business interests to divide?
- Do you have too much? Too little?
- Has there been fraud or a whiff of bad faith money transactions?
- Does lifestyle conflict with the alleged income?
High conflict personalities gravitate to complex divorce. Likewise, if your spreadsheet doesn’t make sense to both parties, then we have a problem. I think that most people like simplicity in theory, but in practice, life gets in the way. Nobody wants to self-identify as “complex divorce.” But then again, nobody wants the check-the-box route either.
As a divorce client, challenge yourself to DO rather than TRY, to trust your gut. When the value for an asset feels wrong, or the narratives of your children feel too polished, question them. DO ask the tough questions and get it right the first time. DO trace funds and get psychological evaluations if they shed light on a dark tunnel. Don’t TRY to brush things under the rug- whether for budgetary reasons or to avoid confrontation.
Your divorce is your first and best bite at the apple, so assess it properly. And remember: just because your divorce is complex, this doesn’t mean the rest of your life will be.