Many years ago I represented a very nice woman. She made a nice appearance, spoke well and was polite. As mightily as we tried, we just couldn’t settle her case and wound up going to trial. I prepared her for her testimony, counselled her about how to act, and told her what to expect when we got to court. We agreed that she would wear a skirt and blouse or a dress.
We were ready, I thought. She arrived at court wearing a very nice knee length dress and a cardigan sweater. Perfect, I thought. She was called to the witness stand and was sworn in. That’s when things went downhill. She removed her sweater which revealed a four inch diameter button she pinned to her dress that proclaimed in bold capital letters, “I WANT IT ALL!”
The judge was not amused. All our preparation and hard work was in vain. In one “unforced error” she gave away her credibility. Despite efforts at rehabilitation, we only regained a portion of her credibility. Whether she believed what her button said or simply thought it was funny, it illustrates how divorce litigants must be realistic about what they can expect from divorce. No one gets “it all”. Here are some things you can reasonably expect.
First, expect the person you are divorcing to be the same person to whom you were married. Don’t expect your spouse to be someone (or something) he wasn’t during the marriage. All the behaviors he exhibits in the divorce are, no doubt, the behaviors that led you to want to divorce him. He is what he is and that’s all that he is. Change is probably not in the cards.
Second, you will experience more stress while going through a divorce than you can imagine. Even when you think you’re handling things well, you’re probably not doing as well as you think. Many people look back and realize this. It’s normal (as if anything about getting divorced is normal). We can divorce you from your spouse, but I haven’t found a way to eliminate stress from divorce. Expect it and try to develop strategies for coping with it. Eat regularly, pick a bedtime and stick to it (all nighters don’t help), and get physical activity (the gym, jogging, kick boxing, etc).
Third, you most assuredly will not get everything you want. Expect to compromise. Your spouse will want things, too. Sometimes they will be the same things you want. Settling a case requires compromise. If you are unfortunate enough to go to trial, expect the judge to see some issues your way and some your spouse’s way. I’ve tried several hundred cases over the years and no husband or wife has ever gotten everything he or she wanted. Make a list of your priorities so you can talk with your attorney about what is most important to you and what you would be willing to give up if you had to. That’s how settlements are made.
Finally, expect to flourish after your divorce. There is life after divorce. Most clients report that, although the divorce was stressful and adjustments may be necessary in the immediate aftermath, a new sense of freedom and the release from the stress of a bad marriage and divorce provide a feeling of independence and, yes, happiness.
Divorce is a difficult life experience. Reasonable expectations can help you cope with the stress and anger you will undoubtedly experience. Expect to get through it and to do well!