I read a news article recently that listed ten signs the economy is still struggling. One of the ten was a statement that many divorcing couples continue to remain in the marital home while the divorce is pending. While I do not have any empirical data to substantiate that statement, my anecdotal information does indeed confirm that people are toughing it out together for better, or in most cases, for much worse.
There are always those people in any economy who refuse to leave the marital home for a multitude of reasons, most usually when parents are contesting custody of children. Neither parent wants to give the other any type of a "leg up", so they both stay in the home (usually to the children’s detriment).
But in recent years, the extra money with which to operate a second household simply isn’t there. I am finding this in cases all across the financial spectrum, as cash flow in a wealthy ( and more expensive) household is suffering just as it is in those with less income. This may be the result of a job loss, lower income on investments, or many other factors over which my client has no control.
This has made my job harder, not in the sense that the legalities of the divorce work substantially differently, but rather, the intense stress that exists in a divorce is exacerbated in a situation where the two spouses continue under the same roof. A divorce that may have been at least fairly amicable can easily devolve into the War of the Roses. I find that one spouse may do annoying things just to upset the other, such as leaving dirty dishes all over the house, or refusing to take clothes out of the washer. Sound trite? It is, and it is amazing how many well educated, otherwise mature and reasonable adults reduce themselves to this level.
It is during these times that I feel my non-legal skills must be utilized in order to try to see that my client’s legal fees are being used to determine support or an equitable distribution rather than negotiate who has to take Rover and the pooper scooper out for a walk on the weekends. I stress to my clients (and ask that my adversary stress to theirs) common courtesy and common sense. Sometimes reminding a client that they are displaying their nastiness to the most important audience, the children, is a eye opener. I am always amazed at what children seem to remember and what makes a lasting impression on them. Let them see parents take the high road, as hard as it may be now. On a more practical note, silly behavior simply makes the other side dig in their heels on issues that might otherwise be easily resolvable.
In the most difficult of cases, I find myself having to make an application to the court in order to set ground rules, and budgets for the household. Obviously, this is a last resort, and let me assure you one which leaves a lasting impression on the judge who will hear the case.