All too often one spouse will pressure the other to settle an ongoing case, using finances, custody, or some other issue to force an inequitable end to a matter. This comes up all the time, yet the pressured spouse frequently doesn’t realize that it is happening, whether it is because she trusts her soon to be ex-spouse, is scared (or simply does not want) to litigate to obtain what is fair and reasonable, or for a variety of other reasons.
So what type of comments/efforts will one spouse make to pressure the other spouse into a settlement? For the sake of brevity, I provide a list of ten fan favorites below, although the list could likely go on and on without end.
1. You are going to have to start cutting back on your (not his) lifestyle expenses or else we are not going to be able to afford to litigate this matter. While in some cases this may be a true statement, I find this one particularly obvious and offensive in cases where there is more than enough income and assets to litigate and maintain the marital lifestyle for both parties.
2. You are going to cause us to go to trial (alternatively, "my lawyer told me that I am right, so I would rather go to trial than give you what you want").
3. Do you really want to drag the kids into the middle of a (legitimate) custody dispute?
4. I will give you what you want on custody and parenting time so long as you give me what I want financially. This example is particularly common, but the issues should not be intertwined.
5. Your lawyer is preventing us from settling (alternatively, "I want to try to work this out with you privately and impose my terms without your lawyer getting in the way").
6. My income this year is not going to be what it once was, so we really cannot afford to litigate this matter. (see also prior blog posts on Rapidly Acquired Income Deficiency Syndrome "RAIDS")
7. I would rather pay my lawyer than pay you. This classic line really has no bearing on the outcome of a support or equitable distribution issue, and, in fact, provides a compelling argument by the supported spouse for counsel fees due to the payor spouse’s unreasonable conduct.
8. The act (or repeated act) of violating an interim support ("pendente lite") Order requiring payment for various expenses. This form of non-compliance forces the supported spouse to determine whether she wants to continually file costly motion after costly motion to address the payor spouse’s non-compliance, or simply give in and surrender in the matter.
9. Threatening the supported spouse that if she does not agree to go to mediation, she will "regret it".
10. Any type of what is commonly known as "Divorce planning", ranging from ensuring a reduction in income (see #8, above), spending down assets, hiding assets, or engaging in any course of wrongdoing geared towards the divorce matter.
The possibilities are really endless, so it is important that you keep an eye out and understand that each of the above examples may (and I say "may" because some of the above claims may be truthful and legitimate) be designed to do nothing more than pressure you into an inequitable settlement that you may regret having to live with when you wake up the morning after that final judgment of divorce is entered by the Court.
Robert Epstein is an associate in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group. Robert practices in the firm’s Roseland, New Jersey office and can be reached at (973) 994-7526, or firstname.lastname@example.org.