Problems of a Traditional Divorce

Trouble with the Legal System: An inside look at the problems of a traditional divorce

Unfortunately, some individuals decide that they can no longer be married to their spouse. When an individual (the “Petitioner”) makes the decision to file for a divorce, they will often times set up a divorce consultation with a family law attorney. More often than not, that individual will wind up retaining that attorney to represent them in their divorce. A typical retainer fee for an attorney in Utah can range anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 and is put towards “beginning” a case.

Once an attorney has been retained, the attorney will draft up a Petition for Divorce. This Petition states the party’s initial position on all of the issues in the case (custody, child support, alimony, possession of real and personal property, etc.).

When an attorney drafts up a Petition for Divorce, the attorney will typically demand that their client be awarded everything: custody, child support, a large amount of alimony, the house, the personal property, the car, no debt, etc. The reason behind an attorney asking for everything in the Petition for Divorce is based on strategy and serves a twofold purpose: First, if the opposing party (the “Respondent”) fails to respond to the Petition for Divorce within 20 days of being served, the court will enter a default judgment. This means that everything asked for in the Petition will be granted to the person that filed for the divorce. Thus, it is to the filing party’s advantage to ask for everything in the event that they might possibly have it all awarded to them in a default judgment. The second reason why an attorney will ask for everything in the Petition for Divorce is because it leaves room for future negotiating with the Respondent. If they demand everything in the beginning, including things that they don’t particularly care about, it gives them something to use as a bargaining chip later on with issues that they genuinely hope to win on.

Once the Petition is drafted, it is then filed with the court and served on the Respondent. And this is where the divorce war begins.

Individuals who are at the crossroads of divorce are already feeling a wave of emotions such as anger, sadness, guilt, and stress due to the painful circumstances that have led them to a divorce in the first place. However, these emotions are amplified when the Respondent is served with an unreasonable Petition in which their soon-to-be ex-spouse has demanded to receive everything, leaving the Respondent with absolutely nothing except for an egregious amount of monthly bills and enormous debt. Feelings of betrayal and anger are brought instantly to the surface, and the Respondent is ready to fight back.

The Respondent will then hire an attorney as well (also with an initial retainer ranging from $2,500 to $5,000) to draft an Answer to the Petition for Divorce. The Answer will work the same way as the Petition for Divorce did, only having the reverse effect: It will demand that the Respondent receive everything and leave the Petitioner with nothing.

The end result: The two parties end up with positions that are polar opposites of one another and more angry than they were to begin with. This in turn leads to lengthy court battles, mud slinging, and outrageous attorney bills as they try to work their way to what seems like an impossible resolution. All civility towards one another completely dissipates, with the main goal now being focused on “winning”. However, with this approach, there is no winner.

And right at the heart of this lengthy, expensive, and fierce battle are the children (for those couples who are parents), who are being exposed to fighting, bitterness, and anger, geared at one parent from the other. They are suddenly put in the middle, often times feeling pressure to choose a side, as they watch their parents battle it out in the legal system.

All sense of stability is snatched away from the children, and they are left confused as their foundation of family and unity is suddenly destroyed.

What Needs to be Resolved?

Individuals who have made the decision to dissolve their marriage need to find a more effective way to proceed with the dissolution process. A traditional divorce using the court system is not meeting the needs of the individuals, particularly the children, which are involved. It creates hostility and resentment between the couple, and children are left with instability as the world they once knew is turned completely upside down for an indefinite amount of time. Thus, it is essential that couples find an alternative to a traditional divorce to meet these core needs and allow for a peaceful dissolution between two divorcing parents/individuals.