Have you seen “Marriage Story” yet? The Scarlett Johansson/Adam Driver film, currently streaming on Netflix, demonstrates how an amicable divorce between caring partners can quickly disintegrate into vindictive hostilities, which strip the couple of their assets and turn children into weapons of war.
The film is no exaggeration. The Internet is teeming with appalling divorce stories. If you’re curious, take a look at “10 Divorce Court Horror Stories,” from HuffPost; “8 Divorce Horror Stories from People Who’ve Been Through it,” in BusinessInsider or “Dirty Divorce Tricks” on WomansDivorce.com.
Reading these articles, myself, I discovered a long list of the brutal tactics that divorcing parties and their lawyers routinely employ to gain leverage in negotiations:
- Spying to dig up dirt;
- Accusations of abuse or risky behavior;
- Draining the joint bank account;
- Maxing out shared credit cards;
- Limiting access to marital assets;
- Concealing assets;
- Withholding or dragging out support;
- Petitioning court for primary custody even when parties have agreed to joint custody;
- Refusing to speak with the other side;
- Filing bogus petitions or asking for irrelevant documents just to delay proceedings.
Apparently, things can get pretty ugly, pretty fast.
While I’ve never considered divorce myself (murder, on occasion, but never divorce), I sympathize with those who’s “ever after” did not turn out as happily as mine.
I lay the blame on the lawyers for the adversarial nature of divorce. Once Ray Liotta and Laura Dern (the lawyers in “Marriage Story) were brought into the picture, all semblance of “conscious uncoupling” collapsed. It’s not that these characters, or their real-life counterparts, are venal; they’re merely doing what they’re hired to do.
And, make no mistake, the divorce lawyer’s job is to get his or her client the best deal possible – even if that means employing many of the tactics listed above. Somebody’s going to win, and somebody’s going to lose.
And then there’s the expense. The legal website nolo.com estimates the average cost of a divorce that settles out of court at $10,600, while the average cost of a divorce that goes to trial is $20,400.
After 55 years of putting up with each other, I don’t think Jack and I will be divorcing any time soon. But if we did, I’d certainly want us to work out an agreement between ourselves and use a mediator to settle the sticky points, keeping the lawyers out of it as much as possible.
Have you lived through a divorce nightmare or just know about one? Please comment here.