The more you look to the past, the more you live in the past. The more you look towards your future, the more you have a future.
The combative part of a divorce generally deals with the least important items. And focusing on those items keeps us focused on our past and costs us far more than if we were living in our future. So why do couples make that same mistake over and over again?
The answer is quite simply put, fear. There are all sorts of fears that plague our lives when we go through a divorce.
Fear you might miss something important because you don’t understand the legal process.
Fear that the other person is trying to cheat you out of time with your children.
Fear that you won’t have enough money for the future.
Fear that your spouse is hiding assets.
Fear that you might get sick.
Fear that you will never meet anyone again.
Fear that your spouse will turn your friends against you.
Fear that you’re not as attractive, physically or financially as you were before.
Fear is paralyzing, divisive and emotional. Fear also makes you very unattractive and drives away potential new job opportunities, suitors, friends and family. If that fear is allowed to fester, the acrimony it subsequently causes is the stuff that makes men cynical, women bitter and children an emotional mess.
So how do you stop fear from taking over your life, consuming your assets and destroying your children? It’s very difficult to see your own situation objectively when you are in the midst of an emotionally charged legal battle. So perhaps this exercise might help you to gain a little perspective and enable you to move one step closer to avoiding it.
Identify the fear
Which of the above fears are you confronting? It may not be listed, so think hard about what fear underlies whatever current drama you are facing. Then write it down.
Chart the fear
Write it down on a piece of paper and map it’s logical progression to the ultimate feared conclusion. Identify each logical step that would take place if that fear were realized.
Draw a reasonable conclusion
Ask yourself — So what?
Your ex-spouse is not paying for half your child's braces.
Your spouse doesn’t care about your child, is spending the money on someone else, or you will run out of money if you have to shoulder all the financial burden.
In order to force the issue, you will have to take him to court. So chart that process out, along with actions and subsequent costs to reach the conclusion you desire — he should pay for half.
Braces cost $10,000. He should pay $5,000. Here’s the calculation: number of hours your lawyer will spend on the case, 23 hours. Multiplied by your lawyer’s hourly fee, $300. You will pay $4,600 to take it to court.
Now consider the number of hours it would take out of your own life to prepare the necessary information and give the factual guidance? How much of your days, weeks, months will be consumed by preparing the information and thinking about your anger towards him? How much stress will it cause you? How emotionally charged would it be for your child?
Most important, would pursuing this allay your fears? Would it prove your spouse does love your child? Would it convince you that you won’t run out of money one day? Will it convince you that your ex-spouse is no longer spending money on someone else? Probably not.
The reasonable conclusion
Should the other parent pay half of the cost? Of course. But how much will it cost you to get that $5,000 co-pay? Likely as much as the co-pay itself. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pursue the payment. It may be the right thing to do. But is it the best thing to do? My guess is, in this instance, the financial cost — added to the subjective emotional and family costs it would produce — would far outweigh the benefit. So, as they say, you may win the battle but you could lose the war.
Clearly there are some things that require your vigilance and attention because precedent is a pretty powerful thing. If things are not handled correctly in the beginning, you could be forever playing catch up or sacrifice the opportunity to put forth other issues in the future by not acting. In general though, most of the actions people take in a divorce are motivated more out of fear than importance. Unfortunately, most lawyers are focused on their own finances and won’t be the fountain of reason.
As long as you have money to spend, you can find an advocate to fight. But, in the end, you must ask yourself three questions: First, whose advice am I listening to and what do they want out of giving me the advice? Second, will pursuing this point really solve anything of importance or am I really pursuing it out of fear? Finally, what financial, emotional and physical costs will I pay to be right?
Michele Colucci, JD, is a lawyer, entrepreneur, CEO of MyLawsuit.com and divorced mother of four. She is a regular contributor for The Huffington Post, eLocal, HopeAfterDivorce.org and FamilyShare.com. Follow Michele on Twitter @MyLawsuit.com.