October 2001

By Pamela Edwards-Swift, CFLS

This is the story of two couples, Gary and Grace Greedy and Tim and Tanya Temperate. Both couples were married for seven years and have two children ages 5 and 3. Each couple purchased a home, two vehicles, a boat and two Sea-Doos during their marriage.

One day Grace told Gary that she was in love with Tim Temperate and wanted a divorce. Gary was furious and told Grace that he would make certain he got “everything” in the divorce, even the children. Gary made certain Grace knew she would walk away penniless. Grace knew Gary would be upset, but his anger caused her to be enraged as well. She was ready for a fight, no matter what.

That same day, Tim told Tanya that he was in love with Grace Greedy and wanted to end their marriage so he could marry Grace. Tanya was hurt and upset, to say the least. In spite of her feelings, she knew there was nothing she could do to change Tim’s mind. Instead of getting angry, she suggested that they let a few days go by and then meet to discuss the divorce.

Within a month, Gary and Grace had retained attorneys. Gary paid a $7,500.00 retainer and Grace paid a $5,000.00 retainer. Within the first month, they had been to court fighting over custody of the children on at least two occasions. Both of them had exhausted almost $4,000.00 each in attorneys fees ($8,000 total). The temporary orders granted each party joint legal and joint physical custody of the children. Grace was also given temporary exclusive use of the family residence. No other orders had been made by this point, but both Gary and Grace had been told by their respective attorneys that the “battle had just begun” and to pay an additional retainer of $5,000.00. (If you’re counting, that is $22,500.00 in 30 days!).

In the meantime, Tim and Tanya sat down with one attorney and discussed their situation. The attorney was able to mediate for them and ultimately an agreement was reached. They agreed to share joint legal and joint physical custody of the children. Tanya would live in the family residence. They were also able to reach an agreement concerning all of their assets. The attorney they used to mediate was able to prepare the agreement and all paperwork for submission to court. The attorney instructed Tim and Tanya that they each needed to take the agreement to separate attorneys for review so that they could each be advised of their legal rights. The total amount spent by Tim and Tanya for all three attorneys and for court costs was less than $2500.00. Not only that, but within a few short weeks, all paperwork had been submitted for the Judge’s signature and no one had to go to court, ever.

Each of these couples represent the extreme. Even so, both situations are not uncommon. In dissolving a marriage, the parties can litigate and spend the equivalent of a mortgage on attorneys fees and expert witnesses. In the alternative, they can each “bite the bullet” early on and spend a relatively small amount of money and go on with their lives. Whatever your needs, my office offers services of peaceful mediation to aggressive litigation.