Divorce and Compromise
A friend sent me a message the other day about divorce to ask me about her divorce. It happens all the time! She had gotten an inheritance from her grandmother, she said, and used it to buy a car and a trailer, but that her soon to be ex was keeping it hostage and she couldn’t convince him that it was hers. (Under Virginia law, inherited property is separate property.)
“Should I just give him half and move on?” she asked.
In this case, I get it. These two people really didn’t have anything worth anything to divide except, it seems, the car and the trailer. I’m not even entirely sure whether he had a different car to drive, so you can kind of see the problem. People with few assets go one of two ways; they make it as difficult as possible, because they literally have nothing else, or they give up and walk away because what they have isn’t worth much anyway.
This morning, I heard about another case (that isn’t mine) like this. The wife is, basically, a trust fund baby, but desperate to get out of her marriage. There are very few marital assets, and everything else is hers separately. She wanted to offer him a marital share of assets that weren’t his to begin with in exchange for just signing the separation agreement and letting her move on.
She obviously falls into the latter group of people, and I can completely understand. Divorce is scary. It’s expensive, and it’s time consuming. And if you’ve just been married a short while, and have few assets, you want to just end it there and move on with your life.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are people with a lot of assets – but they still fall into the same two camps. Because it’s everything they’ve worked their whole lives for, some fight tooth and nail for every single thing. Others avoid the fight, because they can just make more and it’s not worth the legal fees, the time, the frustration, the blood pressure points.
So, what do you do? What’s worth compromise, and what’s not worth fighting over?
That’s always a hard question to answer, though I’m always hard pressed to encourage a woman to settle for less than what she’s worth. If you inherited something, its yours – and you should be able to take it away from the marriage, regardless of your unscrupulous husband.
Of course, there always has to be a clever cost/benefit analysis in any case, and it’s never worth it to spend more money fighting than the asset is worth. (This is where “it’s just the principle” gets dangerous.)
When you’re unhappily married, and dislike conflict, it can be tempting to give away the farm just to not have to deal with it, especially if you’re afraid that he’ll continue to fight you tooth and nail over every little thing.
It’s not a good feeling, and if you’re wondering how to handle all the anxiety associated with possible litigation, you’re not alone. And its smart that you’re thinking critically, rather than either immediately rolling over, or fighting back. You should think clearly, logically, and strategically, and make decisions designed to help ensure that you’re in the best, strongest possible position once your divorce is finalized. Isn’t that the whole point anyway?
So, all that to say – I don’t have an answer to your question. We haven’t talked one on one, and I don’t know the full extent of your assets and liabilities. It’s a complicated question, this “should I compromise or shouldn’t I?” It involves weighing a lot of different advantages and disadvantages, and knowing more about your husband and his attorney. I do think you’re smart for finding yourself here, for asking these questions, and for wanting more information. You should get it, too!
A good place to start? Read on about your rights in Virginia divorce law in our divorce book for Virginia women, What Every Virginia Woman Needs to Know about Divorce. Consider, too, attending our live seminar, where you can ask questions to a licensed and experienced Virginia divorce attorney. Not enough information? Still need more? Want to ask specific questions about the nuanced issues that relate to your case? Great! Consider scheduling a confidential consultation with one of our attorneys by giving our office a call at 757-425-5200. At a consultation, we can look in detail at all the facts that relate to your unique case, and help you come up with custom tailored options for how to move forward, depending on your specific goals.
All too often, we see people willing to give too much away to be free; or, on the other side of the equation, people who are determined to fight over every little detail because they just can’t back down.
Ask questions. Get good information. Make sure you understand what your rights are under the law (and make sure you know that there’s really no point in beginning negotiations unless and until you know what those rights really are!) and be willing to advocate for yourself.
You’re in the right place. You’re asking the right questions. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, especially if your husband thinks he’ll walk all over you during the divorce process. It’s time to be an advocate, for yourself and your children, and the future life you’re building. Let us know if we can help.