You might want to sit down and brace yourself. Forget those fairy tales about unicorns, knights on white stallions, and how Justin maybe got his father’s brain instead of Margaret’s. A lawyer is about to tell you not to spend money on legal fees!!
Here’s the deal. If you have decided to battle out your differences in the hope of being successfully divorced instead of coming to your own agreement, you need to keep in mind that the technical wording in the various statutes that govern how a court may ultimately decide the issues of custody, access, support and division of property are not automatically applied by some machine. You get to fight over this stuff in front of a judge who is going to make a decision for you. And – now sit down for this one too – your case ain’t the first time the judge has ever seen what the two of you want to fight over and is going to look at your issues through his coloured glasses.
You might be surprised when you find out that the decision isn’t exactly what you had hoped for – and equally surprised when you look across at your dearly divorced ex and see the same look of bewildered disappointment on her face. You see – a judge isn’t a machine. He or she is going to apply their own views, thoughts, background and predispositions to your particular set of facts.
While the idealist in you might like to hope that ten different judges would come to the same decision in your fight to keep the cutlery, you might in fact get ten different decisions, from splitting it to selling it. Too many battling exes forget that judges are individuals who give individual decisions. That’s what makes it interesting (and a bit of a crap shoot, Tex). Remember what your momma told you – don’t stand on 14, never play poker with a guy named “Dallas” or “Cincinatti” and don’t open unless you can afford to call. Going to court is a bit like that – you need to think about what you are prepared to lose and what it’s going to cost you to win. Pick your battles carefully and don’t be one of those unhappy campers who wants to sit in court just to scream at your ex. Between your lawyers bill and hers, it’ll be the most expensive scream therapy session yet. Do that with your cat (just don’t be ticked when he pees on your hat later).
When you are at the point that you are glaring at each other across the courtroom, surrounded by your protective coven of black gowned lawyers, peering over piles and piles of document briefs and case law binders, the fun is just starting. Now, I don’t know about you, but 30 years in this business has taught me that most litigants (those of you who are paying big legal bills to fight with each other) aren’t having a lot of fun with the length and the uncertainty of a divorce case. Most people want results – most people wants those results now – most people want it over with sooner rather than later – most people want to pay small legal bills and not big legal bills.
With that in mind, ya gotta wonder why so many people seem to love to fight over the silliest little details. Personally, I don’t get it. Rather than paying somebody hundreds of dollars an hour (the legal bill) to scrap over who gets the $200 worth of Aeroplan points, I’d just go buy the plane ticket. Call me silly. Sometimes I get the strangest looks from people when I tell them that it’s cheaper to buy the couch brand new from the Art Shoppe than to fight over the used one that uncle Bob gave them 20 years ago after he decided it was too grungy for the hunt camp. “But it’s the principle of the thing!” – I wish I had Five bucks for every time I heard that one.
Look – principle is great when you are dealing with an issue of principle. I guess it depends on where you set your principle meter. In my world, principle includes stuff like global disasters, actually having a government who spends my tax dollars wisely instead of buying back billion dollar gas plant contracts, and – for the love of God – not pouring my 89 Romanee Conti like it’s a Coors Lite. These are things to go to war over. Whether you or your ex gets to keep the rec room furniture, however, is not an issue of principle. Just do the math. The stuff in the rec room was old when Camilla Parker Bowles was a virgin (and the couch probably has as many miles on it). On a good day the tire kickers at a garage sale might give you three hundred bucks for the lot. Oh, but hold on now – the stuff was junk until that swamp donkey of an ex husband decided that he wanted it, and now it’s a priceless antique – hell, I think Louis XIV slept on it once when he was courting Marie Antoinette! So you’re gonna pay your lawyer $700 bucks an hour to get a judge to buy into how you really should have the stuff – and your ex digs in and does likewise. So, like two seagulls scrapping over a chicken bone, you collectively spend 8 hours between preparing motion records, arguing at case conferences, signing and serving affidavits, and watching your lawyers do battle in court to the tune of three or four grand over this junk. Brilliant investment decision. Do me a favour, and don’t do my taxes.
Think about it before you go to war. It costs a fortune, it makes you a real peach to be around while you are getting all frothy in the mouth over trivialities, and when you finally get in front of the judge you shouldn’t be shocked when he tells you to sell the whole rec room at a yard sale because he doesn’t intend to join the fray by wasting 2 hours of valuable court time arguing over who gets the lava lamp collection. You’ll have a lot more credibility in front over your judge if you pick your battles for those things truly worth fighting over – like the toilet paper mouse.
If you would like to contact me about your case, please contact our Toronto office at (416) 642-4928 or our Timmins office at (705) 267-7600 to arrange a free consultation.