United States: In Divorce, Patience Is A Virtue

Last Updated: October 23 2015
Article by Robert A. Epstein

I get it – you want your divorce over as quickly as possible.  In fact, you wanted it over yesterday.  Wait, you not only wanted it over yesterday,  but you also wanted it to end with you getting everything you wanted, as if your soon-to-be ex is going to crawl into a fetal position on the ground and raise a little white surrender flag.

Perhaps you have a new boyfriend and you don't want to wait a year or longer to finish your divorce from the guy living in your house still known legally as your "husband".  I get that.  Perhaps you own a business and you want the case over at ludicrous speed because you don't want a forensic accountant snooping around the company books.  I get that too.  You make wild claims like, "she can have all of the money, as well as my kidneys and soul, let's just get this over with!"  I get that, but a little less so, especially when you are reluctant to even prepare a Case Information Statement with basic financial disclosures.  Simultaneously, you are willing to settle one day, but the next is like the opposite side of a black and white cookie.

Unfortunately, Harry Potter cannot use his wand to get you the exact result that you want in the time that you want it.  Sometimes, as Axl (Rose, not Foley) once said, all we need is a little patience.  The divorce process can take some time, for just a few of the following reasons:

1.  Discovery to be exchanged – Maybe you need to find out where that $50,000 went from your spouse's account in the three months leading up to the divorce.  Maybe you don't care, but your spouse wants to know what is going on with your accounts.  There are countless iterations as to why discovery needs to be exchanged and, at the very least, Case Information Statements filed detailing the parties' respective financial pictures.

2.  A business needs to be valued – While you may believe that your business is worth $0 or something close to it, a forensic accountant may disagree when employing the valuation standards relied upon by judges in determining the value of a marital share in a business and how to divide it in equitable distribution.  The process can take time and, if there are multiple experts, conclusions of widely divergent values that may ultimately necessitate a judge making the value call at trial – only after months have passed and unknown amounts of money have been spent in expert and counsel fees to get to that point.

3.  A custody evaluation needs to be prepared – Your spouse insists that he was just as much of a  caretaker to the kids during the marriage as you were and, as a result, is insisting on a joint, 50/50 residential custody arrangement.  You do not agree.  Unless the dispute is going to resolve itself shortly thereafter, through mediation or otherwise, a custody evaluation (or maybe more than one – perhaps each party has an expert) is going to occur that will likely take several months just to get to the point where the expert(s) can make recommendations without even putting pen to paper to prepare a final report that can be utilized at trial.

4.  The parties (or at least one party) are not emotionally ready to move on – Sometimes one party does not want to get divorced, or may need several months just to get to a point of acceptance.  This is especially true in cases where one spouse sprung the divorce on the other, for whatever reason.  Litigating or trying to reach a resolution with that person can be very difficult, as the emotions can override the ultimate goal of reaching a conclusion that is fair for all involved.

5.  Court calendars are overburdened and judges in short supply – A settlement hasn't occurred, but your case has been going on for more than a year, if not years.  Whether you believe it or not, the trial judge is doing everything that can be done to get your trial done.  Each judge, however, routinely has several hundred cases at once of all different varieties, and works long hours, nights, and weekends to address every issue, motion, trial and more that may arise.  There are only so many judges on the bench for an overwhelming number of cases, so do not be surprised if your trial does not start for well more than a year after it commenced, does not occur for full consecutive days until its conclusion, and does not result in a trial decision immediately thereafter no matter how hard the judges try to accommodate litigants.

6.  One party isn't playing nice in the sandbox – When one party doesn't play nicely, or uses financial superiority to squeeze the other spouse, or engages in any sort of misconduct during the divorce proceeding, it is very likely that the proceeding will take longer, and cost substantially more, just to get to a conclusion.  Motions are filed if support is cut off, parenting time is being prevented, and so much more.  Litigants want immediate help, and do not want to wait a month or more to get a day in court on the motion and hopefully a decision at that time.  Weeks and months pass, with misconduct resulting in increased counsel fees and no resolution.  At some point, the case may become only about the counsel fees that have been incurred and who is going to pay for them, because all other issues have settled.  This is a place where no litigant wants to be, but should not be surprised when his or her own conduct may have led to that very situation.

With the above hurdles that often have to be scaled in order to reach the finish line, sometimes that finish line takes longer to cross than you may like.  You may have to put off those future plans, or allow that expert to do his or her work, or exchange those documents, just to get to an ending through trial or settlement.  While I get that you want the process to be over faster than Barry Allen can save Central City, exercising some patience, rather than impulse, will prove to be the best solution for all involved.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Robert A. Epstein
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