During divorce, agreeing on the issues is 90% of the challenge. If you and your spouse can agree on the terms that are involved, then the remaining 10% is getting your agreement written up and the necessary documents prepared by a good lawyer so that your divorce will be complete and your agreement will be enforceable. But what if you can’t come to an agreement?

How should you deal with disagreement? Based on 25 years of experience as a Dallas divorce lawyer, mediator, private judge, and divorce coach, I can tell you there are five obstacles to reaching an agreement in Divorce. Once you identify these obstacles, there are effective things you can do to overcome them, which should make your divorce easier. Along with selecting a lawyer who looks towards reasonable negotiations and settlement and uses the courts as a last resort, I encourage you to participate actively in your divorce. Be involved in the negotiations as much as possible. It’s your life…the lawyer is there as your guide - as an expert in law and procedure to help you get through this portion of your life. But it’s you who is going to make informed decisions about the outcome and it’s you who will live with the results.Dallas Divorce Lawyer

90% of Dallas Divorce Cases Settle

It’s true that more than 90% of divorce cases settle before trial. But unfortunately, most of them settle only after people have spent their energy on disagreements and their money on lawyers. As a result, the wasted time, energy, and money get in the way of you getting on with your life and probably cause some psychological damage. These people could have saved themselves from all of that just by getting some guidance and agreeing to settle earlier. So why didn’t they?

What Are The Five Obstacles To A Divorce?

The five reasons why it’s hard for people going through a divorce to work out an agreement are:

  1. Emotional Upset
  2. Insecurity and fear
  3. Unfamiliarity and Misinformation
  4. The Legal System Itself and Bad Lawyers
  5. Real, Legitimate Disagreements

To get an agreement, you must overcome these five obstacles. Let’s look at each one in a little more detail.

Emotional Upset

This is about anger, hurt, blame, and guilt — a normal part of divorce. I’ve described it previously as the “real divorce” instead of the “legal divorce,” I encourage you to read that if you haven’t. (Place link to article here) But if one or both of you are upset, you can’t negotiate, you can’t have reasonable discussions, or make sound decisions. If you don’t separate the upset and deal with them, your emotions get externalized, and they get attached to the issues that you need to agree on, like money, assets, and even the best interest of the children. When emotions are high, your ability to reason is at its lowest, and it’s that much harder to reach agreements.

Some causes for upset in a Dallas divorce are:

  • The divorce itself, the broken dreams, fear of change, fear of an unknown future.
  • Different levels of readiness to accept the idea of divorce and willingness to move forward — this is the hidden cause of a lot of conflicts in a lot of cases, where one person is ready to move on but the other is not, and
  • History of bad communication habits between the two of you.

Insecurity, fear, lack of confidence, and unequal bargaining power:

You can’t effectively negotiate if either of you feels like you’re at a disadvantage or you’re afraid. Divorce can add to a person’s existing fear and anxiety and multiply any lack of self-confidence and self-esteem they may have. Also, there are often very real causes for insecurity. For example, if you’re not the spouse who handled the finances, if you lack the skill and experience at dealing with business and negotiation, or if you lack information and knowledge about the divorce process, you may be apprehensive about negotiating with someone who you feel is at an advantage. It doesn’t matter if the cause for the insecurity is well-founded or not. If it feels real to you, it can be an obstacle to reaching agreements.

Unfamiliarity and Misinformation

Unfamiliarity is not knowing how the divorce process works, and it can make you feel understandably insecure and nervous. You feel you don’t know what is happening and fear making mistakes.

Misinformation is when the things you think you know are not correct. Misinformation comes from well-intentioned friends or family members, from the internet, from movies, and even from inexperienced family law attorneys. It can distort your expectations about your rights and what’s fair. It’s difficult to negotiate with someone who has mistaken ideas about what the rules are. I represented someone whose sister was a lawyer, and she kept giving him horrible misinformation about his rights, which completely got in the way of him coming to reasonable agreements – because of the misinformation he was getting. Fortunately, both conditions can be easily fixed by getting reliable information from a reliable source.

The legal system and Dallas divorce lawyers:

The legal system and bad lawyers do not help you overcome obstacles to agreement. Instead, they are some of the major obstacles you must watch out for. The legal system is designed for adversarial battles. So you want to avoid the legal system as much as possible — and use the courts when necessary as a last resort instead of a first option. Bad lawyers guide their clients into battle, whether necessary or not. I’ve seen advertisements where lawyers brag about being “pit bulls.” A good lawyer, on the other hand, will know if, when, and how to use the legal process with the goal of de-escalation of disputes. They will make sure you know all your options and use the courts as a last resort when necessary to protect your interest.

Real disagreement:

These are the real issues that you want to deal with rationally and negotiate with your spouse if possible. Understand that real disagreements are usually based on the fact that you and your spouse now have different needs, interests, and priorities. After dealing with the first four obstacles to reaching agreements, the real issues may turn out to be manageable, and even if they are serious disagreements about complicated matters, at least they can be negotiated rationally.

Solutions to Obstacles to Agreements

The solutions to these obstacles are in your hands. Apart from the legal system — which you can avoid — all obstacles to your agreement are personal, between you and your spouse and between you and yourself.

Take care. Pay special attention to emotional upset, especially insecurity and fear. These forces drive people into a bad lawyer’s office and add fire to the fuel. You want to avoid doing anything that might increase the upset and fear of either of you.

  • The upset person says, “I can’t stand this. I won’t take it anymore! I’m going to hire a lawyer and take you to court!”
  • The insecure person says, “I can’t understand all this, I can’t deal with it, I can’t deal with my spouse. I want to be safe. I need someone to help me. I need to go to court for protection.”

And this is how cases get out of hand.

You need to arrange things so both of you are relatively comfortable about negotiating and communicating. If you think your spouse may be upset or insecure, you must be very careful and patient. If you are feeling incapable of dealing with your own divorce, a good divorce lawyer will educate you on your rights and obligations, provide you with reasonable options, and help you find solutions that allow you to move to the next chapter of your life with the least amount of stress and upset possible.

Going through major life changes — in other words, re-creating your life — is demanding and hard work, but it may be the most important thing you ever do.

The Dallas divorce lawyers at The Ashmore Law Firm are here to help. Schedule a confidential, no-obligation consultation and explore your options.

Hamid Naraghi
25+ years experience in helping with complex Family Law cases : Dallas, Park Cities, & Highland Park, TX area.