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Focus On Your Needs Rather Than Your Wants In Divorce (and in Life)

Aug 30, 2023 | Written by: William J. Rudnik, Esq. |

We live in a society that focuses on material goods with “success” defined by how much money we make, the type of house we live in, the car we drive, etc.  But does accumulation of wealth and “stuff” truly make people happy? Perhaps we would be happier if we focus more on meeting our needs rather than our wants, and spending more time doing things that truly make us happy. 

In divorce, attorneys must often manage client’s expectations, particularly when it comes to “wants” versus “needs.”  Divorcing individuals often have “wants” that are unrealistic and/or unfair to the other party.  For example, individuals may want the large majority of parenting time for no reason other than they think they are the better parent, or individuals may want alimony/support that would consist of the majority of what their spouse makes.  (The reverse can be true, as well, where a spouse refuses to pay alimony/support despite a large disparity between the parties’ incomes).

With every issue in a divorce case, the focus should be on what the parties need rather than what they want (unless those two match up, but that is rare).  This is always apparent in financial issues.  The standard is specifically noted in the alimony statute, where one of the alimony factors is the “need for alimony.”  The factor is not the “want for alimony,” but very specifically the need for it, which is based on a realistic financial analysis and not simply what someone thinks he/she should receive.  Of course, no one wants to pay alimony, but the reality is that, in any marriage lasting longer than a few years and where there is a significant disparity between the parties’ incomes, alimony is simply a reality under New Jersey law.  It does not matter that a client does not want to pay alimony; if there is a need and the person has the ability to pay, he/she will be paying alimony.

The focus in divorce cases must be on the needs of the parties, such that an agreement or a court decision is fair to both parties.  There are often times where a party’s position is all about “winning” in the divorce or “punishing” the soon-to-be former spouse, rather than what he/she needs and what the soon-to-be former spouse needs.

While no one wants to struggle financially, if we can meet our needs from a financial standpoint, we should not be focused on our unrealistic wants.  We should not allow a desire to “keep up with the Joneses” influence our decisions in our divorce, or our decisions in life.  When you are considering buying the latest phone model, or a new car (even when there is nothing wrong with your existing phone or car), or even something as small as a cup of coffee, consider whether it is something you want or something you need.  If it is something you want, rather than need to survive, start to think about why you want it and whether it will truly make your life better.  If you go through this exercise you can learn to live within your means and talk yourself out of wasteful spending on things you do not need but merely want. 

Anyone who has children, or has been around children, has heard a child say, “I want, I want, I want,” and parents respond with some of their own ridiculous wants to help children understand. But as adults, we often do the same thing children do…we have unrealistic expectations about things we “want” and we confuse the difference between “want” and “need.”  If we focus more on our needs and not worry as much about things we “want” and try to change our perspective, we will be much happier people.  We should be appreciative for what we have and focus on what makes us happy, rather than what we think will make us look more important or more successful to others.  Someone who is truly happy and is a good person is who most people aspire to be and look up to.


William J. Rudnik, Esq. is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC.  He is certified by the NJ Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Law Attorney.  In addition to handling divorce litigation, he is qualified as a Mediator in the field of Family Law under the New Jersey Court rules, and he is trained in Collaborative Divorce. Contact Mr. Rudnik at 908-735-5161 or via email.

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Any statements made herein are solely for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice.