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Why Must I Compromise to Finalize My Divorce?

May 7, 2019 | Written by: Diana N. Fredericks, Esq. |

Approximately 97% of divorce cases settle.  Settlement can come easily at the early stages of a case or on the eve of trial, but it is more likely than not to occur at some point in every divorce case.  For settlement to occur, BOTH sides need to compromise.  It is not uncommon for both sides to feel that they have “given in” or compromised more than the other.  And, of course, there are certain instances where one party may be more reasonable or willing to compromise in order to conclude the divorce (or to finalize a matter).   

Sometimes clients misunderstand compromise and believe their attorney is not advocating or “fighting hard enough” for them.  However, trying to find a solution or middle ground is often necessary in order to reach a conclusion by settlement and avoid the extreme expense (emotionally and financially) of litigation.  Clients often claim that they “just want to be done,” yet they can be unwilling to compromise on the smallest of issues.  That is a difficult position for an attorney to reconcile.

If your attorney recommends a course of action, it must be because he or she believes it to be in your best interest, and sometimes that does not necessarily mean it’s fair.  Of course, your attorney needs to communicate this to you and ensure that you understand the reason for the recommendation.

By way of example, it may seem unfair to agree to “give up” a piece of furniture when your spouse is retaining the home, however, your attorney may counsel you to do so, as the value of the item in dispute is far less than the legal fees that will be incurred by arguing over it.  

The advice that is sometimes the most practical may not seem fair or reasonable, but do not mistake a lack of advocacy with practicality, if that is what is being sought.  If you want your attorney to advocate for the “thing,” then you must be prepared for the consequences, which may mean undoing a global settlement or creating litigation and more legal fees.  Family law is a complex puzzle.  Every piece of the puzzle is connected in some way.  Therefore, when you move a puzzle piece, the entire puzzle may have to be rearranged and put back together in the same or a different way to make all the pieces fit together. 

In my experience, this argument over “things” often occurs at the eleventh hour when the finalization of the settlement is occurring.  I suspect that it is sometimes the actual end and reality of closure that causes people to react.  Sometimes, the “things” can be pushed aside or to the proverbial back burner while the “big” issues are in focus, such as alimony.  Sometimes it can be the “things” that make/break an agreement, especially if one side (or both) believe they have already given too much.  

Both sides need to compromise to save legal fees and to reach a conclusion.  It may be that one side has to compromise more than the other side to obtain resolution.  Perhaps that was even exemplified during the marriage and is one of the reasons you are divorcing.  It may be that an immediate compromise now will save you legal fees and emotional turmoil going forward.  “Things” can often be replaced, but lost time and legal fees cannot. 

An important role of experienced legal counsel is to help ensure that your expectations are realistic.  If you do not take your attorney’s advice about compromise, you may be doing so to your own detriment.


Diana Fredericks, Esq., is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC and devotes her practice solely to family law matters.  She is a Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and was named to the NJ Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in the practice of family law by Thomson Reuters in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, and to the New Leaders of the Bar list by the New Jersey Law Journal in 2015.  Contact Ms. Fredericks for a consultation at 908-735-5161 or via email.

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