“I agree with the parenting plan for our son and the child support amount.” Pause. “I agree with receiving half of the retirement accounts and home equity.” Pause. “I agree with how the debt has been distributed and it is fair.” Pause. “But I want the snow blower.”
If I had a snow blower for every time negotiations in a divorce action came to a screeching halt over an item of personal property, I could pass them around like Oprah at Christmas. “You get a snow blower, and you get a snow blower – snow blowers for everyone!”
Although it doesn’t feel like it for those in it, all divorce actions do come to an end. For most, it is a welcome reprieve from the stress, anxiety, and roller coaster they have been on as their marriage deteriorated. Bringing a divorce to a close requires a substantial amount of energy, grit, and level-headedness from spouses (and their lawyers).
Often near the end, we see a renewed wave of regret or newly engaged obstinance. For some people, it is an item – the old dryer in the basement, the mushroom cookie jar, the Terry Redlin painting in the den. For others, it is the last dollar or fifty. And for the remaining it may be the last word. But there is always the last thing to be resolved.
Deciding how you want to approach “the last thing” well before it presents itself can be useful. These are some tips I have seen clients successfully employ:
Track. Set your intentions at the outset of the action or negotiation. Write down those issues/items that matter most to you. Custody. Financial security. Equity. Prioritize them. When it comes to the end of the negotiation, where were the Christmas dishes on your list?
Talk. Find a friend who understands your fondness for the last item in contention. Talk it out. Talk about what makes the item/issue meaningful. Is there a way to recreate it or make it anew? Is there a way to let it go? Talk out the options.
Take it. The high road I mean. Determine if holding on to the last word, item, or dollar is worth continuing the divorce action and the angst for you and your family. Determine if it is worth risking the peace of having a negotiated resolution and instead have a judge unfamiliar with your case and situation make the decisions about all of the issues.
So while you may be giving up on the last thing, it will be the first thing leading you into your new and independent life.