Your Expecations

The Role of Expectations in Creating Attitude 

“Perhaps if we begin to revise our expectations of what

divorce means, all parents who divorce can

do so with civility and respect."

Be Careful What You Wish For

Your experience with divorce will be shaped by your assumptions and expectations about the process and the results which you think can or should be achieved. If your goals are not realistic, or if the outcome you seek is unattainable, you are likely to become frustrated, disappointed, and/or angry at the legal system, at your attorney or at the system of justice in general.


A critical first step in taking control of your divorce is to start with a set of assumptions which are realistic enough to minimize the disappointment and anger. Otherwise, the feelings generated by unrealistic assumptions and expectations will transcend and outlast your divorce. When that happens, your opportunity to understand, to reflect upon and to learn from the sometimes painful lessons incident to the severance of a marital relationship are usually lost.                                                                                        

Your Beliefs Have Consequences

If your assumptions about the process are realistic and the goals you seek to achieve are attainable, your feelings about your divorce, and about yourself, will be more constructive, manageable and potentially beneficial.

            “It never works out according to plan -- yours, that is!  And even when it does, it's only for a short time."                                                                     

                “For anyone who hasn't been divorced, trust me, divorce is never what  you imagine it to be” 


At the outset of a divorce, you face choices not unlike those you faced when you entered into your marriage.  For many, the optimism which accompanied marriage, fueled by feelings of “love” and “passion”, made the sobering task of being realistic about what could be legitimately expected, requested or insisted upon in a marital relationship, a very daunting task.  Most of us smiled through our inner turmoil and avoided the task entirely. Let sleeping dogs lie. Better yet, don’t have a dog.  But lurking in the backdrop of this silent conversation was an even more disconcerting possibility. Maybe we wouldn’t get all that we wanted. Maybe we’d even have to give up something to get something in return. Acknowledging limitations on our desires could have chilling implications in the heated glow of the moment. So why spoil a good thing? Why think negative thoughts?   It is very similar to the thought process that makes the idea of negotiating a pre-nuptial agreement seem so contradictory to the moment at hand. “Let’s not get off on the wrong foot”. “I wouldn’t want him/her to think I don’t trust her/him. (At least not now)  We won’t be one of those “divorce statistics” Our “marriage may not be “made in heaven”, but we’re going to give it a chance.

Your Decisions Have Consequences

Make your decisions with both short and long term consequences in your scope. Factor them into your expectations, so the result is neither a disappointment or a surprise. It is just one of the risks. If Wife lays claim to the $20,000.00 joint bank account to fund her divorce, she can anticipate that her access to Husband’s credit cards will be cut off. Husband will consider one-half of the $20,000 as his own entitlement, and he will refuse to pay temporary alimony for that reason.  Wife may want this “deal” anyway. But an anxious call to her lawyer that “He won’t pay the mortgage” may be met withher lawyer's silent and unexpressed thought—“No kidding!”  And when Wife tells Husband that the children don’t want to visit him that weekend, his anxious call to his lawyer that “She’s using them against me—putting them in the middle, may be met with a silent thought—“No kidding!”  And off we will go, each blaming the other for consequences which were the product of their joint decisions. More often than not, just like they did during their marriage, with each complaining that the other “can’t communicate”.  None of these consequences were unpredictable, and none were a surprise. If they had been viewed from the outset as “risks”, then maybe (but not necessarily) a different decision would have been made. And in this type of analysis, there is no room for “comparative morals” to justify a conclusion that one decision is “worse than” another. Wife’s decision to withhold the children is just one consequence among several. When Husband says “I told you she’d do that”, my response is—then why are you upset? It was a known risk.

Forming Realistic Assumptions

Try not to become beguiled or trapped by the “myths” which seem to develop about divorce. These “myths” are often the result of someone believing that the experience they had in their own divorce is the one likely to be had by all. Watch out. This is often a person who has yet to figure out that the disasters which befell him or her were partly of their own making. Give yourself credit. You are unique. Your experience will be your own. You wouldn’t wear these prognosticator’s clothes, so why wear their ideas? Neither are a comfortable fit.  

What Are My Rights?


One of the first questions clients often ask their attorney is “What are my rights?” The question, of course, assumes the existence of some abstract, concrete and clearly defined guiding principles which will lead us to the Holy Land of Clarity. Given the fearful uncertainties of life after divorce for anyone going through the experience, it is natural and self-protective to seek a clear and distinct answer to this question. What is the Court going to do in my situation? What am I entitled to receive? How much will he/she have to pay me? How long will I be receiving it? Do I get one-half of his pension? When? As difficult and unsatisfactory as it may seem, there are very few clear, distinct and predictable answers to these normal inquiries. The process offers no guarantees. There are no rules, parameters, guides or charts which will enable you to map your course with any degree of certainty. Not even the most experienced attorney can offer you that assistance. If he or she does, you may be in the wrong place! There are simply too many causative factors which can affect the outcome of your case, and “other cases” are not necessarily reliable predictors. Neither you nor your lawyer can control all these factors, and it is a mistake to assume it is possible.

What Should I Expect?

An important first step in developing a realistic set of expectations is to ask instead… What should I expect?”   


Don't ask “What are my rights?, but rather, What is the 'range of the possible?'” 

The Myth of “The Answer”

Every divorce is a result of an interaction between (a) the application of a set of laws to the particular facts of your situation and (b) the result of a “process” within which your disagreements and disputes with your spouse will be resolved and brought to some sort of conclusion, like it or not. The “laws” which apply to the issues of property division and spousal support are nothing more than legislative attempts to guide judges in their situation by situation analysis of what is “fair” or “equitable” in each situation. Ultimately, if matters are not settled, it will be a judge who must decide what is “fair” or “equitable” in your case. “ Fair” and “equitable” are susceptible to as many different meanings as there are judges to interpret them, so there is always wide range of possible outcomes in every situation. It is more helpful to think about the “law” as a series of questions which each Judge must ultimately ask, rather than an “answer” conveyed from some “higher” authority which is just waiting in the wings to be stamped upon your situation.

What can you legitimately expect from your attorney?


1.   To exercise good thoughtful judgment in each situation, ie., to be prepared and attentive. 

2.   To communicate reasonably, promptly and accurately as you go through the experience, i.e., to put things in perspective and balance.  Does it really affect things in the end? If it went badly, can we work our way back, if not to the top of the pile, at least into the mess? 

3.   To bill you fairly, i.e., consistently with what was agreed upon at the start; with an explanation of what was done and why it was needed.

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