Rather than working out an agreement that is equitable and fair, some people are driven by revenge, anger, and a need to punish their soon-to-be ex for the “pain that is being inflicted on me.” They think that if they receive more assets than their spouse, they will be vindicated and walk away feeling better than when they walked in. Although they may derive some immediate satisfaction from having more tangible assets, in the long run, these “things” will most likely not provide the inner peace they seek.
Below are some examples of unrealistic demands that I have come across:
- The Engagement Ring
While this is a gift that the wife receives before the marriage and, according to the law, is hers to keep, in some divorces, especially where the marriage is short-term, the husband may request that she return the ring as part of the divorce settlement. In his mind, she did not maintain the commitment to the marriage symbolized by the ring, so it should be returned to him.
Another example where one spouse may request return of a ring (or other piece of expensive jewelry) is when a larger diamond ring was given at the occasion of a milestone anniversary, followed almost immediately by a separation. Once again, the party is demanding the return of the “gift” since the reason for it no longer exists.
- The Retirement Account
By law, any accumulation in retirement accounts during the marriage would be considered marital property, therefore subject to equitable distribution. In some cases, however, some spouses demand to keep 100% of it because “I have worked my whole life to save for my retirement.” Again, this spouse feels that the other does not deserve any part of it since he/she is leaving the marriage.
- The House
In some situations, one party wants to keep the entire house, even though according to the law of equitable distribution, the proceeds should be shared equally by both. In circumstances where one party is leaving the marriage, the other may ask to keep 100% of the proceeds of the house!
As difficult and stressful as divorce may be, in the long run, spouses may find that they are happier living apart than together. In order to reach that point, they both have a big role to play in the planning of their lives going forward. Unrealistic demands may not be the way to ensure happiness and stability.
In mediation, I help couples separate by giving them support and guidance to manage their expectations during this difficult process. With that guidance, they can create a realistic agreement, which they can both live with as they move forward.
Do you remember a situation in your life where you may have been driven by emotions to make unrealistic decisions that in the end did not bring you the peace of mind that you hoped for?
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A good way to deal with supposedly “unrealistic” demands, whether in family, workplace or other settings, is to deconstruct it with questions like “what would that outcome mean to you”?, “tell us how you calculated that figure”, and [in caucus] “how do you think [“counterpart] will view that demand?” and so on, to get at underlying needs, new perspectives, and a broader array of options.
(John Norval Settle on Linkedin)
jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator divorce and family mediation upper east side of manhattan (nyc) new york, ny (212) 472-8626 firstname.lastname@example.org connect on