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January 26th, 2017 by Marta J. Papa


Part 7 – As I have shown in the previous blog postings, couples who are dissolving their marital bonds are not forced into a long, legal court battle, with exorbitant legal fees and continued/prolonged emotional duress. To be frank, if couples are mature enough to remain civil, cooperative, and truthful, a divorce need not be a destructive process. Rather, the divorce simply legalizes the stance the couples have come to realize; namely, their union is no longer desirable, and it is time for all to proceed in fashioning their new lives apart. Yet, as I mentioned in my last blog posting, there are those couples in the 5% of divorce cases who choose the most rancorous divorce of the five: The Contested Divorce.

Why? Good question!   Usually, a divorce of this nature is programmed to be destructive, fueled by anger, and intended to punish. It is (by far!) the longest, the bitterest, and the costliest. And, we all have known couples who have chosen this path…or we certainly have read about them. Currently, the Jolie/Pitt saga is (unfortunately) a perfect example of the contested divorce. Lots of conflict; lots of money; lots of property; lots of attorneys; lots of children…and acute animosity towards each other. In some ways, the script of this type of divorce was written before Angelina and Brad took on their marital roles. Because, as with most couples who engage in this style of divorce, huge egos are often at play!

With so much property, cash flow, and children considerations at stake, most people who choose this style of divorce are seemingly insistent upon control and decision making.   Yet, by choosing warfare instead of negotiations (which the other four types of divorce encourage!), couples who choose a contested divorce forfeit their control in the decision making process. Basically, the couples are incapable of servicing their own needs and require a judge to do so for them.

Sometimes a contested divorce is driven by one spouse who does not want a divorce. Sometimes a contested divorce is driven by the utter inability to agree upon certain issues…child custody, for instance. And, sometimes a contested divorce is driven by the sole purpose of inflicting harm.

One client of mine (I’ll call her Mrs. S.) found out her husband of 17 years was having an affair with his yoga instructor…who was 18 years younger than his wife. My client had focused upon parenting their two children and had left all fiscal responsibility in her husband’s control. She came to me because her husband’s name was the only one on all the bank accounts. Her goal in seeing me? To get a PDL.

PDL stands for “pendent lite,” a Latin phrase that essentially means “temporary.” When one spouse is not trustworthy in disclosing marital property, Missouri law allows divorcing couples to have the court system intervene and require/enforce full disclosure.   By filling a PDL, a party can ask the court for a temporary custody order, a temporary Parenting Plan, an award of maintenance and child support, and/or a mutual order prohibiting the disposition of any marital property without the consent of the other party.

Mrs. S. spent $35,000 (in three months!) in order to gain possession of the house, exclusive possession of her car, custody of her children, and temporary maintenance for her cash flow needs. All dictated by the court. All because Mr. and Mrs. S. were incapable of a non-combative divorce. And their two children? Collateral damage.

The moral of the story? When couples choose the contested divorce route, the road will be not only rocky…but littered with casualties along the way.