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Amicability during divorce a sometimes overstressed priority

Many couples whose marriages end in divorce might prefer to go their separate ways entirely. When the time comes for a clean break, though, not every couple has that luxury -- particularly if children are involved. When child support and shared child custody are involved, most ex-spouses find it impossible to avoid communicating and being together occasionally.

As a result, some divorcing couples in Georgia and elsewhere hope to achieve an extremely amicable post-marital relationship. As noble as that goal may be, it is sometimes overemphasized by divorcing individuals, particularly early on in divorce proceedings when sticky situations like determining alimony, spousal maintenance, division of assets and other considerations are unresolved.

An even worse situation can arise when a couple, determined to end their marriage on polite and civil terms, elects to keep experienced divorce lawyers out of the divorce process. In an idealized world, the cost and time savings afforded by this setup might initially seem attractive. Reality, however, often falls short of achieving these ideals, leaving divorcing couples in a complicated, contentious situation with no legal representation to help sort things out.

Of course, keeping an upbeat, compromising attitude is always a virtue worth aspiring to, but it shouldn't be expected at all times -- and when it becomes an expectation, sometimes the pressure of remaining amicable can actually keep things worse.

And if this desire to remain amicable pushes couples to be excessively compromising, it could come back to haunt them. One recent story involved a once-married couple who put off their legal divorce for two years while the man searched for a new job. When the divorce was finalized, the woman took only three years of alimony rather than the five she was entitled to, largely because two years had already passed and she was planning on being out of school by that time.

When the woman got colon cancer, her plans changed considerably. Fortunately, her husband was accommodating and made compromises to their financial arrangements to support her through those times. But she was lucky because there was no legal requirement for him to do so. The woman's story should serve as a warning for other couples to put their own personal well-being ahead of maintaining tidy relations during and after a divorce.

Source: Reuters, "Divorce mistakes you can make by being too nice," Geoff Williams, June 26, 2012

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