Life is great. We should be grateful for the privilege of living it. That said, sometimes life seems unfair. Let me explain. Suppose you are the husband in a long term marriage. One day, quite by surprise, your wife announces that she wants a divorce. There is no point in marriage counseling, she says, because she has been unhappy for a long time. Reconciliation is not possible, she explains, as she has recently realized that she is gay. She is happy and fulfilled in her new relationship with her girlfriend.
The divorce petition has been filed. The discovery has been exchanged. You are sitting in the mediator’s office with your attorney. It is communicated to you that your wife is demanding permanent periodic alimony. This is the kind of alimony that continues until she dies, you die, or she remarries. Gay marriage is not recognized in the state of Florida. There is a law that allows you to seek an adjustment to alimony if the wife enters a supportive relationship. Furthermore, your wife’s settlement position includes receiving one half of all assets (including your pension), and you reimbursing her for the fees she has expended for an attorney and an accountant.
When resolving the problems associated with a divorce, the choices facing a client are rarely easy. In this case the husband could choose to take his chances in court. As the income earner of the family, such a choice would include paying for his professionals and the real probability of paying for the wife’s lawyer (and accountant). The fees at trial are exponentially higher than they are at mediation. Of course, trial is a risk inherent exercise. That is, after paying for the right, the judge could still rule against you.
Alternatively, the husband could counter the wife’s offer, and proceed to negotiate to a conclusion. This is not an easy choice either, especially if he must accept the fact that he must accept the obligation of alimony and the payment of fees. Here is a classic problem observable in the field of family law. I refer to this problem as “choosing your headache”. In fact, what the husband must do is choose his headache. Put another way, he must choose the least bad alternative. This is a difficult place to be. It is the role of the lawyer to assist the client in making difficult choices.