Divorce Is A Two Step Proceeding: Don’t Get Bogged Down in Temporary Matters

By David DePuy (originally published 1/5/2015)

Divorce is really a two step process. The second step is the ultimate resolution of all issues on a permanent, basis, either following a trial or by agreement, as to all issues involved, including property division, alimony, child support and parenting issues.It is the first step of divorce proceedings involving temporary matters where the parties can easily go astray.

Upon the filing of the divorce action, the Court is authorized to issue orders to maintain the peace, provide for support and address issues with regard to minor children until a final Divorce Decree issues. This “temporary” order by the Court, especially with regard to temporary support, temporary alimony and the temporary use of real estate and personal property, is not a roadmap for a final resolution of the divorce and does not set a precedent for the ultimate resolution of the divorce. Therefore, spending huge amounts of time addressing these issues will inevitably result in large bills but only the possibility of some temporarily beneficial orders. The temporary period can be from a few months to two years (or longer in some extraordinary cases), but nevertheless, it is only temporary.

My advice to clients about to embark on a divorce is to set a direct course. Use of a rudimentary chart to explain the overall process is helpful. The left hand side of the chart is labeled “A” and the far right of the chart is labeled “B,” representing the conclusion of the divorce. Point A is the commencement of divorce proceedings. The cheapest, easiest, most efficient way to get to point B, namely divorce, is a straight line. Every centimeter on that line represents attorneys’ fees and expenses. The cheapest way to get from point A to point B is a direct line and every deviation from that line battling with a spouse over temporary matters just results in more time, expense and emotional strain. Battling incessantly over temporary matters does not advance the ball significantly. Deviating up and down from that straight line, so that it looks more like an EKG than an arrow, certainly costs more.

Divorces are often controverted, acrimonious and emotional. There is an inclination to battle over every issue, no matter how small or how ephemeral. My advice to every client is to avoid the temptation to enter into combat over every transient matter and instead focus energy and expense on the ultimate goal. No knockout punches are delivered fighting over temporary issues. Time and energy and financial resources are best saved for the main event.

This is just a general rule. For every rule there are exceptions, and in some cases temporary issues may be of vital importance. In such cases every effort should be made to protect a client’s interests. For the majority of cases much too much time can be spent on temporary issues that do not justify the expense.


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