The High Cost of Conflict in Divorce

Almost any time a relationship ends there is some level of conflict, even when the decision is mutual. Sometimes people can break up and go their separate ways fairly simply, however, when the break up necessitates a divorce and/or child custody action things can get complicated. The fact that New Mexico is a no fault divorce state helps to reduce conflict to some extent. But conflict can still arise with the parties themselves having the most control over the level of conflict in a divorce or custody action.

Many parties, especially parties that are particularly angry at their former partner, may insist that they don‘t care whether or not the conflict level in a case is high, instead they just want to “win” or hurt the other person. However, given that New Mexico‘s community property laws favor equitable division of assets and debts and that the New Mexico laws favor joint custody, there really aren‘t winners and losers in family law.

Therefore, increasing conflict or refusing to be reasonable is unlikely to result in the unreasonable party receiving more property or increased custody. What increasing conflict will do is substantially increase the cost of a divorce or custody case. Most family law attorneys charge by the hour for their services. Thus, the more time an attorney has to spend drafting pleadings, communicating with opposing counsel and attending hearings, the more expensive their bill will be. Further, the more hearings, depositions and meetings the parties have to attend, the more time and money is lost when they have to miss work and arrange for child care. Additionally, there can be a serious emotional cost to a high-conflict divorce or custody dispute that is hard to quantify and that emotional cost can often extend beyond the parties to their children and other family members.

Of course, it is a rare case when parties who are separating, or may have been separated for several months or years, can agree on everything. (If they got along that well, they would probably not be breaking up in the first place). What parties can do is sit down with their attorney, or another impartial party, and think about the issues in their divorce or custody battle that really matter the most to them. For example, is a party really that attached to the marital residence, or would they be willing to move out in exchange for a 401(k) distribution that they could use to buy a new house? Does a party really think it in their children‘s best interest to only see the other parent every other weekend, or are they just trying to hurt the other parent?

Only the parties themselves can answer these questions and reducing conflict may not always be possible, especially if one side simply refuses to compromise. However, any reduction, even if it is only an agreement on a few issues, will help limit both the financial and emotional toll on the parties, and allow them to move on. Hiring an experienced family law attorney can help parties determine which issues are worth holding on to and where compromise may be in their best interest.

Collins & Collins, P.C.
Albuquerque Attorneys


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