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Leveling the Divorce Playing Field

Kristen A. Algert | December 30, 2018

Merriam-Webster defines a “level playing field” as “a state in which conditions in a competition or situation are fair for everyone.” In nearly all divorces, the playing field is NOT level due to one or more areas of power imbalance. Understanding this concept and correcting power imbalances is important in order to achieve an equitable outcome for both spouses and any minor children.

The Concept

In those instances where one spouse has superior knowledge and expertise about a specific subject or has disproportionate control over specific areas of married life, the divorce “playing field” is not level. A power imbalance exists when both spouses do not have the equal ability or the equal right to control people, things or situations; power is disproportionately weighted toward one spouse to the detriment of the other. A power imbalance might result from extreme differences in personalities, education, health, profession, training, or accomplishments, Examples of this include when one spouses manages all of the marital finances or primarily makes all of the decisions affecting the children.

Why a Level Playing Field Matters

Power itself is neither good nor bad, just as a power imbalance is neither good nor bad. Spouses often delegate primary responsibility for different tasks to one spouse while married. In a divorce negotiation however these imbalances can be detrimental if one spouse is accustomed to always making financial decisions or child-related decisions, or controlling resources, or controlling other areas of the marital relationship.  If the power imbalance continues unabated in the divorce, one or both spouses may become anxious, indecisive, frustrated and/or distrustful as they try to navigate settlement discussions on which they have different perspectives and knowledge.

To have productive settlement discussions, both spouses need relatively equal (1) knowledge of all relevant information; (2) access to financial resources; (3) access to child-related information; (4) access to children; (5) ability to ask questions; and (6) ability to make decisions about final outcomes.

Tips for Leveling the Playing Field

With the assistance of your divorce lawyer:

  1. Talk to your lawyer about how you and your spouse currently make decisions about financial matters and children.
  2. Determine if a power imbalance exists and whether that imbalance jeopardizes your ability to make good decisions in your divorce case.
  3. Identify options for balancing power enough to discourage or prevent one party from imposing his/her will on the other or interfering with the interests of the other.
  4. Evaluate those options and determine what solution best balances power keeping in mind the interests of you, your spouse, your children and your available financial resources. Options might include a financial advisor, a parenting coach, or a support group.
  5. Decide on the best way to remedy the imbalance and level the playing field so that negotiations are more likely to result in fair agreements that work well for the entire family.

Services to Help Solve Your Challenges

Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of family law and will guide you through each step of the process, ensuring you have the information you need to make wise decisions and prepare for the future.

Get in Touch

At Goranson Bain Ausley, we strive to deliver clarity about what comes next and confidence that you and your family’s future are more secure. Contact our team and discover how we can help you.

“I help clients look to the future, not the past, approach issues with a solution-oriented mind, and be proactive in order to move forward with confidence.”

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