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Divorce litigation: keeping it from becoming an end in itself

In "The War of the Roses," a very dark comedy from 1989, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Tuner played a long-time married couple who increasingly find themselves at each others''' throats. Eventually, they seek a divorce - with many no-holds-barred arguments along the way.

The film was over-the-top at times. But the problem of an overly contentious divorce remains a very real one. In one recent actual case, divorce proceedings dragged on for an astounding 17 years.

The case was not in Illinois. It was, rather in Ohio. But the problem of excessive acrimony can happen anywhere. 

To be sure, sometimes there are issues that need to be litigated. If one party is completely intransigent, that can be a deal-breaker on cooperative solutions. It doesn't matter whether the dispute involves child custody, property division or some other issue. When it comes to negotiation, it takes two to tango.

For many couples, however, a collaborative law approach to resolving divorce issues may be in order. Such an approach is intended to seek out common ground and minimize unnecessary conflict.

The 17-year-long fight in the recent Ohio case is certainly a cautionary about how emotions can escalate and prolong divorce cases far too long. In the Ohio case, the parties, both law professors, married in 1986. After 10 years of marriage, their divorce battle began. Indeed, the legal battles went on in post-divorce suits even after the divorce decree had been entered.

Child custody was one of the issues in the case. But that alone does not account for the unusual acrimony. After all, most divorces involving custody and visitation are concluded within a year.


Source: Cincinnati.com, "Court calls law profs' 17-year divorce fight 'appalling'," August 12, 2013

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