Fairness in Divorce is Not About How Much You get

Fairness in Divorce Is NOT About How Much You Get

The most common phrase divorce lawyers hear daily  is “I just want what’s fair!” (Always with an exclamation mark, never a period). Alternatively, “I just want what I’m entitled to!”

Three major problems:

  1.  Divorce is unfair.  Marriage is suppose to be forever.  Divorce is the short end of the bargain.  NOT FAIR.
  2. You are DIVIDING what was one.  Division yields LESS.  NOT more.  For both!  NOT FAIR.
  3. Most people divorcing hire lawyers.  Not one.  but TWO! Lawyers aren’t cheap.  NOT FAIR.

Essentially, you are taking 100%.  Dividing by two.  Subtracting by $100,000 or more to pay your lawyers! (Marriage is grand! Divorce? A hundred grand!), and you are left with?

And it’s worse in custody!

  1.  Your family was mom, dad, children.  Now it’s not.   NOT FAIR.
  2. It’s not about you being the better mom or better dad.  It’s about children losing one parent.  NOT FAIR.
  3. Now that you have two homes, you have doubled your expenses and halved your resources.  NOT FAIR.

You always get less in a divorce.  MUCH MUCH MUCH LESS.  TOTALLY UNFAIR.

Nobody gets married anticipating divorce.  Sure, there are some people who “go through with it”, even though “they knew it was wrong from the start”.  (I’ve had a case where the couple filed for divorce less than 2 months after their wedding #shortestmarriageever).  But for a large majority of normal people, divorce isn’t expected.

Nothing is fair in divorce.  Nothing.  Say it thrice and get over it.

There is actually a scientific reason behind why everyone thinks divorce is unfair.  And it’s especially true when the parties HATE each other.  In fact, the more hatred, the more unfair everything is.

According to Ernt Fehr in his paper, “A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation” , humans prefer equal over unequal outcomes, in bilateral bargaining situations, where a relationship is valued.  Further studies by researchers prove that in general, children reject inequity when they are disadvantaged (that is, when they get less candy); but also, they tend to reject inequity when they are advantaged (when they get more candy!)

It’s really not about the candy.

In one study, psychologists Mark Sheskin, Karen Wynn and Paul Bloom gave children 2 choices: 1) You get one token, and you give one token to another kid; OR 2) You get two tokens, and you give three to another kid.  Which one did most children pick?

Choice 1!  Children would prefer that they had the same amount, even if it’s less in number (1), than if it’s more in number (2) but less compared to other children (3).  You can read more about this study in his  book, “Just Babies”.

In Version 2 of this study, Bloom gave children 2 choices: 1) 2 tokens for everyone, OR 2) one of you, and none for the other kid.  Which one did most kids pick?

Choice 2!  They would rather get LESS in number (1) than get more (2) and be equal to other kids.  Why?

Because we have  a natural aversion to getting less.  NOT to inequity.

So, what does that tell us?  The way I see it, in a divorce, the most reasonable of heads recede into children.  They become the children in these studies that CHOOSE to get less if it MEANS they still got MORE than the other side.

What does this mean?  This means a couple with a combined 2 million estate – will REFUSE to walk away with 1 mil each.  instead, they will accept LESS, such as $500,000, if it MEANS the other side gets LESS, like $400,000.  In fact, they are willing to spend 2 million on attorneys if it means the other side doesn’t get anything!

If you are in a divorce, the best thing to do is to let go of your emotions.  Please, seek out competent mental health professionals and reasonable good friends (no, do NOT talk to your friend who is going through that nasty custody battle).  Research the law – consult with reasonable attorneys.  Ask good questions.  Give mediation a try.

Understand that fairness is a PERCEPTION.  Sure, you can fight for “what’s fair”.  But that doesn’t translate to realistic outcome.  Accept that divorce is unfair, and find an outcome that you can recover from.

Or, spend it all on attorneys, who will drop you like a dime once your money runs out.


Continue Reading
Kelly Chang Rickert

Kelly Chang Rickert (formerly Kelly Yi-Yi Chang) is the founder of the Law Offices of Kelly Chang, A Professional Law Corporation, a firm dedicated exclusively to Family Law. She has been certified by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization as a Family Law Specialist. She is frequently quoted in the media, and is a legal expert for Style Network, TV Guide and MTV on Mel Gibson, Tiger Woods, Britney Spears, Christie Brinkley and Madonna divorce and custody cases.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.