Client Compass, Divorce Law Monitor

The Price of Peace

November 7, 2019


The Price of Peace: a concept that arises in nearly every divorce matter, but you will likely never read about in any legal treatise on divorce law. You commonly hear about transactional costs (I.e. legal fees) and the cost of alimony or child support, but the price of peace is not commonly spoke of in mainstream divorce literature.

So what is the price of peace? To use a common lawyer answer, “it depends.” Generally speaking, the price of peace is a tangible or intangible cost for moving on. It is individual to every person or couple going through a divorce. It is that thing that a person is willing to forego in order to be done.

An example of a tangible price for peace is the following: Jane and John Doe are involved in heated negotiations to resolve their divorce matter. They have agreed on all matters, except they both want the new bbq grill that was purchased just before they separated. Recognizing that the transactional costs are steep, and that there is great value in resolving the divorce matter and moving on, Jane agrees to allow John to keep the bbq grill. The price of peace for Jane was a bbq grill.

An example of an intangible price for peace is this: Mary and Bob Smith are working with a conciliator to resolve their divorce. They have agreed on nearly all matters, except that Mary wants to have the children for one additional overnight each week. Bob does not want to agree to this, but recognizes that there is value in ending the divorce matter, reducing acrimony, and creating stability for the children. For Bob, the price of peace was an overnight.

Nearly every divorce matter comes down to what I call “horse trading.” It is the stage of a divorce negotiation where there are a few small matters to resolve. While the issues are minor, both parties at this stage generally feel that they have compromised beyond their limits, and this stage can be ripe for conflict. It is during this stage of negotiations that both parties’ price for peace will most likely come to light.

One of my most esteemed colleagues had a case where final resolution of the divorce came down to a salad spinner. Every divorce case has a “salad spinner.” It is that thing that is so minor, but becomes the emotional tipping point. When faced with the “salad spinner,” it is important to factor in the price of peace. The value of being done and moving on almost always outweigh the value of the “salad spinner.”

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