It’s a Zoo Out There

Not Everyone Can File For Divorce Online 

I’ve written before about the three different types of divorcing couples: The Unicorns, The Lions & Hyenas, and the Rest of Us.

As a reminder, here’s how I define these groups:

The Unicorns have their divorce all figured out. They know exactly what they have and how they want to split it up. If they have children, they’ve worked out a co-parenting plan and agree on custody and parent time schedules. These couples work so well together that nobody in their orbit can figure out why they’re getting a divorce in the first place.

I always encourage the Unicorns to at least try their state’s online resources BEFORE any other method. If you can make it work, it’s the best way to get a cheap online divorce – and it’s built for The Unicorns.

The Lions & Hyenas are the couples that can’t – or won’t – figure anything out. Not because they’re stupid, but because they’re born to fight. It’s instinctive to fight and it doesn’t matter why. These people are usually angry, bitter and unable to work together.

I recommend these couples skip their state’s online resources and Instead, they should hire awesome attorneys and buckle up – because they’re in for a long and expensive ride in a purpose-built adversarial system.

The Rest of Us don’t fit into either of those groups. The Rest of Us are able to see beyond the divorce and realize that fighting over silly things is just…well…silly. We need a bit more guidance than the state’s resources offer, but we’re amicable, cooperative, and don’t want to spend $11K (or more) on attorneys.

I built for The Rest of Us.

OG Lions and Hyenas

  • I think we all know at least one person who’s just angry and bitter all the time, and for no apparent reason. They seem to just bitterly exist – or just exist to be bitter.

Generally speaking, these living downers blame everyone else for their lot in life. They didn’t make the team in high school because the coach was stupid. They didn’t get the promotion at work because they weren’t given the opportunity to shine. They’re getting a divorce because their spouse didn’t put the toilet seat down. And when they lose everything in the divorce, it will be because their attorney didn’t do their job. Everyone else is always inferior to these geniuses.

These assholes are The OG Lions and Hyenas. 

I’m always curious as to why a lion married a hyena in the first place. But I never wonder why they’re getting divorced. And it’s NEVER a surprise when their divorce is ugly…except to them of course. 

The System Creates Lions and Hyenas

Don’t hate me, but I have a dear friend that is a divorce attorney. He’s a genuinely great guy who does his best to be better than his peers. He works hard to change the status quo in the divorce industry and to ensure his clients’ best interests are served – even if it doesn’t serve him. He sends suitable customers to because he knows they don’t need him, and I gladly recommend him for all Lions & Hyenas in Utah.

We had a discussion a few years ago in which he explained that 75-80% of his new clients come to him claiming to want an amicable divorce, but they need some help working through things. He explains that he can only represent one of them and offers to help, but encourages the other party (the one he isn’t representing) to have another attorney review the resulting paperwork.

And that’s when things go off the rails. 

He’s disappointed more often than not, because after sending the paperwork to the other attorney, his experience is that only 20% remain amicable. From 80% to 20%?! That’s a HUGE swing!

And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. 

My friend, while he can’t represent them both officially, tries to create a scenario where both parties win. But when the other attorney gets involved, they only represent their client (the one not represented by my friend) and convince them that they can “do better”. That they can get more (or pay less) alimony. Or that they can keep more of their assets. Or some other issue that their client was perfectly okay with before, but isn’t anymore, and is willing to fight to change it.

Of course, by convincing your client that they can “do better”, they’re lining their own pockets. 

Changing the amount of alimony takes time. Renegotiating assets is complicated. And not what other issues are being reworked, the new attorney is billing for it hourly.

Always Give Your Enemy a Way Out

When I started my first divorce process over twenty years ago, I wanted to take care of my ex and our kids. So I naively offered, in writing, to pay for the house, pay for the kids’ clothes, maintain medical coverage, and to literally sign over every other paycheck until our kids turned 18. 

“Always give your enemy a way out.

If you totally surround them, they will fight even more fiercely.

With a way out, they will not.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

That was really dumb of me. 

But it was even dumber for her not to accept it because her attorney convinced her that she could “take it all”. 

No she couldn’t. 

No court will allow anyone to “take it all”. But since neither of us had ANY prior experience, we could only rely on the legal professionals. My ex got greedy. And I got scared.

Since her plan was to “take it all”, I had no choice but to defend it all. 

When the dust settled 19 months later, I’d spent $40K to get divorced. 

Did I win? Well, she didn’t “take it all”. So I guess that’s a win.

I look back twenty years later and realize that while we weren’t Unicorns, we weren’t Lions and Hyenas until the attorneys convinced us to fight as if we were.

Moral of the story: Don’t let any outside observer tell you which compromises you should be willing to make, how much you should be willing to spend, and how long you should be willing to fight.