David’s Divorce Dictionary: J is for Judgment
Definition: In divorce, the term judgment can mean 1) the Court’s ultimate decision, 2) the way each spouse views the behavior of the other, and 3) the internal process by which one makes decisions about strategy or settlement.
Judgments are very powerful in divorce.
Legally, a judgment is the final decision of the court about all of the issues in one’s divorce. It will establish, without any further input, the amount of support, custody of children, division of property, and many other important dictates. However, if one’s case ends up in a court judgment after trial, well, this may be the result of a failure of judgment.
People who criticize and demean the actions or opinions of others are considered to be judgmental. A judgmental person elevates their own views of human behavior and thinking over the views of others. In divorce cases, spouses often disparage each other because they disagree with the other’s spending habits, work ethic, parenting style, family values, eating habits, drinking, religious practices, and any host of things. In this context, a spouse’s judgment of the other spouse can divert divorce negotiations from a legal or financial level to a personal level—an emotional level. This often impedes rational settlement.
In a different aspect, lawyers and spouses in divorce often must use intuitive judgment to make important decisions.
This type of judgment is an integral part of negotiation and strategy. It is a gut-level adjunct to one’s thought process of making divorce decisions. Good judgment is the goal: it results from listening to a competent and trusted advisor; from engaging one’s logical brain rather than emotional nerve center; and from remaining calm enough to process the confusing myriad of details, emotions, and settlement options without feeling unduly pressured or acting rashly. Bad judgment is well, the undesirable opposite.
Poor judgment and judgmentalism often lead to court judgments rather than out-of-court settlements.. Why is this bad? Well, for one it takes all the power over decision-making out of one’s hands and puts it into the hands of a judge who cannot possibly understand your needs, your family, and your situation the way you do. Judges hear many cases, have limited time, and often must leave cases in limbo for many months until they have time to prepare a written decision. Court judgments are also not the end of the case oftentimes—they can be appealed. And all of this litigation costs a boatload of money. An aircraft-carrier-sized boatload.
In rare cases it is necessary to obtain a court judgment after trial because the legal issues, or situational issues, are unusually complicated or unique. Or because the other spouse refuses to settle—preferring to “win” or fight. But those cases are the exception.
When one exercises good judgment, and suppresses judgmentalism, the outcome is a negotiated settlement agreement that the Court will adopt as its official judgment. In other words, the Court accepts your judgment to issue its judgment.
What’s the Takeaway? To achieve a favorable court judgment, exercise good personal judgment in selecting an attorney or mediator, considering your spouse’s point of view and needs, and separating emotional decision-making from logical decision-making.
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Attorney and Mediator
David Kellem Law Group, P.C.