Ripe vs. Unripe

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Divorce On Your Mind? Fruit for Thought: Ripe vs. Unripe

David’s Divorce Dictionary: R is for Ripeness

Definition: As Shakespeare wrote in King Lear: Ripeness is all .

In legal parlance, if a case is not “Ripe for Review” a court will decline to decide it—more facts need development or more preliminary procedures need to play out before the dispute is ready for judicial resolution.

The same concept of preliminary development applies to settling divorces. A case can only proceed to a negotiated resolution when both spouses are emotionally ready to get divorced.

It is common that when a divorce is commenced the spouses are often at different stages of emotional readiness. While the party who initiates the divorce may have already grieved the marriage and accepted its ending, the other spouse may still be going through the initial stages of grief. The hearts and minds of people in these early grief stages—anger, denial, and bargaining—are not ready to bring the divorce to fruition. When the end stage of grief—acceptance—remains far off, negotiations are going to stall. Even the offer of an incredible financial deal will not pierce grief’s armor. The unripe spouse’s anger or despair prevents logical thinking about dividing assets, establishing support, or allocating parenting time with the children.

In such situations the ripe spouse is left frustrated and angry by the unripe spouse. Tensions exacerbate and legal costs mount as the unripe spouse rejects generous proposal after generous proposal. The ripe spouse usually retreats from such grandiose financial generosity. Much later, when the case is finally ready to settle, those initial generous proposals come back to haunt the anxious-to-divorce spouse. They tangle up the negotiation process as the unripe spouse now seeks to land that original deal. The plan for a quick-and-easy divorce has evolved into a drawn-out legal and emotional quagmire.

What’s the Takeaway? The process of divorce proceeds at the pace of the slower spouse. In making settlement proposals, recognizing the other spouse’s “ripeness” for divorce is crucial. Even the most generous settlement offers will not produce a quick resolution if the other spouse has not completed the emotional divorce.

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