Currently, there is no legal significance with respect to whether the Husband or the Wife files the Petition.

Have you ever considered how you and your spouse typically resolve conflicts within your relationship? It could be well worth your while to do so, even if the relationship is ending. Why? Anticipating how your spouse handles relationship stress can give you the edge in divorce negotiations.

We live in a world that thrives on negotiation. Whether you are trying to close a big sale at the office or haggling over a Beatles’ LP at the local flea market, you’re negotiating virtually every day. But, unlike traditional “arm’s-length” negotiations between relative strangers, in divorce cases each party possesses a wealth of insider’s knowledge about the other. Ironically, in most cases neither side uses that knowledge to good effect.

Recognizing and anticipating how you and your spouse are likely to respond to the stress and conflict that invariably accompany divorce can give you a distinct advantage during the divorce negotiations. There is nothing unethical or disingenuous about understanding your audience and tailoring your divorce strategy and communications to that audience. Let’s begin by looking at some concepts and defining a few terms.

Attachment Theory: There is a growing body of research that suggests that spouses can form emotional attachments to each other that are similar to attachments that young children form with their parents.[1] For example, when a happy toddler lives in a secure environment and relationship with his parent(s), he has what is called a “secure base” and he tends to want to explore the world around him. Further, when this “secure toddler” is then separated from his primary attachment figure(s), a predictable reaction of fear and anxiety is triggered and would be expected.

Similarly, most adults living in a secure and healthy relationship tend to view the relationship as essentially safe and they are open to feedback about negative behaviors without feeling threatened or abandoned. But what happens when that security is stripped away by divorce or other significant stressors? Like the toddler, the loss of the attachment figure (in this case, the spouse) triggers a predictable reaction. The specific kind of reaction usually correlates closely to that person’s individual style of attachment.

Attachment Style: The three primary attachment styles identified by researchers are “secure,” “anxious,” and “avoidant.”

People with a secure attachment style generally channel distress fairly well because of their “strong base.” They tend to apply effective conflict resolution strategies and can integrate their own interests with their partner’s interests.

Individuals with an anxious style of attachment tend to become more demanding, jealous, and ruminate obsessively about the relationship when placed under stressful situations. They are likely to appraise conflict in catastrophic terms and dwell on negative emotions.

Persons with an avoidant style of attachment tend to lack empathy for others and present themselves as highly self-reliant. Even though they are just as sensitive to rejection as others they can appear to be distant or detached. They are likely to downplay the significance of conflict and focus on the “bottom line.”

It is important to keep in mind that these descriptions are generalized and are, by no means, indicative of an underlying pathology. Rather, they are descriptive “lenses” through which we can view certain personality traits and tendencies for a specific reason.

Anticipating and Adapting: Knowing and understanding your spouse’s attachment style (as well as your own) can be advantageous to you as you negotiate through the divorce process. Does your spouse have good communication skills? Does he or she try to solve conflicts cooperatively and constructively? If so, what is your best guess as to your spouse’s attachment style? If you believe your spouse has a secure attachment style then you can anticipate that he or she will attempt to apply a constructive approach to the negotiation and you can respond in kind.

What if your spouse has an anxious attachment style? Does he or she try to dominate the interaction? Does it seem as though your spouse easily shifts blame from the situation to you personally? Does he or she complain about not being “heard” during discussions? Do you ever feel that no matter what you do it’s not enough? During the divorce try to help your spouse establish a new “safe” base, either through his or her family, friends, or even your spouse’s divorce attorney. It is can be very important that your spouse feel as though someone “has his back.”

Additionally, try to balance your communications with a combination of objective information and subjective, positive feedback. Listen more than you talk. Reflect on what is said and show your spouse that you value and respect what he or she is saying to you (even though you are not necessarily saying you agree).

If your spouse leans in the avoidant direction then you may have to work a little harder to get your spouse to engage in the discussions, as individuals with avoidant attachment styles are motivated to — you guessed it — avoid conflict at all costs. Start by trying to set clear goals by agreement and work cooperatively to achieve milestones throughout the divorce process. Your spouse may not value or appreciate hearing about your feelings or those of the children, so try to shield him or her from those emotional expressions. Instead, emphasize concise, friendly communications that are solution-focused.

Of course, your spouse’s attachment style is only half of the equation. In order to anticipate, adapt, and optimize your negotiations, you need to have some understanding about how your own style of attachment. If you would like to learn more about the theory of adult attachment, start by taking a look at a couple of well-written books on the subject.[2]

Conclusion: Now, more than ever before, knowing and understanding how your spouse handles relationship stress can give you a negotiation edge during divorce. That is because over the last 20 years there has been a gradual societal movement away from divorce court trials and toward negotiated resolutions. Spouses who want to preserve a co-parenting relationship or want to avoid the cost and collateral damage caused by a final trial are increasingly finding solutions through mediation, collaboration, and other alternative means. Although each process is unique, the common thread that runs through each of these methodologies is they rely upon a process of negotiation to achieve their objectives to one degree or another. The best negotiators learn how to anticipate, adapt, and customize their messages in order to achieve an optimal result.

If you would like to learn more about finding creative solutions to resolve divorce conflict, contact one of the attorneys at Goranson Bain for a consultation.

This article is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any other purpose.[3]


[1] Alexander, Lisa, www.thecollaborativecentre.com, citing R. Chris Fraley “A Brief Overview of Adult Attachment Theory and Research” (University of Illinois, 2010), p. 3.

[2] Levine, Amir and Rachel Heller. Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – And Keep – Love. Penguin Group (USA), 2010; Tatkin, Stan. Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship, New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2011.

[3] The author would like to thank the following individuals and institutions, from whom the author has drawn heavily in preparing this article: Yuval Berger of Vancouver, BC; Lisa Alexander of Vancouver, BC; Dr. Honey Sheff of Dallas, TX; Winnie Huff of Dallas, TX; Tracy Stewart of Bryan, TX; and the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas.

When do you obtain an Order of Protection (restraining order) from the Court before or after filing for a divorce? You do not need to also file a divorce action to obtain an Order of Protection, although they can be filed at the same time.

It is difficult to determine how long a divorcee proceeding will take. We are better able to give you an estimated time range later when we understand more clearly what is at issue. The time involved is primarily based on four factors:

  • The number and complexity of the contested issues (Including but not limited to: Real Estate, Property, Children, Debts and Liabilities);
  • The likelihood of cooperation and whether there is an inclination to settle;
  • The attitude, tenacity and the willingness of your spouse to cooperate; and
  • The desire for litigation of the lawyer of your spouse.

It is difficult to make a realistic estimate of the total fee even when we know what issues are contested, the intensity of the parties’ feelings, and the complexity of the issues. If the parties want to settle, make compromises, and to end the matter quickly, they can do so. If the parties do not trust each other, want complete discovery of all assets and liabilities, and argue many issues to the bitter end, the process becomes very long, drawn out, and expensive. Going to trial is almost always more expensive than settling the lawsuit. The majority of cases should not be expensive. However, some disputes simply cannot be resolved without a significant effort. It is similar to an automotive repair. A basic oil change should be reasonably priced. However, if during the oil change a significant engine defect is noticed, the repair may become more expensive.

You will have to spend your own time to prepare your lawsuit. Your spouse does not prepare your lawsuit; your spouse’s attorney does not prepare your lawsuit. Your attorney prepares your lawsuit, but we can do that only with your help. You must make a commitment to put time into your case. If you are not prepared to spend the time and do the work, then your case will not be as satisfactory or inexpensively prepared as it will if you make the expenditure of time. A lawyer can only be as successful as the client allows. The more you contribute with regards to financial disclosures, wage statements, real estate information, etc. the more we can do for you. When in doubt, send me more information about the case!

Many health professionals will tell you that going through a divorce is one of the most painful experiences you can have. It is recommended that all parties going through a divorce be in counseling to help with the emotional issues. It is unusual for both parties to want to end the relationship simultaneously. Therefore, one party is very often emotionally hurt along the way. If that is you, then divorce can be an extremely painful process. Often one party raises issues as a way of dragging the matter out to punish the other spouse. The more issues raises, the more painful the process can become. Our practice recognizes the emotional and psychological difficulties that accompany a divorce proceeding. We will do our best to alleviate your fears and apprehensions although outside support is strongly recommended. Counseling will aid you through this difficult time and make your attorney’s job easier. Your attorney is trained to assist you with your legal needs, and it is not properly equipped to counsel you emotionally. In my years of practice, no one has ever died ‘from’ a divorce. However I have seen a great number die “during” their divorce. Please connect with therapists and friends to help you during this difficult time. I can advise you of your legal rights and responsibilities. I cannot always ascertain what will help with your emotional well being.

Divorce proceedings have the potential to be expensive. Thus, we advise you to scrutinize your issues and interests at an early stage to determine what issues can be settled. We do not recommend making unreasonable or unnecessary concessions, but we recommend you look carefully at the issues that separate you and your spouse. You do exercise some control over the issues in your case. Therefore, if there are concessions you can make that might bring your case to a speedy conclusion and thus reduce your fees, please consider making them. Litigation often begets further litigation. Be wise but don’t be a ‘sucker’.

Some people feel an attorney must
(1) be uncooperative with opposing counsel in such matters as disclosing information, disclosing documents, and arranging for convenient dates for meetings, dispositions, etc.; and
(2) never consider or advise compromise or negotiation with opposing counsel.
This notion is sadly misguided. Being uncooperative with opposing counsel greatly increases attorney’s fees with legal steps done the hard way such as preparation of special documents, appearances in court, etc. Any information and documents in our possession are ultimately subject to disclosure under the law. Therefore, an uncooperative attitude serves no useful purpose. On the other hand, over the years we have ‘seen it all’. We won’t be fooled or taken advantage of. We have book smarts and street smarts. Your interests are too important to leave to an inexperienced Attorney or firm.

  • Dating (May I be allowed to date?)
  • Credit cards (Should they be terminated?)
  • Bank accounts (Should I use them?)
  • Withdrawal/sale of assets (Should I?)
  • How should I deal with our children?

Contact your counsel if these questions arise. These are appropriate questions. I cannot answer these in a general way. One on one consultation is recommended.

Always feel free to raise any issues of concern with your lawyer. Explain the concern from your perspective.

No divorce can be granted until at least sixty-four one hundred and twenty days have passed since your spouse was served the Petition. This is a minimum period of time. Most uncontested matters are completed four months after service. Contested matters can take as long as twelve to eighteen months or longer, depending on the Court’s calendar. The time that it will take to obtain a divorce varies with each individual case. The simplest case is based on a divorce by default (where the other party does not respond). A default divorce takes approximately five months. If the case is by stipulation (where both parties agree on all terms), the proceedings may take as little as four months. However, if the divorce is contested (where the parties disagree on all or some of the issues), the matter can take several months or more.

The parties will not always have to appear in Court in order to obtain a Divorce. It is usually a good idea for both parties to appear in court if possible. If the divorce is contested, and the parties are not able to reach an agreement, the divorce will end up in Court