During negotiations, people oftentimes have a hierarchy of what’s important to them. As a divorce attorney, you have to coach your clients to be wary of what they want versus what the other spouse wants to give them, because almost every scenario has its benefits and pitfalls. Consider these various potential Trojan Horses:
Getting the house in a settlement is typically a big issue. Often, the spouse that wants the home perceives it as a security blanket because someone else had been paying for it. If this spouse has never managed the house and doesn’t know how to run a budget, and you, as their attorney, see how tight their budget is, you might be concerned about giving them the house. What if the boiler breaks down within the next two years and there’s no cushion in the budget to fix it? This would drain the client, no matter how emotionally attached they are to the house.
I’ve had clients that own two Mercedes that they pay parking for in New York City. For the spouse trying to get the cars, they may not realize the onerous responsibilities included in owning a vehicle. These are the types of Trojan Horses that can blow a person’s budget if they don’t carefully account for expenses.
Another example of a Trojan Horse can be hidden in custody arrangements. Sometimes, when one party fights to give the other party a specific visitation schedule, they later regret it. I have had women who were fighting tooth and nail for certain visitation schedules, and then suddenly realized that having their ex-husband take extra days is tremendously helpful to them.
Maintenance is almost always a Trojan Horse to the recipient because it is presently taxable to the payee. When the recipient can receive a lump sum payment, those are tax free equitable distribution exchanges between the parties, making it a much cleaner way of budgeting for the future. January 2019 will bring changes to the way maintenance payments are taxed streamlining pay-outs from payors to payees.
When Something Seems Too Good to Be True:
I had a situation where, after a long negotiation, the husband agreed to pay an enormous amount to his wife. In the end, however, this “gift” ended up being a ruse. He was afraid that his wife would find out about an additional half a million dollars he had hidden from her. His supposed generosity was partially because of guilt and partially to try and end the negotiation, so we wouldn’t dig deeper.
As a divorce attorney, I coach my clients to look for all the various types of honey pot traps. I have them analyze whether or not the things they want may actually end up being more devastating to them if they receive them. Often my clients, once they start getting deals they’re happy with, do change their minds about wanting to go in front of a judge. This is when we quietly negotiate a higher amount with the other side, draft an agreement, and then have the court sign off on it.
Cheryl Stein, Esq.
The Law and Mediation Offices of Cheryl Stein
745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 500
New York, NY 10151
Phone: (646) 884-2324