Modern Family Matters

How To Manage Expectations and Set Goals During Your Divorce

December 27, 2023 with Pacific Cascade Legal Season 1 Episode 122
Modern Family Matters
How To Manage Expectations and Set Goals During Your Divorce
Show Notes Transcript

Join us for this episode as we sit down with Pacific Cascade Legal's Partner, Will Jones, to discuss how you can manage your expectations and set attainable financial, familial and personal goals throughout your divorce to help focus on a successful outcome.

If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys, please call our office at (503) 227-0200, or visit our website at

Disclaimer: Nothing in this communication is intended to provide legal advice nor does it constitute a client-attorney relationship, therefore you should not interpret the contents as such.

Welcome to Modern Family Matters, a podcast devoted to exploring family law topics that matter most to you. Covering a wide range of legal, personal, and family law matters, with expert analysis from skilled attorneys and professional guests, we hope that our podcast provides answers, clarity, and guidance towards a better tomorrow for you and your family. Here's your host, Steve Altishin.

Steve Altishin  0:32  
I'm Steve Altishin, Director of Client Partnerships at Pacific Cascade Legal. I'm here with our lead attorney, William Jones, to talk about how to manage expectations, set goals and determine what's important to you in a divorce. Will, how are you doing today?

Will Jones  0:47  
Not too bad. Still a lovely September, somehow in the Pacific Northwest, nice sunny day here, things are cranking along, glad to be talking to you Steve.

Steve Altishin  0:57  
Glad to be talking to you too, absolutely am. So let's start by talking about why it's important to actually set goals and focus on them through your case. 

Will Jones  1:10  
So goal setting, kind of the difficult thing in family law most of the time, because people don't know what to expect, right? You can look at it in a multitude of different ways. But it's family law. So what we're doing is we're taking families apart, if you think that's fun, or happy, that's not the way this works. It's just not, you know, you get a lot of people who are like, I'm gonna take you to the cleaners, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla bla, that's not generally what happens. Right? We have to be somewhat realistic. Somebody is not walking away with everything when the other party gets nothing. Right? There's a judge out there, eventually, he's gonna go, this seems fair. And what I like to tell people specifically as you go into mediation or negotiations, if everybody's a little disappointed, we're doing a really good job, right? Everybody's a little happy, we're doing a good job, right? One person is happy and the other one's sad, you're not going to settle. Right? It just doesn't work that way. What's important at the outset of any family law case, is reasonable expectations. And then making sure they don't move. That's the hard part. New facts can come out. And maybe we need to reevaluate. But what we end up with is a lot of people who go on this, that and the other thing. Okay, I got you this, that and the other thing, well, what about Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is not a mobile bar. We don't keep raising it. Just because we got to where we wanted to go. My old mentor, a guy named Jacqueline Dean, he used to say this all the time. He's older than me, so he could get away with it, he would say pigs get fat, but Hogs get slaughtered. Right. And that's what happens in a quarter. If you go in and go, I want these things. They're very important. And here's why it's fair. I understand. They may not like it, let's do this. Judges usually go, that seems like a good idea. If you go in and go, I want seven eighths of everything. And I don't care about that person, that this is how it's going to be a blah, blah, blah, just gonna go? No. And you're probably going to pay attorneys fees, too, because you've asked for something that's just outside the range of reasonable. But it's that initial goal setting and relying on those goals, rather than moving the bar that's very, very difficult in family law cases. They willingly gave me what I wanted. But now I want more, because I didn't know that I was going to get everything I want. And it keeps moving and keeps moving and keeps moving.

Steve Altishin  3:30  
Do people sometimes have a hard time setting expectations and setting goals? Because they don't know what they have? Or what they should expect?

Will Jones  3:48  
Yes, that can be really, really difficult. In part because we all speak English for the most part, we obviously handled some Spanish speaking cases, too. But the problem is, is that a lot of law other than the Latin parts, it's all regular English words, but they don't always mean what the English words mean, they need what the law says they meet. Right. So what ends up happening is people go, No, I know. Well, I've been doing this a long time, I think I have a good idea to overall. So now what's realistic, right? I want three quarters of his income because I heard that you could get that. And you're not going to get that. Right. You can go through a pelican case after case after case. Usually the party he was going to end up paying support is going to retain a bulk of their income doesn't mean you're not going to get something but it's not what you want. It's more along the lines of what's fair and what the law says. One of the other problems that kind of comes around and I guess there's a multitude of problems is people don't know what is what, right. They don't know the value of some of the things they have. So you get a lot of people who say A I've seen quite a few people who say, yeah, he's got a pension but I don't have. Well, that doesn't mean it's not divisible. What do you mean, it's divisible? That's his pension? My name is not on it. No, it came about during the marriage, that is a divisible asset, we need to talk about that. Or you end up in this problem where people go, Well, he has 100,000 in retirement, and we have 100,000 in equity in the house, and I want the house, well, maybe you want the house. But for him that retirement is probably pre tax dollars, right? When he takes that out, he's gonna lose 27 30% in taxes, that's not $100,000. Timeless account, that's a $70,000 retirement account, versus 100,000. In Holman, those are two different things, right. So getting to a common denominator is difficult. One of the things that I provide that kind of, hopefully deletes the last major problem is when I look at cases, despite the fact that I understand people have feelings, I have some feelings of my own from time to time, but I have professional judgment, for I don't have any feelings towards anybody's house towards anybody's car, I don't care if you wax your car yourself, I want to know what it's worth. Right. I'm dividing assets, I'm litigating a case, I'm not emotional about these pieces. Other people are once emotion steps into, say, custody, parenting time, child support all that stuff. Now we have a clouded judgment, things aren't worth what they're actually worth when you feel a certain way about them. Right? It's like when you get beer at the baseball game, you pay way more for that, because you wanted it at a baseball game, supply and demand if you're really in love with this house, that means from the other side of the case, I want to charge you a premium. Because I know you really want it. That's the way that this kind of works. And that's one of the services that an attorney can provide us to go whoa, we got to get emotion out of this piece here. Because we're talking about dollars and cents, right? Your emotional now, and I tell my clients this all the time, your emotional now, because you're getting a divorce. In a year from now you're not getting a divorce. Now, what do you have a year from now, your emotion is now all gone. You're making emotional decisions today. But that doesn't serve you well, a year from now or six months from now or whenever all these feelings go away. So we really have to keep our eye on the ball and go goal setting. Where did we start from? What did we want and why did we want it or not? Not how do we feel about it.

Steve Altishin  3:48  
It's kind of like the old Rolling Stones song, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.

Will Jones  6:32  
One of the larger issues that we deal with is what do people actually need? Right? There's a case that I'm working on right now. The guy has a union pension and he has a 401k. Alright, union pension isn't worth much. So it's not a big deal. But he is very passionate about that pitch. He's earned that pension, he's part of the Union, blah, blah, blah, my client is like, I want a part of his pension. And I'm telling her no, you know, she's very young, she's in her early 20s, you don't want the pension, you want the 401 K, because that pension is tied to his union, you can never increase the value of that pension, you're getting a stagnant asset. Because you're not in the EU, your 401 K is subject to market gains, and you're only in your 20, which means for the next 40 years, that 401k hopefully will grow. And you can put more money in with the pension, you can't. But both of them are fighting and angry about the pension. So now we have to convince her look, the 401 K is what's actually valuable to you. Because it's not a stagnant asset. The pension is very valuable to him, because it's not a stagnant asset. If we turn those around, she can't add to fetch at all, it's dead for right. So it's I know you're angry, and I understand you don't want him to have what he wants. But that's not what you want. You want this over here. And here's why this is a math problem, not an emotion. 

Steve Altishin  8:56  
It kind of leads to that idea of, my expectations are this and I just don't understand why his aren't. That why do I have to be the one to agree? I mean, can't you make him agree? So how do people work with that?

Will Jones  9:19  
Sometimes you don't really know the answer. And that's what the courthouse, one of the things that I tell my clients, that's why we have a judge. That's why we have a trial, right? If we can't get this resolved, we can't get it resolved. Which means that everybody's going to be a little unhappy because judges don't generally make people very happy and family law kicks in every now and then you do get some wins. But usually a judge does something that's equally unfair, and you don't have any input anymore. Once a judge is making a determination. You don't get to say this that the judge is going to tell you what's going to happen, which isn't necessarily fun. But myself. I've obviously tried a lot of cases over my career. There comes a point where you just go, you know this is going to be a four hour trial. It's cheaper, faster, easier. for you to just go try the case, we've been negotiating, and we've got 20 hours of negotiation that you've had to pay me for. That'll be four hours that will be done with this. Let's just do that. Because it makes more sense. When you're talking about settling a case. And you know, somebody's got to give up something, why do I have to be the one to agree? That is so frustrating from a client and attorney standpoint, because you don't know what the other party is doing? Right. Specifically, if we're having a judicial settlement conference where the parties are separate with their attorneys, you don't know if they're over in the other room crying saying I can't do that. I can go no further. You don't know that. You only know what's happening in your room, which is maybe you crying going, I can't do any better than this. Why am I agree? Well, they may be doing the same thing in the other room, but you only feel what you have in front of it. So then you end up in conversations, if you don't have clear goals when you started, where it's, why are you negotiating for that? I'm not, I'm trying to get you to see something reasonable. And hopefully the other attorney is doing the exact same thing. But you don't get to feel their pain, you don't get to feel your own as a client. So that goes all the way back to Golson, what do you want? How are we going to get that? And is it wise? If so, now, when you start feeling those feelings, we have something that is grown. There's a reason that we're doing this, even though you don't like, right? Same thing as surgery, right? Nobody wants to recover from surgery. But if you want whatever repaired, you're getting repaired, you have to go through that difficult thing. And that's the same way that this is you have to go through the difficult thing to get to a better place than it was there was an easier way to do it, but there just isn't.

Steve Altishin  11:39  
Yeah, it kind of boils down to, I can know what I want. I can have made my goal. I know what my goal is. But then you have the divorce decree at the end of the day. And the divorce decree is, like you said, a legal document. And that's where you guys come in a lot. It's like, okay, I know your goal, I understand your goal, getting your goal into a decree, an enforceable decree, that's my job. It just seems like that expectation, how it actually gets written up, is a huge part of getting it all completed.

Will Jones  12:21  
So one of the things I tell anybody, not everybody needs an attorney to get divorce. It's true, right? A lot of people we don't end up having hire us because they just don't need us. There's nothing going on. You know, we're both 20 We've been married six months, we don't have anything. We can draft your documents if you want us to. But nothing's changed hands. Right. And we're talking real property in the depths of retirement, which spousal support all that stuff. Hire an attorney, I don't care if it's Bob from down at the bar, who just so happens to have a JD and a license. The reason I say that is every attorney in Oregon automatically because they're a member of the bar has $300,000 in malpractice coverage to the PLF. Basically the bar, right, we have a much larger umbrella because we're a much larger firm. But something goes sideways in that divorce judgment, which I see all the time for people who don't hire attorneys. Something goes sideways and say the property wasn't sold. Like the judgment said it shouldn't be sold. But it's not an enforceable judgment, because it says the property will be sold and the proceeds split. They'd like selling the property, I want my money, why can't I get my money? I'm gonna look at that judgment and go, Oh, buddy, you cost yourself a lot of money. Because if I take that judgment, say, hey, judge that says the property will be sold, or God is going to be turn to me and say, when it doesn't say, under what terms who's controlling the sale, so I can't hold that person in contempt, which means I have to reopen the whole case, if I can, no guarantee I can. Because judgments are supposed to be final, get that stuff put in. So now I can enforce it. So now you've taken all these steps and a bunch of money to try to get somewhere that you should have been in the first place. And you have no protection, you have no malpractice coverage, because you didn't hire an attorney. So anytime we deal with property, stuff like that, an attorney, right, and they'll help you manage your expectations will tell you what can and can't happen, what's smart, what's not smart goes all and I mean, really a big chunk of the job is managing expectations. Right? What is important to these people, how do we get to the important pieces? What isn't important? How do we not ignore the emotions but denim, the motions to do what we need to do hear rather than just what we want to do? Because I can tell you a lot of us who are trial attorneys would love to just go blast people in the courtroom. But that's not always a smart decision. Right? Sometimes it's much more wise to go but these are the things my client needs. Even though I know that guy's a liar and I want to blow him up on the stand, it would be more fun to blow him up on the stand, but he's not my client.

Steve Altishin  14:53  
Well, it sounds like it's three parts. It's you know, setting goals and reasonable expectations, and then the expertise to have those transformed into what actually happens. And you work on all of those with the client. 

Will Jones  15:10  
That's right, that's the job. 

Steve Altishin  15:12  
That's the job. And then you're really good at it. So thank yo,u Will, for sitting down to talk with us about what to know about goals, how to manage expectations, and determine really what is important in a divorce and then getting to that. So thank you so much for talking.

Will Jones  15:31  
You betcha Steve, always happy to help, and if anybody out there has questions, we're pretty easy to find.

Steve Altishin  15:36  
Yes, you are. Everyone. Thank you for joining us today. Please feel free to call us. You can call, you can send us an email, get a hold of us. We'll find you an attorney who can talk to you. And after that, you'll be better off. So everyone stay safe, stay happy and be well.

This has been Modern Family Matters, a legal podcast focusing on providing real answers and direction for individuals and families. Our podcast is sponsored by Pacific Cascade Legal, serving families in Oregon and Washington. If you are in need of legal counsel or have additional questions about a family law matter important to you, please visit our websites at or You can also call our headquarters at (503) 227-0200 to schedule a case evaluation with one of our seasoned attorneys. Modern Family Matters, advocating for your better tomorrow and offering legal solutions important to the modern family.