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Specialty tag(s): Divorce
Power Imbalances in Divorce: How to Level the Playing Field
Kristen A. Algert | January 5, 2022
Merriam-Webster defines a “level playing field” as “a state in which conditions in a competition or situation are fair for everyone.” In nearly all divorces, the playing field is NOT level due to one or more areas of power imbalance. Understanding this concept and correcting power imbalances is important in order to achieve an equitable outcome for both spouses and any minor children.
In those instances where one spouse has superior knowledge and expertise about a specific subject or has disproportionate control over specific areas of married life, the divorce “playing field” is not level. A power imbalance exists when both spouses do not have the equal ability or the equal right to control people, things or situations; power is disproportionately weighted toward one spouse to the detriment of the other. A power imbalance might result from extreme differences in personalities, education, health, profession, training, or accomplishments, Examples of this include when one spouses manages all of the marital finances or primarily makes all of the decisions affecting the children.
Why a Level Playing Field Matters
Power itself is neither good nor bad, just as a power imbalance is neither good nor bad. Spouses often delegate primary responsibility for different tasks to one spouse while married. In a divorce negotiation however these imbalances can be detrimental if one spouse is accustomed to always making financial decisions or child-related decisions, or controlling resources, or controlling other areas of the marital relationship. If the power imbalance continues unabated in the divorce, one or both spouses may become anxious, indecisive, frustrated and/or distrustful as they try to navigate settlement discussions on which they have different perspectives and knowledge.
To have productive settlement discussions, both spouses need relatively equal (1) knowledge of all relevant information; (2) access to financial resources; (3) access to child-related information; (4) access to children; (5) ability to ask questions; and (6) ability to make decisions about final outcomes.
Tips for Leveling the Playing Field
With the assistance of your divorce lawyer:
- Talk to your lawyer about how you and your spouse currently make decisions about financial matters and children.
- Determine if a power imbalance exists and whether that imbalance jeopardizes your ability to make good decisions in your divorce case.
- Identify options for balancing power enough to discourage or prevent one party from imposing his/her will on the other or interfering with the interests of the other.
- Evaluate those options and determine what solution best balances power keeping in mind the interests of you, your spouse, your children and your available financial resources. Options might include a financial advisor, a parenting coach, or a support group.
- Decide on the best way to remedy the imbalance and level the playing field so that negotiations are more likely to result in fair agreements that work well for the entire family.
Kris Algert is one of the most experienced Collaborative Family Lawyers in Austin and has been named Best Lawyers “Lawyer of the Year” for Collaborative Law in the Austin area in 2013, 2016, 2018, and 2020. She is a Master Credentialed Collaborative Professional by Collaborative Divorce Texas, is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and is known for her respectful, constructive problem-solving approach to helping clients move forward with confidence after divorce.
To find the right solution for you, please contact Kris Algert at 512-454-8791.