Scott Orr, (we refer to him as the Divorce Disrupter in a GOOD WAY), is all about breaking tradition when it comes to divorce.
Some of his advice may be a little bit contrary to traditional things that we hear about divorce, but they prove to be all the more useful when it comes to finding the best post-divorce outcome.
- When going into a divorce, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is “What do I really want to get out of this process?”
- Your kids should remain a priority when deciding how you want their, and your life to look post-divorce.
- Your attorney should help you see a clear picture of what your outcome could look like, but that outcome also depends on your (and your hopefully soon-to-be ex’s) behavior during mediation and/or litigation.
OUR GUEST – Scott Orr, The Law Offices of Scott W. Orr
Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS DIVORCE etc… Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re T.H. & Jessica.
Jessica: Welcome back to another episode of the ExExperts podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Do you know why? We’ve lived it, so we get it. I’m Jessica.
TH: And I’m TH. Today we’d like to welcome Scott Orr to our podcast. Scott is a divorce lawyer, a mediator, and the owner of his own law practice in New Jersey. I had an opportunity to speak with Scott a few weeks ago. Some of the things that we talked about were how it’s important to change the game of divorce and how to rise above the current situation that some people get into with the courts and lawyers and the whole vacuum mess that you can get sucked into. Thank you for joining us today.
Scott: No problem. Thanks for having me, guys.
TH: So why don’t we start with that? How do you think you can change the game of divorce’?
Scott: It’s a great question. One divorce at a time, I guess. I often say to clients is, if we’re looking for representation, would you rather be happy, or would rather be right? Because it’s not very often that you can have the same result. If you’re going into this with an ego and an exercise that you’re trying to get everything you can or put it to them or whatever, it’s not going to end well, especially, of course, when there are kids involved. When there are children involved, I like to say whether I’m mediating a divorce or representing somebody, let’s keep the kids above all else. In mediation, for example, in a divorce, if people are arguing, I’ll stop them and I’ll say, let’s have the same conversation as if the kids are sitting there. It’s just important to keep your eye on the finish line. The finish line isn’t the end of the year divorce; it’s the outcome of your divorce. Changing the game is really sort of having people centered on what should be the end game years after the divorce, not as we get right into this fight.
Jessica: So when TH and I were first talking about her initial conversation with you, and she was telling me about this kind of philosophy, I’m like, he’s the divorce disrupter because the things that you’re saying are a little bit contrary to traditional things that we hear or have when it comes to divorce. Where did this motivation come from that you want to change the game?
Scott: It’s a great question. Again, the truth is that sometimes you have to go through hell to come out the other side. I went through a divorce like you guys did and I realized how acrimonious the process was. I realized how antiquated the process was. I also looked at how uninformed I was. I consider myself semi-intelligent, yet here I was just having no idea and no control of this car that was being driven by somebody else.
Jessica: Even as a divorce lawyer?
Scott: Well, this is back when, we didn’t get to what made me become the, what is it, the divorce disrupter. So after that whole process, I decided that I’m going to get a new car, and after the divorce, I can only afford a jalopy, but I’m going to drive this thing and figure this out. Like everything, there’s an evolution. Right now, 99 out of 100 divorces aren’t going to go to trial, and they’re going to be settled on irreconcilable differences. Back when even our parents were married when we were kids, divorce had to be based on adultery, or lack of, I don’t know what words I can or can’t say [you can say sex] okay, sex, so different things like that. But now it’s no-fault, depending on what state you are in. The people that were practicing, that are practicing, are still basing themselves on policies or procedures that may not exist anymore. Also, in terms of disrupting divorces, it used to be the divorce attorney was the only one that had knowledge. Well, now we all have Google or whatever search engine you choose. You’re going to be informed. The ExExperts are there to help walk you through the beginning phases. So what’s my goal? My goal is to facilitate this process so that you guys and your divorce can continue to pay for your kids, and put your kids in college, not just mine, I guess that is what I say to a lot of people.
Jessica: I find it so interesting that as a matrimonial lawyer yourself, you’re saying that then when it came time for you to have your own divorce you felt like you were not in control and – go ahead.
Scott: At that time, I was practicing a different type of law. I was doing corporate law.
Jessica: Like if you didn’t know, what hope is there for the rest of us.
Scott: Well, they always say that lawyers make the worst clients for other lawyers.
Jessica: Well, then doctors make the worst patients.
Scott: Right. So I was doing corporate work at that time back whenever that was. Putting myself through this, I realized that I had to quickly change the game. I already had the law license, and I had the negotiation skills. Let’s figure this out, because at the end of the day, your best bet is to try and take the emotion out of it, and it comes down to a business transaction. Somewhere between here and here is your answer. You’re not going to get this, you’re not going to get this, and it doesn’t mean you have to settle with this, but let’s figure it out. What’s urgent, and what’s important, let’s get through it.
TH: I think that’s key. We have a newsletter called ‘What I wish I knew”, and I actually just wrote an entry about keeping your eye on the prize, and being realistic about the prize. It is a business, it’s a negotiation, and you need a plan. If you can put your emotion somewhere else, with it supported for you, I think that’s something you and I also talked about that you have a vast referral group. You really help people manage all the other ancillary things and touchpoints that people go through, through a divorce. You know going through it, a therapist is probably a good idea, and a financial advisor’s probably a good idea. So can you tell us a little more about that?
Scott: I’m glad you brought that up. Because again, when I was going through my divorce, I was sort of on the front end of that curve. No one around me was divorced, and nobody really could help me with it, so I had no resources. I had no opportunities. So in sort of divorce disrupting, I guess, is instead of where I was using my lawyer as a therapist, as she was typing away not even listening at $70 a minute, or whatever it was. Now I deal with people all the time where let’s say she just found out that he’s had an affair for several years. I’m not your therapist, that’s not my job, and I can’t save this marriage. I’m the coroner, not the doctor to the marriage. But if you need somebody, I’ve got somebody. You don’t have to go with that person, but let’s figure that out. Or if you’re the spouse that wasn’t in control of the money and you have no idea and you’ve never budgeted, let me get you in touch with this person who may be able to help you, as you balance your new life, whether you’re getting money from the sale of the home or something to that effect. Or if I get somebody that’s holding on to the home so hard, and I try and walk them through from let’s do your budget, let’s walk through this, is this really worth the fight? There’s plenty of resources, not just therapists and finances, but insurance. These are friends and a network that I’ve been able to build. Some people have never gotten their own insurance, and some people have never done this or done that, so at least I give them names. There are no envelopes being traded back and forth. It’s just an ability to focus on what I can do well, and then have somebody that I know does a good job focus on what they can do well, for that person.
Jessica: I think the whole business transaction part is just like an interesting part of the discussion. I just want to pause there for a second because I get it. I get that you want this, and they want this, and you have to pull back emotionally and be able to come to that middle ground, even if it’s not exactly the middle, and come to some kind of a conclusion. I’m going to say though, I felt like for my most recent divorce, I just completely disagree with the idea that it’s only a business transaction. My ex is a corporate lawyer, he’s like completely, you can’t read his face at all, like crazy poker face, and is able to be completely emotionless in some of these conversations. I felt like, I get why you’re putting this into the divorce agreement, and I get why, logically, this is something that you’re thinking about, but you’re completely dismissing the fact that we’ve been married and that we had that intimate relationship of a husband and wife at one point. You’re turning it into something so cold and detached, that you’re making it like we’re not going to be able to be friends afterward. By the way, for everybody who gets divorced and doesn’t want to be friends afterward, more power to you, that’s totally fine. But if you happen to be in a situation where you’re moving forward with the idea of this is going to be amicable and there’s still room for us in each other’s lives, just not as a husband and wife, treating it like a cold business transaction is not the way to get there. I feel like I totally disagree that it’s just a business transaction.
Scott: Well, you’re under the impression that all business transactions are cold and don’t have a positive outcome. A business transaction also could be a partnership. If you and TH went to business together, was it a cold and heartless transaction?
Jessica: That’s a great analogy, but I have a feeling that when people talk about divorce as a business transaction, that’s not what they mean.
Scott: Well, not necessarily. I mean, look, there are things that people want to put in a divorce agreement that may make no sense and may be unenforceable. So are they relevant? Are they important? You have to figure out what the urgent and important things are. But in terms of a partnership or in terms of a business transaction, not everybody gets the best deal. Not everybody does something that, there’s definitely a point in time where you look back on a certain transaction, like, crap, I could’ve asked for that, or I could have done this. But the bottom line is what’s the thing that’s most important? What are the things that are in your field of vision? When we drive a car at night, our headlights only go so far ahead of us. Let’s focus on what the car can see. You don’t drive backward, you don’t look all the way where you can’t, just right there. My job is to say, look, I know you can only see this far, but I’ve got brights or I’ve got halogens, I don’t know what it is with metaphors, but I could see further than that. Although you’re fighting for this, that’s not going to be that important. In my business transaction, what I say to couples, especially when I’m a mediator, I’ll say, look, I want to get you guys to a position where you have an agreement in front of you, that you both made this agreement, so much so that you can stick in a fucking drawer and never have to look at it again. If there’s ever a problem, open the drawer and take a look. Otherwise, you’ve learned how to re-communicate, how to co-parent, and it puts you in a different position. You’re getting to a divorce, whether it’s an amicable one or a non-amicable one, you’ve got a jacket on and you know how to push every button. He obviously knew how to get you charged, because he was cold, he was callous, whatever, and that got you freaked out.
Jessica: But I just think that was his natural way of dealing with things. He was like, it is a business transaction, and it’s no offense to you, but I have to put this clause into the divorce.
Scott: That got you off your game. [Yes] So your lawyer was allowing you to get emotional about something that you could have looked at and said how important is that? Can you give me an example of the clause that is jumping in on your right now that he wanted in the agreement?
Jessica: That he put something in at the end, I happen to be a big talker and an over-sharer, I’m not going to lie, he put in at the end of the clause, which I probably shouldn’t even be saying –
Scott: Something on social media?
Jessica: No, not about social media, but about, what is it called when you’re not – just like a non-disparagement? And by the way, I’m not that kind of person anyway. I would never walk around and disparage him.
Scott: Let’s walk through that. I’m not going to get into the personal specifics about it.
Jessica: And I was like, really? Do you feel like you need to have that in our divorce agreement?
Scott: Okay, but hold on. He now has this in the divorce agreement, and you say something disparaging, what happens? Does an anvil drop on your head? Do you go to jail? Does a cop come?
Jessica: I don’t know.
Scott: Exactly. So you violated a contract, you’re clause 39 on page 67 of the agreement. First, he’s got to prove it. Then he’s got to take, what are the damages? Are there damages in the contract? There’s a whole other level of stipulations that have to come in there. So if I was your lawyer, I’d be like, let him put it in there. Who cares?
Jessica: I said it’s fine. I’m never going to walk around and bad mouth you anyway. I think you’re a great guy, but in my head, I’m like, who even thinks of that? Why would I be the person he would be afraid of?
Scott: I think he’s an asshole.
TH: Meanwhile, she’s watching his dog for three months.
Jessica: I moved into his apartment to watch his dog while he goes away. I’m not going to be the one to disparage.
Scott: Anyway, my point is more about, if you want to fight for something that doesn’t make sense, I’ll let you do it, but that’s your choice. My job is to inform you of it. In terms of the agreement, try and get rid of ambiguity so that there isn’t a fight afterward; and that there isn’t a disagreement. Be as good as you can be. In divorce disrupting, sometimes in older contracts, you’ll see clauses that can be interpreted a million different ways or aren’t clear what happens when the kids go to college. I don’t care if they’re four years old. My own divorce agreement, my kids at the time, I think my youngest was around nine, it doesn’t say what really would happen in college. I just don’t let that happen because you’re just inviting conflict a decade from that.
TH: Down the road. Yeah, I think that’s really important too. My divorce took four years, I’ve basically experienced every type of divorce there is during those four years. We mediated, we sat down at a table, I went in front of multiple judges, and I knew the officers when I walked into the courthouse, so I’ve been all over the place. Something else to think about, which touches a little bit on what Jessica was saying, but Jessica, he got to your emotional side of it. If you keep it as a business transaction, you’re just mentally prepared to handle the terms of the agreement. But something that you and I spoke about Scott is every divorce is a snowflake, which I love. In our past discussions with other experts, it only takes one person to get a divorce. You have also said I was dragged into a bunch of stuff that I never would have done. That’s not me, and that’s not Jessica. He was questioning your character, which you didn’t like, which is understandable.
Jessica: Right. But I don’t even think that he was. I just think that came naturally for him. But that’s a good plan.
TH: I would just say that keeping your eye on the prize, I like the fact that Scott from our conversation, sounds like he really helps you along the way to just manage. You’re managing your clients and their expectations and helping them be better prepared for what could come.
Scott: If I may, that’s sort of what being a divorce lawyer is changing. It’s less about, I hate to say this, and I don’t mean this flippantly, it’s less about knowing the law, TH vs. Jessica, and more about managing the client, not only their temperament but their expectations and their timing. Now we’re available 24/7, but are we? It’s really working with the client and making a connection that way, as opposed to I’ll get him in court.
TH: Yeah I have that too.
Scott: One of my taglines is: ‘owning your outcome’. You’ll understand that it doesn’t say ‘owning a positive outcome’ or ‘owning your best outcome’ or ‘owning a shitty outcome’; it’s ‘owning your outcome’. You are in control. When it gets out of control, that’s likely your fault. I don’t mean that to sound mean, but if you’re going to court, that’s because you’ve let it go to court. Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re wrong in going to court. You may be right and going there –
TH: But you don’t always have a choice.
Scott: True, but once you get there you have less control of the outcome. The judge may have gotten in a car accident that day, or he may have found out his daughter has COVID, so you have no idea what the result is going to be. The more that you can control and negotiate and work out amicably with the other side, or even it doesn’t have to be amicable from the start, the better it is. Even if you can limit the issues, so that if you have to go to court or mediation on specific issues, as opposed to the whole divorce, even better.
Jessica: What would be your top tip for someone who’s in a situation where they are open to the idea of changing the game? They don’t want to have the traditional litigated divorce, but their soon-to-be ex-spouse is pushing things in that direction. Just to your point now saying if you go to court, you’ve chosen that. Thank god, neither time I went to court, but for somebody who feels like they’re being pushed to court by their now soon to be ex, what would be the number one most important thing that you think they could try to do to back away from that end result?
Scott: You don’t necessarily have to back away from going to court or going through the court, but the best thing that you can do is have a lawyer who can really artfully explain to you your likely best case, your likely worst case, and where it will likely end up. The courts don’t want you to go to court either. They have, depending on your state, they have mandatory mediation, they have early settlement panels, and they have early interventions. There’s a myriad of different ways before it finally gets to that sort of courtroom drama if you will. You have the other side, and they have sort of that shark attorney, and they’re going, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to end up any better for them. The key is to hire the attorney that you want, not the attorney that you think is going to be able to fight just as well or argue just as well.
TH: That’s really important. I think that interviewing more than one so at least you can have a means of comparison if this just comes upon you. As you said, you were going through the process unknown, same with me, I just wasn’t aware of the magnitude of this thing. Then I had a shark for a lawyer, and he had a shark for a lawyer, so the two sharks are fighting all the time. Then they’re also our messengers. What are they really saying on my behalf?
Scott: Right. Yeah, and then playing golf on Sunday.
TH: And you create a whole shitstorm.
Scott: The key is you have to feel comfortable with the person because like I said, you’re kind of giving them the keys. You’ve got to understand how you are internally, and how you want this to end up. Again, I have people come to my office, and they say I want to take him for everything that he’s worth, he’s scum, and he’s this. Let me give you some names, I don’t think this is going to work out. Of course, that always backfires because then they want you even more [laughs].
TH: ‘Oh, you’re so great!’
Scott: But I’ve had on the other side as adversaries, the most amazing lawyers, to the point where if my sister was getting divorced, I would say, you can go to that person. But still, everybody’s human, everybody understands this. If you get to the point where it’s not just a job, and you’re with somebody, and you’re against somebody that recognizes that there are kids at stake, there are finances at stake, they’re trying to settle it, and we’re just not letting them, people can really wake up, even lawyers on the other side. I can see a shift in the way that law is practiced, or divorce laws and family law is practiced, just in the last five to seven years. It’s just a better way to do things. People are understanding alternative dispute resolution, whether it’s mediation or arbitration or even working it out on their own. As I said, the internet provides so much information.
TH: That’s what we’re hoping to build here, a resource to educate people because Jessica and I had each other but very little education. Now there’s so much information on the internet, it’s like having nothing out there again.
Scott: I do recommend that whatever the best source of information is, and whatever you get from ExExperts, wherever it is, you should talk to an attorney at all times. Because there is a difference between the information you read or hear, god forbid a chat room, and what the law may be. When you first go through this, you tend to listen to the, I call them the Greek chorus, you know, all your friends. ‘Oh, I got unlimited alimony’, or ‘I don’t pay child support’, or ‘you’ve got to get more than 50%’. Your situation, to go back to you TH what I said to you the first time we talked, is it’s a snowflake. There are some parameters, but let’s look at your instance, and let’s look at your specifics and work from there. No amount of Google searching or ExExperts searching is going to be able to put in your exact details.
Jessica: You’re totally right. So for people out there listening who want to reach out to you for real legal advice, what’s the best way for people to find you?
Scott: You can shoot me an email. They’ll post it up or something, down here?
Jessica: We will, we’ll post it. You can say what it is.
Scott: It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. You can go to my website www.scorrlaw.com. The key is doctors have sort of that Hippocratic Oath to help people, and I look at my approach to family law almost that way. My goal isn’t necessarily always to win. I know that sounds counterintuitive. I feel sometimes you could win a lot by just doing the right thing. Although it looks like you gave in or you gave up or you move forward, whatever, sometimes you can just see. I could see further than you can. I have a million instances where someone says I don’t want to give him 50%, the next thing, you know, the kids are with them 100%. You can sort of see things that just happen. So you know that’s it.
Jessica: No, I mean, such great information. Listen, there’s so much more conversation for us to have with you so we’d love to definitely have you back.
Scott: Hopefully I’ll be back!
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. But thank you so much for just what you shared today with us and with the ExExperts community. It’s so important to know and so incredibly helpful. For everyone listening, if you know anybody in your life, any friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances, that you think this information could help, please pass it along and please share it. You can be sure to click and subscribe to the ExExperts podcast on iTunes or wherever it is that you listen to your podcast. Please follow us on social media @ExExperts and that’s on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube. Thanks for listening.
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