Here's what you need to know about the big business of divorce.
It's no wonder that all of us flock to that light at the end of the tunnel; wanting to know of any type of freedom — within ourselves or love — after we have been through the serious ringer of divorce. Some of us have been through more drama and trauma in the US Court of Family Law than what occurs in one episode of Breaking Bad. Though we simply want it to be over so that we can begin anew and move on, there are a good number of divorces in the United States that are lasting longer than the actual marriage.
Turns out that divorce is big business, and I mean BIG business. Four Million people get married in the US each year, according to the movie Divorce Corp, and though it may only cost $50 to get married , the cost of a marriage license and proof of age, it costs on average $50,000 to get divorced and has gone as high as $20 million dollars in legal fees.
All this makes "conscious uncoupling" even more and more appealing. For most of us, we entered into the marriage because we trusted our partner. Then our trust sours and for small and big reasons we begin the divorce process. We're then told by society and our community that we really shouldn't trust our "soon-to-be-ex". That trusting him or her in the divorce process is crazy. In fact the paperwork for all divorce pits us against each other: A. Jones vs. B. Jones.
Enter the attorneys. Being that our entire foundation is being rocked, we are very emotional: scared, worried, angry and very, very sad to name a few. So the attorneys tell us not to worry, they can take care of everything and by the way, could you please fill out this initial paperwork that tells us how much money you have and all of your assets?
I liked my attorneys. I trusted them to help me, but it's true, they knew everything about my financial picture but more than anything, they knew that my parents were living in an upstanding community nearby and were very invested in me as an only child. So suddenly their assets also played into the picture.
Divorce Corp, the film by writer and director, Joseph Sorge, is a documentary film exposing the intense inner-workings of the divorce industry and the United States Court of Family Law. Apparently more money passes through Family Court than all other courts of law COMBINED! It's a $50 billion per year industry — 50 BILLION! Some of the quotes from the beginning of the movie have attorneys saying things like:
"The real standard is: 'how much money can we make off these people?'"
"People can get as much justice as they can afford and most people can't afford any justice."
"This is just a business. This is not social services."
The movie explores the changes in the industry both after "no-fault" divorce came into play starting in 1969 when then Governor Ronald Reagan signed the First No–Fault Divorce Act and also after the price of homes had risen. The increase in the number of family lawyers over the past 50 years has been 2000 percent in California alone. Depending on where you live in the U.S., some attorneys are charging as high as $600-$950 per hour. So though it’s much easier to get a divorce than it was prior to "no-fault" where you had to prove adultery or cruelty (abuse), there is no incentive to complete the divorce.
Yet in Family Court you do not have the right to an attorney the way you do in other courts. So you either choose to pay for one or you can choose to self-represent. When we make the choice to self-represent, we risk being discriminated against by the judge as we do not know or understand the common parlance within the court system. It can cost an average citizen 25 hours of work to pay for one hour of an attorney's time.
There is also only a judge who acts in the Court of Family Law as a jury of one, and where we would think that their added responsibility would be used wisely as was the intention, at the end of the day, the judges are as susceptible as each one of us to leaning their decisions towards those firms who have taken them on lavish vacations or contributed to their campaign, etc.
All of this seems terrible enough, especially for those of us who have lived through it, but add on the additional issue around the built-in incentive for child custody due to the child support calculation providing more money for the parent with more custody and it just starts to become sick and twisted. What seems to follow is a common recommendation by attorneys to intentionally show the other parent to be neglectful by often times hiring unqualified custody evaluators that have personal relationships with the judges and have been known to commit extortion to the very emotional parents who need a fair evaluation in order to see their children.
The exposure of the many fold issues within our legal system by Divorce Corp leaves me asking why anyone in their right mind would get married in the first place. It makes me question why I had given it so much weight in my own life. But in the end it's what I talk about often in my own practice. It's a breakdown of trust.
"Trust is the willingness to be vulnerable, based on the other party’s benevolence, openness, honesty, reliability and competence." – Megan Tschannen-Moran
I trusted my ex while we began the process of divorce because I thought we could rise above and “consciously uncouple”; as the process developed, I began to see that I could not trust him. I then allowed myself to be vulnerable with the court system and it ended up with me only having 30 percent custody of the children. I lost trust again.
We have been shattered by our experience of divorce and truly devastated by our loss: loss of relationship, financial losses, loss of time with our children, etc. In the end, we really want to believe and hope, and above all trust, in love once again.
Trusting in love begins with trusting ourselves. I shared this with my audience in last week's show of The Mother Rising on Voice America, I'm ready to begin learning how to rebuild my trust in the institution of marriage and that is going to have to start with trusting in divorce. It may be that the best way to divorce is through the evolution of conscious uncoupling as described by Michelle Crosby of Wevorce in my interview two weeks ago. However, I would really like to trust again the Family Court system.