I recently went to see the documentary "Divorce Corp", a film directed by Joe Sorge. If this were a movie review, I'd have to say the movie was exactly what I was expecting…a series of melodramatic reenactments of worst-case scenarios that couples face in divorce court. It didn't have the feel of a feature film at all actually. It felt more like a presentation at a convention (think lots of stick figures, charts, and graphs). Also I might add that my business partner and I were the only two people in the theater on opening day in New York City. But the overall message of the movie still rings true: the divorce court system is broken and it makes for a horrific experience.
As co-founder of SAS~ Support and Solutions for Women™, I work with women at all stages of the divorce process. From those wondering if they want a divorce to women who have already spent years (yes – years, plural) in court battling for custody and marital assets. I have spent a good deal of time accompanying my clients to meetings with their attorneys and observing in court. I've seen firsthand how destructive the process can be.
At SAS, we advise our clients to avoid litigation in a divorce, if at all possible. Divorce is never easy, rarely fast, and is always expensive. That's without litigation. Taking your divorce to the courts will magnify everything a thousand-fold. Once you decide to go into battle, there's no turning back either. It's like getting on a terrifying roller coaster and you can't get off until the ride is over.
There are three important reasons you don't want to take your divorce to trial:
It's not an exaggeration when I say that it will take hours, weeks, months, and years to get through the process. Hours of tracking down and collating documents for your attorney. Week after week at your attorney's office, discussing strategy and preparing to be on the stand. Months waiting for court dates. It quickly adds up to years. One of my clients has been navigating her divorce for four of the six years of her son's life. Unfortunately, they have yet to reach a custody agreement. Another client said that she had to quit her job because the divorce was taking so much of her time; it had become her job. You will never get this time back.
Your attorney will be billing you for each and every minute of those hours and weeks of meetings. Long meetings too, at hundreds of dollars an hour. Your attorney will bill you for reading things about your case, thinking about your case, and talking to you about your case. There will also be filing fees and court costs, which will also show up on your bill. Your soon- to-be-ex will be in meetings of his own, with his attorney, also being billed hundreds of dollars an hour. This will all come out of the money that the two of you are fighting over. Neither one of you will get the money anyway, the attorneys and courts will.
In my mind, this is the most compelling reason of all. It's humbling and humiliating to go through a trial, to say the least. Your entire marriage will go under a microscope. Everything is magnified and examined. You will have no control over it. Things can be taken out of context or misconstrued and you may not be allowed to say anything to set the record straight. Things you've said, written, or done are all fair game, no matter how long ago they happened. I was observing in court one day when an issue came up about an argument the couple had more than ten years ago. An argument they had a decade ago, approximately three years before their child was even conceived, was considered relevant and important in a custody battle.
You will be expected to be able to recall events in remarkable detail. If you don't have a good memory (or worse, no memory) of an event, you may end up looking like you are lying or stalling. Do you remember who was at the park with you on October 3, 2004? What did you feed your daughter for dinner on April 23, 2011?
It's very normal to want to talk to your friends about what’s going on in your life, that can work against you too. They may be called to testify, straining if not ending your friendship. Suddenly, leaning on your friends in a time of crisis makes you look like you were purposely slandering your husband or irresponsibly airing your dirty laundry in public. It is excruciating painful to go through a trial and those scars may last a long, long time.
The movie "Divorce Corp" ends with a plea for court reform. I agree but that is a tall order and it’s going to take awhile. I encourage anyone going through a divorce now, to avoid the courtroom altogether. A trial, in the end, will cost you more time than you thought possible, perhaps more money than you have, and more heartache than you can imagine.
For information on ways to navigate the divorce process without litigation, contact SAS ~ Support and Solutions for Women™. There are alternatives to going to court and we can point you in the right direction.
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