Going to divorce court sucks — literally sucks — time, energy, money & a piece of your soul.
Over the past two days I provided a basic overview of the alternative dispute resolution methods through which any couple can achieve divorce a legally binding and enforceable divorce without ever having to set foot in a courtroom.
You may still be wondering why going to court is so terribly bad. After all, the court process is overseen by family law attorneys and family law judges. Aren’t these the professionals who have the best training and experience to make sure both spouses have their needs heard and their issues addressed.
Sorry, just nope.
Yes, family law attorneys know the laws by heart (or at least know where to find them). They know the rules of court, which are strangely formal, ritualistic and off-putting.
But divorce is a strange bird.
Divorce is the end of a romantic relationship. The decision to divorce is something arrived at from a deep emotional and psychological place, with all kinds of emotional and personal ramifications.
Yet unlike the purely emotional aspects of the break up of a relationship that did not lead to marriage, the marriage license you signed essentially constructed a business partnership between the two of you.
Marriage, for legal intents and purposes, is basically another form of incorporation. When business partners decide to go separate ways, the court refers to it as the dissolution of a corporation. Similarly, the courts refer to divorce as the dissolution of a marriage.
So the court basically sees your divorce as the simple dissolution of Our Family, Inc.
The legal issues are certainly important, and some divorces include more complex legal issues than others. That said, parenting is at least as important an issue, if not far more so, and some parenting situations are more complex than others as well.
I do not know many family law attorneys who spend time studying up on child development and child psychology. Nor do I know many who have studied the ways that psychological positions and mental conditions may affect their client and/or the spouse their client is divorcing.
I am not saying that none of them have, but attorneys are trained to stand in front of a judge and argue on behalf of their clients’ perceived needs and wants. Not on behalf of their clients’ underlying issues. Not on behalf of their clients’ psychological best interests. On behalf of what their client is “entitled to” by law.
Think of the wording itself. “Counsel, please make your argument.”
Oral arguments. Closing arguments. Legal arguments.
How on this Earth is any couple ever supposed to actually experience an amicable divorce if every step of the way their attorneys’ mandate is to formulate the best possible argument in order to win?!?!
Please, please, please tell me you are beginning to see how impossible a scenario the family court system has created for any divorcing couple who would like to remain on friendly terms and divide their property civilly and simply.
As for the judges, most people reasonably assume these are individuals whose background is firmly planted in the absolute highest standard of education and experience in all of the issues mentioned above and more.
Again, this assumption would be far from the truth.
Judges assigned to a family law courtroom may have little to no actual experience in family law. That’s right. Your very own judge may never once in his or her entire career have set foot in a family law courtroom prior to having been assigned to one as judge.
Shocking? Yes. Problematic? Yes. True? YES.
Personnel issues aside — and let’s please remember that judges are salaried employees of the state and attorneys are contractors hired by YOU — the process designed by the family court system is in and of itself, for lack of a better term, a clusterfuck.
Here’s a look at the handy dandy chart the Los Angeles Superior Court website offers as an online tool for “understanding” the path your divorce will take.
Super helpful, right?
Not only does it appear to be a ceaseless labyrinth, but it is jam-packed with legal jargon and black-and-white arrows which truly bare little to no resemblance to the path your own divorce may or may not take.
The one way in which I could currently conceptualize using this map as a tool to help others understand the staggering statistical difference in cost to couples who divorce via mediation or collaborative divorce versus via litigation is to highlight a few of the areas in which non-litigated divorce methods cut costs.
Studies show that a mediated divorce costs approximately 10% of the total amount that the same couple’s divorce would cost them in court, while a collaborative divorce process costs approximately 50-60% of the total amount the same couple’s divorce would cost them in court.
Here’s a look at why:
The yellow brick road walks you through the essential parts of a divorce process that can be resolved within a mediation. The orange the path may be added on to any collaborative divorce case, and even then still several of the steps included in those squares and rectangles could easily be deemed unnecessary.
This was highlighting on my PC, people, not an exact science.
My point is, all of those extra un-highlighted boxes along the litigated divorce route will cost a good $5,000 – $10,000 a pop. At a bare minimum.
All of this hard work of mine on Adobe aside, I haven’t even begun to address the issues of corruption, unethical attorney practices, the tremendous wastefulness of financial resources, on dueling special experts, witnesses, custody evaluators, private detectives, forensic psychologists, vocational exams and more.
Do I really need to give you any more reason to stay out of court??
Don’t worry, I will. This is only Part 3, remember?
To check out Part 1: Mediation, click here.
To check out Part 2: Collaborative Divorce, click here.
To check out Part 4: Shifting Tides, click here.
Photo credit: Flickr/7wBWbm