For some couples, litigating their matters in court before a judge is the best possible way to reach a resolution in their divorce. For other couples, litigation doesn’t solve conflict; it actually creates more of it. Many people mistakenly believe that they need the most aggressive lawyer in town to defend their legal rights. And when one spouse hires a shark attorney, chances are the other spouse will follow suit in order not to be “out-lawyered.” Yet even with two reasonable attorneys, divorce litigation is likely to inflame conflict, not resolve it. Read on to find out why the divorce litigation process should be avoided at all costs.
It Leads To Answers, Not Necessarily Justice
Litigation – an action brought in court to defend a legal right – occurs when attempts at mediation and collaborative divorce have failed. The process of preparing for court creates not only more paperwork, but also paperwork that can frequently be incendiary or upsetting, or even carry false allegations. In divorce litigation, the outcome is left up to the judge, who will deliver an answer that is not necessarily your version of justice…which could leave you in a far worse situation than if you’d settled out of court.
It Leads To Further Conflict
Litigation sets the stage for more litigation: appeals, support modifications, custody battles. People stop trying to settle matters between themselves. They go to court for matters that could be handled in mediation. They spend their days mired in anger and resentment that inevitably spill over onto other relationships and make them less productive at work. What was once a garden-variety divorce morphs into a high-conflict divorce that’s not over until the kids become legal adults – and maybe not even then.
Divorce Litigation is Expensive
Only the very wealthy can afford to litigate and continue to live comfortably. Those with more modest means will end up draining their bank account, retirement account, and even money set side for children’s education. Not only will you end up poorer, but you also may end up with less custody and support than you’d hoped.
Being in litigation is like being in battle. You spend your days writing ugly declarations against your ex and reading your ex’s ugly declarations against you. You dread opening e-mails and answering phone calls, even from your attorney. In the courtroom, you glance at the person you once loved only to realize that same person is now trying to destroy you. Trauma, especially when it’s ongoing, can lead to a full-blown case of Divorce PTSD that may require therapy and medication.
It Hurts Children
The conflict created by litigation is devastating to children. Spouses waged in a high-conflict divorce are less effective parents. They’re often distracted, irritable, and depressed, with less energy to give to their children. If custody is an issue, kids often feel pressured to take sides. When litigation continues for years, children are robbed of a normal childhood and are more likely to grow up and repeat the same dysfunctional interpersonal skills modeled to them by their warring parents.
Sometimes, litigation is unavoidable – for instance, in situations involving high-conflict personalities, domestic violence, or substance abuse. But most matters can be resolved through mediation or collaborative divorce, two models that are designed to contain conflict and expense. Whichever model you choose will require that you compromise, probably more than you want. If you truly want to resolve conflict you must accept that divorce, like life, isn’t fair.
Do you need legal guidance in your divorce? Want to know all your options for avoiding litigation and settle your matters out of court? Our trusted lawyers are here to guide you. Please contact us to schedule your confidential attorney consultation.