Most family law litigants prefer to avoid trial, and with good reason. Trials are expensive, prolong the case, and raise the anxiety associated with divorce.
From our eNewsletter, we present Judge Michele Lowrance’s thoughts on trials.
Preparing for trial requires superhuman strength. Many people try to simultaneously mobilize sufficient reserves of the required negative emotion while trying to remain on moral high ground. An angry confrontation can alter the course of negotiations and with the flick of a switch lead a lost couple into a nasty divorce.
When you find yourself at the end of your marital journey, it is excruciating to witness the brutality in the spouse you once loved, and to have a glimpse of your own brutal nature. You have shocked yourself with how easily, and even candidly, you revealed your spouse’s personal secrets to your attorney and then published those private embarrassments in a public court record. There are rare exceptions, but in order to find yourself in court you have almost certainly had to align yourself with negative and often erroneous assumptions. Here are ten of the most detrimental misconceptions about what really happens in court:
Destruction of your spouse is an acceptable means for getting what you need.
Your goals can be accomplished and sure victory attained by putting on a good fight. However, unlike traditional battle, where you can destroy and walk away, you might have to deal with your adversary for years to come.
Once you ignite a match in the courtroom, you can control the direction and intensity of the flames.
Your attorney will understand and execute your goals and desires in a way that satisfies your sensitivities and needs.
Your concept of fairness will approximate that of the judge’s. You believe there is a clear-cut, nondiscretionary standard of justice that is not dependent upon the judge’s personal values.
Your habitual negative thought patterns, fueled by well-developed propaganda to “create the enemy,” will cease once the trial is over.
It is your spouse’s fault you are at trial.
The judge wields a wand, not a gavel, and can magically solve your problems, no matter how much damage has been done to the family.
The court process will not hurt you, because you are invulnerable. In any case, whatever pain you feel will go away once the trial is over.
Your attorney can be vicious to your spouse, because that is your attorney’s conduct, not yours. And people who are abusively cross-examined in court never hold it against their spouse.
Too often, people end up in trial because they can’t tolerate any more negotiations. You think you are at the end of your collective ability to problem-solve. But that is not true. You may not really be at a stalemate; you may just have stale negotiations.
This article has been excerpted with permission from the book The Good Karma Divorce by Judge Michele Lowrance (HarperCollins). Judge Michele Lowrance spent 20 years as a domestic relations lawyer prior to becoming a Domestic Relations Judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois in 1995. She has been a guest on Good Morning America, The CBS Morning Show, CNN, ABC and other shows. She also appeared, produced and hosted radio shows and is a regular guest lecturer.