We all know that going to court is hard. Whether it’s a family matter or a commercial matter, it’s hard. It’s emotionally draining, financially expensive and takes a long time.
When it’s a family matter, there’s another consideration too though – the toll it takes on the relationship you have with the other parent of your child. But I don’t want a relationship with them – “our relationship is OVER!”, I hear you shout. That’s where you’re wrong.
You may no longer have a marriage, a romantic relationship, intimacy or even a friendship. What you do have though, for as long as you have children, is a co-parenting relationship. You and your ex-spouse are still the parents of your children. Your children still want you BOTH in their life.
In the Court process you’re giving over the decision making to a Judge. But it’s not just the lack of control over the outcome that’s difficult.
It’s said that in the Court process you don’t have any control over the outcome. You have to get your head around the fact that there are numerous possible outcomes – what you’re asking for, what your ex-spouse is asking for and what the Judge might decide upon. But that’s not the most difficult part.
It’s like taking your car to the mechanic because there’s something wrong that you can’t agree how to fix. The mechanic decides and fixes it and regardless of whether it was the right fix, you’ve got to live with it forever.
If they decides to put Monster Truck tyres on your Hyundai Getz, you’re stuck with them and need to figure out how to live with it.
For me, going to Court was emotionally exhausting. It wasn’t just that the ultimate decision was taken out of my hands. It was because I had to read all the negative things my ex thinks about me, including his lies. I had to find a way to not let him see that I was upset by what he wrote. I had to keep everything that was happening from my children. When I was feeling anxious or angry or sad my kids knew something was wrong but I couldn’t talk to them honestly. It was hard to reassure them about what was happening when I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I was scared and anxious and worried and alone. The only other person who could really relate to what I was going through was my ex-husband – but he was my “enemy”, not my friend.
The time between filing the response material and the trial day was like living in purgatory. It was an interim place where I couldn’t make plans for after the trial date, because I didn’t know when our children would be with me. In itself, this was torturous – I was waiting to find out if my legal team could convince a Judge that my argument was more persuasive than my ex-husband’s argument. There was no right or wrong, just an expert’s opinion of what was best for my children. The Judge didn’t meet my children and the Court Expert interviewed them for about 10 minutes each. The rest of our life as a family relied solely upon what the Family Report Writer (sometimes called a Family Consultant) learned from one interview. That isn’t to say that what the Report Writer found wasn’t accurate. But it was just a tiny snapshot of who my children are and how they feel. It wasn’t just the Court Expert and Judge who held our fate. It was also my lawyer. I had to explicitly trust that what I was being told was right and going to work! I had no control over what was happening, what decision was made or how to approach any of it. I was totally at the mercy of the professionals I was paying.
I can’t say that in my case, everything turned out for the best. It didn’t turn out for the worst though, that’s for sure!! My ex-husband had a party with our children on the night of our judgement, to celebrate that I didn’t get what I wanted. He didn’t get what he was asking for either, but that didn’t matter. What mattered to him is that I didn’t ‘win’. That’s what it became about.
I’m a mediator. I specialise in family mediation and supporting separated families living with conflict. We all have choices and we can only control what happens in our house and with ourselves. Separation and divorce can be hard to live through. But I tell you what, if divorce is like death, Court IS hell.