Divorce Myth no.4
"I want my day in court - it will make me feel better!"
True or False?
Feeling anger, pain and grief during the divorce process is quite normal - and so the temptation to believe that your suffering will somehow be eased by thrashing things out in the courtroom and sharing your woes to the judge, is also quite understandable.
But is it really going to make you feel any better?
"I feel betrayed and if I have my day in court,
I will feel compensated for my suffering"
True or False?
A family law barrister told me recently, that when a couple take their divorce into the courtroom, they might as well toss a coin as to who will 'win' and who will 'lose'. And of course in reality, no-one wins, and an adversarial approach costs both sides money, time and stress. Not to mention the serious effects on the children.
If you are parents, you will not like what I'm going to say at this point, but for your children's sakes' I'm going to say it anyway: Divorce is not what causes harm to children. Adversarial divorce is what causes harm - more than you can imagine. A long term study has shown that children whose parents divorce through the courts - compared to those parents who were randomly chosen in the study to use mediation - that those children of the adversarial divorce process were significantly less likely to be in regular contact with both parents post-divorce. Other studies confirm that: "Children who are exposed to more intense conflict between parents are more likely to suffer harm resulting from their parents' divorce. The lower the level of conflict between parents, the more likely those children will emerge emotionally whole."
What are the alternatives?
There is no reason why you need to step into a courtroom in order to get a divorce.
If you use mediation and collaborative law, you will have much more opportunity to feel 'heard' - but in a supported environment where you communicate what you want to happen next, rather than throw anger and abuse at your Ex. Having strong emotions is absolutely fine - but best supported BEFORE embarking on mediation or the collaborative process. Experts in coaching or counselling/psychotherapy are much more helpful in getting you in a place where you can begin to unravel the complications of your emotions and get focused on the solutions that will take your family forward together, albeit living in different houses.
The judge isn't interested in your relationship
The judge is not interested in your pain. But if you are a celebrity the local press may well be, and they are allowed to come into the courtroom and report on whatever dirty laundry is paraded before the judge. If you choose mediation or collaborative law, your ex has the opportunity to really listen to you in a supportive environment, as part of the process of seeking a sustainable settlement and a way to start over as separate people. And you have the opportunity to really listen to them, too.
As co-parents, that is a good way to begin the many years of co-parenting that lie ahead. If you're really clever, you'll do some work singly or together with a relationship coach as well, which can transform the way you negotiate the divorce journey and make staying out of an adversarial frame of mind much much easier.
Are you prepared to gamble your children's happiness?
Your children want their parents to live in harmony, more than they want them to live together in the same home. Long term studies show that children do not suffer because of break up - they suffer because their parents are angry, fighting, or just blocking each other out of their lives - and this can tear the children apart.
If you need to be away from your Ex because of severe emotional or physical abuse, then that does not mean you have to say horrible things about them to the children. You will be effectively abusing the children by doing so - which is not your intention! This does not mean you need to pretend or lie to the children. Every time you say something negative about a parent to a child, you harm the child, because that parent is half of that child.
A powerful story about how one woman dealt with her own domestic abuse situation is included in this podcast of episode 2 of the Alternative Divorce Radio Show.
Is it revenge that you're after?
Question your motives if you are inclined to want to go for a court battle. Is it really revenge that you are after? If so, realise that going to court unnecessarily, could harm you and the children just as much - if not more - than your Ex. Dealing with anger and the desire for revenge is a valuable experience - and many wellbeing experts can teach you how to do this.
The skills you learn will be valuable for the rest of your life, so this is a chance to learn and grow - if you choose it to be.
The key thing to do early on in the divorce process, is to gather the key information that will give you the choices that lead away from court, rather than towards it.