During an episode of The Affair, Helen, the STBX of Noah, says during a mediation session with an attorney, “If we go to court, it will get ugly. And we’re not ugly people.” As a divorce coach, I do see ugly. I see ugly when client’s motivation is primarily to harm the partner. Divorce is difficult. Hey, breaking up is hard to do. But going to court is UGLY.
When you engage in a court proceeding, the assumption is dishonesty exists. People aren’t telling the truth about their finances. People lie about their parenting skills. People tell egregious lies about their former spouse, often a parent to their children.
As if having to start an entirely new life is not difficult enough, you are then subjected to the shame and insults hurled at you from opposing counsel. Why did you stay home and give up your career? Why haven’t you looked for full time employment? Why didn’t you have a handle on the finances? What do you mean, you don’t know the nurse’s name at the pediatrician’s office? Maybe you should get a new job since your current role prevents you from being a good parent? The questions are endless.
Not to mention insulting. Or possibly an attorney convinces one side that the other could be stealing money, hiding money, or is definitely thinking about a way to screw the other person. In court, statements you made have to be proven before they’re assumed true or false. It’s all meant to make you suspicious or feel bad about the choices you made as a couple, as a family, to provide the best situation in your life. And then someone wants out of the marriage.
Why does it have to be like that? Breaking up is hard to do. People are emotional. Things are done or snarky words are exchanged. That’s to be expected. But when you throw in emotions and the courts and create oppositional positions, ugliness pervades. Sadly, though. The following tips may offer some help for moving through the process without ugliness:
- Consider an alternative to court. Options exists, e.g., mediation, collaboration, cooperation.
- Don’t immediately come back with a retort. Remember, people are emotional and there may be fuel driving the anger that has nothing to do with you.
- You can only control your own thoughts and actions and that’s challenging enough. Focus on you!
- Reward yourself for self-control. That’s right…it’s like a self-control diet. If you’re successful, celebrate.
- Remember that the people who know your situation best are you and your spouse. You don’t need someone else, especially someone who met you 10 minutes ago, to tell you best how to schedule time with your kids.
If you go to court, it will get ugly. And most likely, you are NOT ugly people.