When I was deep in the vortex of a high-conflict custody battle, I could hardly tell which way was up.
Every Friday I would get a letter from my ex-husband’s lawyer.
My lawyer would forward it to me over email without any concern about how it would ruin my entire weekend. It was like a grenade that derailed my parenting time with my son.
Reluctantly, I would open this email and my entire chest would flood with dread. Like I was the target on a shooting range.
The letter would be about 2 pages, divided into several subheadings. Weekend access issues…Ben’s high school choice…Summer plans. Beneath each title would be paragraphs littered with accusations and half-truths. Designed to make me appear like the most unreasonable and incompetent parent.
The final section of the letter would be the demand for disclosure. I have a long list of irrelevant financial documentation to hunt down and provide. Things that had nothing to do with our failed marriage. The books for my father’s business. Information about my parent’s home in Florida. These demands amped up the aggravation for my senior citizen parents.
I was living in a vortex of never-ending legal fees, stress and fear.
No one I knew had ever experienced anything like this. I was experiencing Afghanistan as a lone soldier up against a firing squad. The stakes were high, and I needed to protect my son and me.
I had no idea how to protect me and Ben. I had no clue how to navigate the insanity. Nor did anyone in my circle. My family and friends just watched in shock as this shit show unfolded.
So, I did what I could. I kept treading water, to keep from drowning.
Showing up as a mom, a veterinarian, and a naive litigant in court.
I paid my lawyer’s bills and didn’t question his advice.
Every evening, I scoured the internet for information about high-conflict custody battles. I studied the profile of my ex to try to predict what was coming my way.
But I still made a lot of mistakes. Even under the “protection” of an expensive lawyer.
I lost my first motion in court when my ex took a run at 50/50 parenting time. I took the position that my son, at age 13, should be able to determine his parenting time with his dad. It seemed reasonable to me. How was I to know that a judge would find it unreasonable?
My lawyer neglected to tell me something that all litigants need to know. In Ontario, every father (unless he is an axe murderer) gets a minimum of every other weekend with his child. I took a losing position and had no idea. I was a naive litigant. A sitting duck. Uninformed.
Isn’t that what my lawyer was there for?
Not if you have the wrong lawyer.
Not if you don’t know how to manage your lawyer.
Why do I share this with you?
Because if you are anything like I was, you expect your lawyer to keep you safe. And a great lawyer can help keep you safe. But you better know how to hire a great lawyer. Or be very lucky because finding the right lawyer is tricky business.
And if you think that your ex’s lawyer will behave ethically…think again.
On this battlefield, you will be on the receiving end of vitriolic communication that will shock you. The key is to know what parts to ignore and what parts to worry about.
To understand how to sidestep the grenades.
To avoid the mistakes that you and your children will pay for.
To stay sane while dodging bullets.
Divorcing a terrorist is a war.
Don’t be a naive litigant.
The lawyer isn’t the guide.
The lawyer is your legal vehicle.
Get a guide who will transform you from a naive litigant to a stealth litigant so that you can divorce a terrorist in the most efficient way possible without damaging your kids and finances.
Don’t go to war alone.