April 30, 2015 was the day that my world exploded…in all the wrong ways.
That was my first time in family court. My ex-husband brought an emergency motion for scheduled access with our son. I had my expensive lawyer, and this was our chance to explain why my teenager should be able to decide if and when he sees his dad. I was armed and ready to win. It all seemed so apparent to me.
It turns out I was wrong about that.
Managing a loss in family court was devastating. I was not prepared for this possibility, and I don’t want you to have this experience. Here is some advice from the trenches to get you ready for litigation.
The parts of family court you can’t control
Let’s start with the need to go to court. Sometimes you have no other options if it is about your child’s safety. If you cannot come to an agreement with your ex and you feel like your child is at risk, you may not have any other viable options.
Many of us in the battle know what it is like to have a high-conflict ex. This person falls into the category of things you cannot control. So, stop trying to control your ex. The high-conflict ex is all about winning, so s/he may drag you into court as part of their fun.
The last part of family court you cannot control is the Judge. This is truly a wildcard. Just last week I watched 2 different judges make completely opposite rulings on the same issue. I guess judges are human too, and have their own brains filled with opinions and biases. No amount of case law can entirely prevent this.
The parts of family court you can control
This may be up for debate but here is what I think you can control when it comes to litigation in family court:
- your representation (or lack there of)
- your decision to proceed
- how you show up
Decision of representation is worthy of a blog post on it’s own. In fact, you can find it here. The moral of the story is do your homework as this is the most expensive and emotionally draining mistake that I see clients make.
You may believe that you have no choice but to go to court, but the truth is you actually do. You could acquiesce to your ex’s demands and avoid court. I am not suggesting that you do this. I am only pointing out that going to court is your choice and your decision. Decisions are where all of your power lies. Make sure you like your reasons for your decision. That way, if the result is not what you anticipated or hoped for, you can still be glad you made that decision to go.
The last element that is in your control is the way that you show up for court. There is no substitute for preparation. This means doing everything you can to help arm your lawyer to win. Compiling evidence into succinct documents will reduce their expensive time and ensure they have all of the facts. This means preparing for questioning with your lawyer or a coach so that you are focused, calm, and confident in your story. Go in expecting to be nervous but knowing that you are ready.
Sometimes you will lose the battle
Let’s face it. Family court is a circus. Regardless of how well prepared you are, regardless of your representation, regardless of how sane your position is, you may still lose. That is why I work with clients on managing a loss in family court.
I guess the moral of the story is to know this ahead of time and make sure you like your reasons for being there. The loss may propel you to reassess your position and make new decisions.
You can also be open to the possibility that a loss in court does not mean you have lost the war. Unfortunately, a divorce battle is usually a marathon, not a sprint. One loss is not indicative of your overall success on the battlefield.