January 19

The #1 Myth About Going to Divorce Court


Tags

divorce blog, divorce court, divorce litigation, divorce myths


Close up of a judge on the bench, with a giant gold wall plaque of the scales of justice behind him.The court room is packed. Lawyers are milling around the front of the room, waiting for the judge. Some ooze confidence. Most are stressed. A few look bored. Outside the low wooden gate that separates the lawyers and the judge from the rest of the world, nervous litigants pack the wooden benches – the “hard seats.” No one is happy. But then again, this is divorce court. No one is ever happy.

In spite of their pain, or maybe because of it, thousands of couples fill divorce court rooms all across the country every single day. They are all there for one reason: to get divorced.

Or, at least that’s what you might think.

As always, the truth is more complicated.

Yellow "Divorce Court 500 feet" SignWhy People Go to Divorce Court

If the only reason that people went to divorce court was to get divorced, you would be able to shoot a cannon down the hallway of most court houses and not hit anyone. They would be that empty.

he actual hearing required to get divorced – is not long. Even in the most complicated cases, it rarely takes more than an hour. (Usually, it takes much less.) That is assuming, of course, that everything is agreed.

The problem is that, even though upwards of 90+% of all divorce cases ultimately settle, few cases are uncontested right from the start.

That’s far from surprising. After all, if people could get along well enough to amicably divide up all of their possessions, split their livelihoods, and decide how they will co-parent their children, they probably wouldn’t be getting a divorce in the first place.

The truth is that people go to divorce court for a variety of reasons – most of which have nothing to do with actually ending their marriage.

Some people go to divorce court because they want to fight. They are angry and upset. Fighting in court will make their spouse angry and upset. Score!

Other people go to court because they think that’s just what you do when you get divorced.

Still other people go to court because they want the chance to tell the judge their story. They don’t realize that, even if they do go to court, they will never be able to tell the judge their story. That’s not how the court system works.

But, no matter what anyone’s reason is for going to court, everyone expects the same thing when they get there:

Justice.

Yet, expecting to find something called “justice” in divorce court is the biggest divorce myth you will ever find.

Beautiful blindfolded lady justice holding a sword and the scales of justice.Why Looking for “Justice” in Divorce Court is a Losing Game

“Justice” is complicated.

It’s not that justice doesn’t exist. It’s just that defining justice is often like trying to define water. You could say that water is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen molecules, but that doesn’t even begin to tell you what water is, what it means for life, or how it feels.

A lot of cynics – or people who have gotten the short end of the stick in an ugly divorce — would say that there is no justice in divorce court. They will tell you that the court system is broken and that the judges are corrupt. I disagree.

Our court system is definitely over-crowded and under-funded. But, the reason that the divorce court system doesn’t hum along as perfectly as a jet engine on a 747 is not because the system is broken. Its because we are expecting a legal institution to solve family problems like a social welfare agency. That’s unrealistic.

It’s also unrealistic to expect judges to sit like Solomon and provide “justice” to an endless parade of warring spouses. While most judges do their best, at least one angry spouse is always going to feel like the judge’s decision was unfair.

“Justice,” like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

What a husband who is looking at paying spousal support for the rest of his life thinks is “justice” is completely different from what his wife, who gave up her career 20 years ago to raise the kids and now doesn’t even have the skills to be a barrista at Starbucks, thinks is justice. Add to that the fact that the judge has his or her own ideas about “justice”, and you can see that doing “justice” in the court system is not so easy.

Cartoon of couple fighting in divorce courtThe Truth About Justice

Most people go to court because they want to tell the judge their story. They think that when the judge hears their story s/he will do what is fair.  Loosely translated, that means that they believe that the judge will side with them.

As shocking as it may sound, it’s not necessarily the judge’s job to be fair. It’s the judge’s job to make a decision. It’s a judge’s job to follow the law. It’s a judge’s job not to enter arbitrary court orders just because the judge doesn’t like the shape of your head.

It is not, however, the judge’s job to do what you think is fair.

“But, what about the LAW?” you may ask. That’s an interesting question.

Contrary to what most people think “the law” is not written in stone. The law changes all the time. The law, especially divorce law, was actually designed to be flexible. It was designed to give divorce judges a lot of discretion so that they can make decisions based upon the facts in each different case.

What that means is that, if you ask a judge to decide your case, the judge is going to make a decision based upon the facts, the law, and the judge’s own judgment. Whether you think the judge’s decision is “just” or “fair” or “right” will ultimately be your opinion.

law books with scales of justice, gavel, and sands of time timer.How to Get Justice in Your Divorce

So, if going to divorce court isn’t about getting justice, and it doesn’t matter whether you think your judge’s decision was fair, then why go to divorce court at all?

Good question.

The answer is this.  You only go to court for one of two reasons: 1) to finalize your divorce; or 2) to get a divorced when your spouse won’t agree to do it any other way.

If you resolve your issues through divorce mediationnegotiation, or by using collaborative divorce, you will only go to court to finalize your divorce. In that case, you will be the master of your own fate.

If your spouse is digging in his or her heels, or didn’t read this article and actually thinks that going to court is a good idea, then you will to end up letting some judge decide what will happen with the rest of your life. While that may not get you justice, it will get you divorced.

So, how do you get “justice” in your divorce? You start by understanding that “Justice” is subjective. Then you forget about getting “justice” and you focus on achieving the best possible result you can, under the circumstances that exist is your case.

Doing that might not make you feel like you got “justice.” But it just may eliminate the bitterness that comes when you expect something from the divorce court system that you are not likely to ever get.

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  • Karen

    Fantastic information and so comforting as my angry wife even had her lawyer file to withdraw as she is determined to tell the judge how I ruined her life. even if she read your advice she wouldn’t buy it as everything is my fault. And she’s convinced the judge will agree even with our no fault divorce. Wow.
    Thank you.

  • Judges arnt corrupt and being unfare. Do you live under a rock. You really haven’t done your home work. I could show you a case that you head would spin. So women don’t lie and make shit up, to keep the kids from the dad because their upset with the dad. The mom doesn’t use the kids as a pawn and the judge goes along with it. I would chew you up and spit you out. Dads kill themselves because of this. Go back under your rock.

  • Still standing in faith and waiting on the Lord to restore all we are losing – love my wife more than I ever have ,as I understand her heart now.

  • I am living in Texas. My wife filed for divorce, for Irreconcilable Differences. My wife made allegations that I want to kill my daughter and her and myself. My wife sister-in-law also made an Affidavit said the same thing like my wife allegations that I want to kill my daughter and her and myself. I have a daughter 2 and half years old. We both got an attorney. I don’t have any gun.
    We went to the Court. The judge made decision that my daughter must resident in that house and every 48 Hours I have to move out that house and my wife move in that house to take care my daughter. And every 48 Hours my wife have to move out that house and I have to move in that house to take care my daughter. We are alternate. All bills in that house I have to pay half and my wife pay half. Since my wife filed for divorce, she moved out and living with her sister-in-law and her brother and her parents. So, every 48 hours she move out of our house, my wife have some where to live. But I don’t have where else to live every 48 hours. I have to live in shelter. It hard for me to live like that. Since she filed divorce and moved out, she keep my daughter for over 2 months. And her sister-in-law not allow me to she my daughter.
    My question is: How the judge made decision that I can have my daughter every 48 hours, when my wife allegation that I want to kill my daughter, kill my wife and kill myself. And her sister-in-law made and Affidavit said same things.
    Why The Judge did not believed it. How The Judge found out that it was and false allegation.
    And in Court, I hear that The Judge said I can put her in Jail right now for hold my daughter over 2 months and don’t allow me to see my daughter.

    • It sounds like the judge decided in your favor. Be happy with that.

      As far as why the judge decided the way that s/he did, I can’t say. It seems that the judge didn’t believe your wife. But, I wasn’t in court, and I didn’t talk to the judge, so I don’t know. If you want to know why the judge ruled as s/he did, you would have to ask the judge.

      Best.

      Karen

        • I can understand that you are scared. I also understand that you don’t have any money. But you need legal advice, and I can’t give that to you online. I am also not licensed to practice law in Texas, so I can’t advise you on Texas law or court procedure.

          Many attorneys offer free initial consultations. Schedule a consultation with a local attorney who can answer your questions. Even if you have to pay that attorney for an hour of his or her time, it will be worth it.

          I’m sorry, but this is the best I can do for you under the circumstances.

          • Question about lying to the Judge in court.
            My wife owner Nails Salon, with her Brother. She make good moneys. I am a Technician make only $17.50/Hourly.
            In court, when the Judge ask her how much did she made a month, she lying to the Judge that she made only $2,000.00/monthly. After 5 minutes, The Judge made decision that I have to pay $200.00/Monthly for Child Support.
            I did ask someone have been divorce before, they told me that they got same situation. The court system don’t have time to investigate.
            So, a lot of of the Father are victims of the Court system. It was not fair for the Father when Join Custody and out there a lot of women still lying to the Judge in Court and still get away with it.

          • I’m sorry that you are in a bad situation. But here’s the truth: people lie all the time!

            I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s not the judge’s job to investigate your case. I’m not saying that to be mean. That’s just the way the system works. Investigating the facts is a lawyer’s job. So, either you have to hire a lawyer to do that for you (which it doesn’t sound like you have the money to do) or you have to do it yourself. You have to provide the judge with PROOF that your wife is lying.

            The problem, of course, is that, even if you have proof that your wife is lying, the judge still may not believe you. That’s why going to court is so risky.

            The truth is that most judges do their best to try to protect the children in divorce. They try to make sure that the children are being properly supported. Both parents have an obligation to support their kids, no matter how much, or how little, each parent makes.

            If the judge in your case ordered you to pay more than the amount of child support than you think is right, you can get a lawyer and try to change that order. Or you can work on yourself and try to increase your job skills, and put yourself on a path where you can start making more money. Whether that is fair or not, I can’t say. But it will help you create a better life.

            I know this might not be what you wanted to hear. Sorry.

            Karen

      • “… it’s not necessarily the judge’s job to be fair…”
        Yes. It is.
        Divorce laws require a judge to do what is “equitable”. Equitable, by literal definition, means “fair”. So, it is necessarily a judge’s job to be fair.

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