Are we broken or is the system broken?
My marriage was over in less than nine months. I was divorced quickly. I was in and out of court post-divorce for the next five years. The complications and conflict seemed to go on forever and it could have all been prevented.
Why do we make divorce so complicated? Why are couples in and out of court post-divorce?
Below are three reasons divorce seems to be a never-ending tale for some divorcing couples.
The Divorce Industry Is Broken:
Below is a list of ways in which the divorce industry falls short when protecting families during the divorce process.
- Attorneys that drag on cases by commission or omission
- Hourly rates that are exorbitant and send us spiraling into debt
- Unnecessary encouragement of adversarial attacks, delays, obfuscation (wear down your opponent/win at all cost)
- Insufficient guidance as to who to talk to (talk to a counselor or therapist about your psychological state, and your attorney about your legal procedures)
- Insufficient guidance on options and potential recourse in the future
- Inability to enforce support agreements (without time, counsel and funds)
- Loopholes in those agreements
- Overworked or underqualified judges
- State-specific systems that are unequal in application of what logically ought to be a single set of standards
- The reality that He With the Deepest Pockets wins… certainly for many of us
During my divorce, I fell victim to every example listed above. I had an attorney who encouraged fairness, he had an attorney who told him not to speak to me or, negotiate any of the issues. When you have a system that makes more money if the conflict is extended, it’s safe to say that system is broken and, as a result, divorce is going to be more complicated.
Hurt Feelings Get In The Way of Rational Thinking:
If a woman is cheated on, losing her marriage to an interloper, she may be more interested in getting even than getting over it. If a wife wants a divorce because she is no longer “happy” a husband and father may feel it is his right to fight for custody, the marital home and to keep as much of his income as possible.
Add hurt feelings to a broken system and divorce becomes quite the complicated process.
The Divorce Industry Has High Expectations of Divorcing Couples:
When angry people are behaving like two-year-olds and a judge orders mediation, well that’s like telling rabid dogs to get along and come to an agreement. It isn’t going to happen. My ex and I went to mediation. I thought, “Great, we can sit down, face to face with our attorneys and come to terms and move on.” What actually happened during our mediation only exacerbated our problems and heightened the need for a judge to make the decisions for us.
Mediation doesn’t work unless you have two rational people negotiating the terms of the divorce. When both or one party to the divorce is angry and out for revenge, mediation is a waste of time. Yet, these days nearly 90% of divorcing couples are required to go to divorce mediation.
I understand the desire a Family Court judge has to work with couples who can work together. I also understand the consequences of judges who force mediation on couples in order to make their own job easier. When the norm is mediation before even going before a judge, that norm can lead to prolonged clashing, heightened conflict, more hurt feelings and astounding complications for couples who are already in a stress full situation.
Maybe, just maybe there is only one reason we make divorce so complicated…that broken divorce industry.
If divorce attorneys were expected to help clients not only deal with the legal issues but also the emotional issues that arise during a divorce, divorce would be more straightforward. No, I’m not saying that attorneys should also be trained therapists but, what if attorneys were required to work hand-in-hand with trained therapists to promote a more proactive response to divorce issues in their clients?
Divorce could also be simplified if those Family Court judges who are concerned with clearing their docket focused more on working with clients who are not able to mediate and negotiate during divorce. In my opinion, judges who insist on mediation and a signed agreement are passing the buck and adding to the complications and conflict that arise during divorce.
I know in my case if my ex’s attorney had encouraged him to be fair, reasonable and to follow the divorce agreement we came to I would have seen the inside of a Family Court courtroom once. Stress, money and damaged emotional states would have been averted if only the system weren’t so broken.