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Why is divorce litigation so disastrous for families?

Posted by Liz Dalton on

As a former divorce litigator, please take my confession . . . . Families dealing with divorce or paternity issues do not do well in the adversarial legal system. In over 25 years of being a family law attorney, I have never seen litigation heal a family.  A popular documentary on Netflix, Divorce Corp., explains why divorce litigation is so disastrous for families.

The adversarial process of the family court system pits family member against family member. Even extended family members are part of the collateral damage and are adversely affected. Attorneys typically advise their clients: “Do not talk to your spouse or co-parent!” As a result, communication breaks down and distrust arises between parents. Attorneys spin the facts to win. Litigation turns into a quicksand of seemingly endless attacks and counterattacks. Day to day contention becomes the “new normal.”

Litigation triggers both spouses to “self-protect” by relying on primal brain and limbic system reactions. When we are confronted with either a physical or an emotional threat, our primal brain instinctively sends out a fight, flight or freeze response. If you are in the middle of litigation, you will notice your brain chemically putting you in a responsive mode of fight, flight or freeze.

In litigation, attorneys are ethically required to “zealously” advocate for your personal interests. They are not required, as physicians are, to ethically “do no harm.” A prudent and compassionate family law attorney will look for settlement opportunities during the litigation process. However, significant damage and family trauma usually happens before settlement discussions begin.

Litigation is disastrously expensive. A typical divorce or paternity litigation in Utah can cost upwards of $25,000 - $50,000 per client. Litigation can quickly spend your children’s college education fund or the money you need to start over after your divorce is final. Unfortunately, divorce litigation sometimes leads to having to file bankruptcy.

Litigation can last from 18 months to 2 years, especially if custody is at issue. Custody evaluations, business appraisals, and repeated attempts at mediation can delay the resolution process.

Rise Strong After Divorce recommends that you and your spouse consider resolution options instead of litigation. We believe strongly in “early intervention” options. Our business is dedicated to assisting families heal and “calm” down their primal brains. When you have help calming down your primal brain and your anxiety, your higher cognitive brain will brilliantly turn on. You will discover an ability to effectively communicate, share objective facts, build trust, problem-solve, and let go of the past. When you are calm, your higher cognitive brain gives you access to wisdom, creativity, reason, spirituality, and logic. Attorneys are not trained to “heal.” Mediators, therapists and coaches are trained to calm your primal brain and assist you access your higher cognitive functions. -–Liz Dalton, J.D.