Collaborative divorce is focused on minimizing the harmful effects of divorce on families by helping you reach respectful solutions tailored to your family. If you are ultimately unable to resolve your divorce by reaching agreements, you’ll end up in trial with a stranger in a black robe (the judge) deciding for you. When negotiations or agreements do stall, threatening to take the case in front of a judge is often a knee-jerk reaction that fails to appreciate the true impact of a trial on your family.
Unless they have been through litigation before, spouses are unable to comprehend the emotional damage inflicted by adversarial hearings and trials. During a trial, you and your spouse will be subject to cross examination. You will be grilled by your spouse’s attorney and will end up opening Pandora’s Box when testifying. The statements made can’t be taken back and you’ll dredge up years-long arguments and humiliating events in a public forum, especially when children are involved.
While any hearing will be very stressful on you, the negative impact on children and your ability to successfully co-parent in the future is undeniable. Two dynamics are primarily responsible for this negative impact. The first dynamic is the emotional wound inflicted during the hearing itself. Feelings of betrayal – “How could you let your attorney treat me that way?” or “How dare you tell your attorney to ask me that” – will persist long after a trial and many parents are unable to move past that betrayal. You have years of co-parenting and decisions for your children ahead of you, and real work must be done afterwards to be able to forgive and not allow the experience of an adversarial trial poison the well.
The second dynamic is having a judge thrust their decision upon you after only a few hours of trial. Trials breed continued conflict as one or very often both parents are bitter and feel the wrong result was reached. When a parent believes the result is an injustice, the natural human response is to protest the result by either rigidly enforcing the orders to punish the other parent or by simply ignoring the orders. Generally, parents are more likely to follow court orders and not fight each other at every turn when they arrive at their parenting plans by agreement.
While contested trials and hearings have a place in divorce and custody disputes, it’s important to consider how going to trial will impact you and your family both during and long after you case is over.
James M. Cordes, Esq.
GEM Family Law
Gebhardt Emerson Moodie Bonanno, LLC
650 S. Cherry Street, Suite 500, Denver, CO 80246