Divorce Trials are Expensive Scary Movies.
Helen* and I met recently to prepare for the final pre-trial conference in her divorce.
At that final pretrial conference, the Judge in Helen's case will schedule the matter for trial. So, on a date not so far away from now, if we don't settle Helen's case, we will have a trial.
*I talk about "Helen" a lot. She's not a real person and she's not a real client. She's more like a composite character. I will never reveal an actual conversation that I've had with an actual client. Ever.
As most of my divorce clients know, I love trials. I think my clients deserve that from me, and they get it, along with every last ounce of mental energy that I can possibly pour into preparing for their trials.
And as I tell most of my divorce clients, I'm the only one who will have fun at the trial.
Helen and her ex will not have fun.
While they're not having fun, they will have to spend a lot of time away from work, away from activities they enjoy, and away from the children that they are fighting over.
They will each also be spending all of that time with their own human brains.
Trials are, by definition, a time of uncertainty, because you don't know exactly what the Judge will decide after the trial.
Human brains absolutely hate uncertainty because those brains believe that uncertainty means we might die (even when there is very little chance of that actually happening.)
What this means for Helen and her ex is that, before and during the trial, their brains will be scaring the sh*&!t out of them.
So this trial that Helen and I will participate in will, to Helen, feel a lot like going to a scary movie, except that it's not a movie. It's actually her life.
And, it's the most expensive scary movie Helen and her ex will ever, ever attend.
Helen won't need to worry about me at her trial. I won't be scared at all. I will have meticulously prepared, have all of my documents and examination outlines ready and, just before her case is called on the morning of her trial, I will exhale. A long, cleansing exhale. The kind that you have when you know that you are 100% ready for the event that is about to begin.
But even though I have over two decades of experience as a divorce lawyer, even with all of that preparation, and even though I won't be afraid, I still won't be able to tell Helen exactly what the judge will decide after the trial is over.
I can advocate for Helen as zealously as the law and the evidence will allow, and I will do that. But I cannot tell Helen exactly what the judge will do after she leaves the courtroom to think about Helen's case.
So that period of time after the trial, while Helen is waiting for the Judge's decision, is the scary sequel to the scary movie.
So here's what I'm going to do while I'm preparing for Helen's trial, the day before Helen's trial, the morning of Helen's trial and even during Helen's trial. . .
I'm going to remind her to focus on what really matters. I'm going to remind her that she always has the ability to make the decision to resolve her divorce by agreement, or to not resolve it by agreement, and that she will have my full support either way.
If her ex makes a new proposal, and I think Helen should consider accepting it, I will tell her that.
If her ex makes a new proposal, and I think Helen should reject it, I'll tell her that also.
But most importantly, I will remind Helen that she is always making a decision, deliberately or not. And the best thing she can do is decide deliberately now, and then have her own back later, no matter what the Judge does.
I will also keep Helen focused on what she is risking, and what she stands to gain, by having a trial. If Helen does not know precisely what those two things are, then I have not done my job well.
Because, after all, Helen is choosing to purchase entrance to this theatre to sit through this movie. She should be very clear on why she has decided to do so.
So now I ask you, friend, are you super clear on why you have not resolved your divorce? Do you understand the precise issues that you are fighting about? What you stand to gain and what you risk by not reaching agreement?
If you do not, then you should be asking your lawyer the above questions.
Because your lawyer should, of course, give you her advice about whether to take a proposal that is on the table or swing for the fence and present the issue to the Judge. Your lawyer should be able to tell you what you have to lose, and what you stand to gain, by going to trial.
Talk to you soon.
Janie Lanza Vowles - Practicing Divorce Lawyer -- Certified Life Coach