Photo with "even the best lawyers can't fix this" and Black woman looking glum, wearing purple shirtHave you ever uttered the words “see you in court” and then hit Google trying to find the “best divorce lawyer” wherever you happen to live? If so, my advice today is for you.

You’re not alone. Many divorcing couples feel like the Constructive Divorce™ principles just aren’t possible for them.

I constantly write about the benefits of an uncontested divorce, or a joint divorce, or basically any kind of amicable divorce. Occasionally though, things go off the rails. I get copied on an email from one spouse to the other saying something along the lines of, “if you don’t do it my way, I’ll see you in court!”

What “See You in Court” Really Means

“See you in court” is usually used as a threat. It comes with the assumption that the other person will give up on the things they want, and surrender. That isn’t what actually happens, though.

Think about it: would that be your reaction if somebody threw that phrase at you? More likely, your response would be to attack back, perhaps challenge them, and find a way to get them into court.

Sometimes throwing out threats of litigation seem like the best move to maintain control. However, I have never once seen that outcome. Threats simply don’t motivate us to collaborate. If you try to threaten or bully your spouse to get what you want, you will find yourself fighting biology.

What Happens in Your Brain During Conflict

Here’s why. When our brains perceive a threat, that reacts in a very specific biological reaction. It doesn’t matter if the threat is a bear in the woods, or spiteful words from our ex. Threats affect parts of our brain called the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.

The amygdala doesn’t do thinking, it doesn’t do logic, it only does emotion and reaction. It’s great at keeping us safe, but it’s terrible at making sound, long-term decisions.

The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain responsible for making us rational, logical adults. In low stress situations, it’s possible for these two parts of the brain to talk to each other. That allows us to be guided by both our instincts and our intellect.

As soon as we perceive a threat, our amygdala calls all the shots and shuts down connection to the prefrontal cortex. We can no longer make complex decisions. Even our memory and our verbal skills become diminished. No wonder we don’t react well to someone telling us they’ll “see us in court.”

How the ‘Best Divorce Lawyers’ Make Money

Once a threat has been uttered and the two parties are being controlled by their amygdalas, they typically can no longer think constructively or collaboratively. Their goal shifts away from having an amicable divorce, protecting their children, securing their savings, and their brain focuses on how to prove the other one wrong.

The next thing they know, their amygdala has them looking for the best divorce lawyer to stick it to their ex. Once litigation begins, it can be very difficult to extricate yourself. Couples start the journey into what I call the black hole of divorce, where nobody wins but the lawyers who are charging $500/hour.

Take it from someone who spent years working inside the court system. Before I started my business, my role was the supervisor of the Divorce Department at Calgary Court Center.

Here’s my take on what “court” really is  

  • Court is a ton of paperwork, confusion, and waiting before you even get to see your first justice. If your problem is a child support issue, you will likely file a minimum of four different court applications just to get in front of a justice. If the issue is one of matrimonial property, or custody, that will mean 6-8 court applications. You’ll both be paying lawyers for each application, and that cost doesn’t even acknowledge the wasted time. It will be two years or more for your file to work its way through court.

 

  • Court is putting your life in the hands of a justice who knows nothing about you or your family. Most people believe the decision made in court will be either what they want or what their spouse wants. But justices aren’t obligated to do what either spouse asks. They’re within their rights to choose their own outcome, and enforce it. You’re allowing this person to tell you – no, order you – how to live your life. How much you see your child, how much you’ll pay in support, when and how you will list your house for sale, and how much you will get from the proceeds are all in the hands of the justice. I’ve seen many families leave with both parties unhappy. Court is giving up your control to a stranger in a black gown.

 

  • Court means both parties feeling as though they’ve lost. Eventually someone “wins”, but it certainly does not feel like a win. By the time you get to that point, you both feel weak, emotionally drained, and broke. Even when you win, court makes you feel like you’ve lost your dignity, your stability, and sometimes even your family. You feel taken advantage of by a system that is slow, overloaded, and poorly managed.

It Doesn’t Have to be This Way

It’s not an exaggeration to say you can change the trajectory of your entire life by stopping yourself when you have an urge to say things like “if you don’t agree, see you in court.”

One of our clients said those words to his spouse in a mediation session. When I gave him an idea of what this phrase might mean for him and his family, he left the room for a few minutes, came back and instead said, “let’s discuss this.” His divorce was over three weeks later.

He and his spouse were able to agree to shared parenting time with the children, no child support paid by him, and a division of matrimonial assets that worked for them. If he had gone to court, he would not get the parenting schedule he agreed to, and he would certainly have been ordered to pay child support. Instead of dividing his assets with his ex, he’d be selling them to pay his lawyer.

If you wonder if uncontested divorce would work for you, consider booking a Zero Risk Divorce Prep Session. This $350 session takes 90 minutes, and at the end of it, you and your spouse will be ready to either sign your papers or move on to mediation. The cost of the session is put toward your mediation, so it truly is Zero Risk. The time and exhaustion you save? Those are priceless.