How do divorce lawyers handle their own divorces? They try to do everything they can to stay away from court.
Why? They know that going to court is a losing proposition. It wastes money, time, energy and future good-will. They know that dwelling on the past is like sitting on a merry-go-round. Fighting will get you nowhere. The couple must move forward into the future. Lawyers appreciate they want a civil relationship with their spouse after the divorce. They will want to co-parent their children effectively.
In Michigan, 98% of cases settle before trial. Making believe that we are gearing up for a big, public fight is an exercise in futility. Lawyers know that it is more productive to chose a process where you gain the tools to negotiate effectively and reach a lasting agreement from the beginning.
Some argue that if you don’t engage in formal discovery, you cannot know that you really have all the financial information to divide property. The best guarantee of full disclosure is having two spouses who are well educated in their marital estate. Usually, at the beginning of a divorce, there is one spouse who has been managing the family’s finances and another who has been relying of that spouse. In mediation or collaborative practice, the spouses agree to disclosure fully. In the process, the spouse who has been relying on the other gains an education in the couple’s assets and debts. If they have a complex estate, the reliant spouse may work with a financial professional. With this help, the reliant spouse can assess whether the information that has been provided makes sense.
In contrast, discovery conducted by the attorneys promotes dependence on the lawyers. The lawyers ask the questions. The lawyers review the answers. The lawyer assess whether the disclosure is complete. Though the lawyers will forward the information to the client, often the client relies primarily on the lawyer to handle it. In the process, they are not learning what they have and how to manage it.
Most important, lawyers know that the court system is set up on the adversarial system. It’s husband versus wife. It promotes fighting and competition between the parties, rather than showing them how to work together to unravel their finances, parent their children, and do the other work of reconfiguring their families. If you start in the court system, it is very difficult to shift to a cooperative communication format. If you start in mediation or collaborative practice, your spouse and you commit, from the beginning that you will work together to settle your divorce. At this highly emotional time, you start with a commitment of civility and cooperation. This lowers the conflict level and affords you the time to work through your emotions and heal. It also protects your children from being pulled into the middle of the conflict between you and your spouse.
Lawyers know the emotional and financial cost of using the court system to resolve your divorce issues. Personally, they avoid it.