Family courts are so different than traditional civil courts. Honestly, litigation does not belong in family law. I know it’s necessary sometimes because some people are just so unreasonable. If you go down to the family court, it will remind you of a bad episode of Jerry Springer. People are at their worst.
If this is you, pick yourself up. You can change. Hopefully this article will convince you to be reasonable, and NOT to litigate your divorce case. Family court is not civil court. There are no winners in divorce. I pray that after you read this, you will consider handling your divorce like a grown-up, and mediate.
Family Law Litigation Vastly Different than Civil Law
Evidence? What Evidence Code?
In civil law, traditional rules of evidence are often heeded. Not in family law.
Emotional, WAY MORE EMOTIONAL
You don’t see people screaming, yelling, spitting, punching and threatening the other side in civil court. Well, at least not as much.
This is Your Family
Unlike the total strangers suing each other in family court: people who hit your car, the boss who sexually harassed you then fired you, slumlords, big evil corporations, the parties in family court are family. There are no Plaintiffs and Defendants; only Petitioners and Respondents. The girl on the other side is your WIFE. You’re the plaintiff and respondent is the father of your children.
Family Law Parties Are Bound By Invisible Thread
Laura Schroff, author of one of my favorite books, “An Invisible Thread” said this: “An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, and circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle. But it will never break.”
There is no quote more on point than this for Family Law. It’s family. If you have children with someone, you are bound by a thread. It may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.
If you polled people going through a nasty divorce, they would may instinctively blurt out, “I would rather he/she die than go through divorce with him/her.” We’ve ALL had these fights with our spouses, where you’ve wanted them dead. That’s why this scene in Marriage Story makes everyone cry.
News for the litigator: They don’t really mean this. Most people don’t really want people dead. What they mean is they want to sever the pain by severing the ties. But since they can’t sever the ties, they feel eternally in pain.
As a family lawyer, you must immediately dispel the delusion that you can “pay to get custody”. Quickly and swiftly destroy any unhealthy vampirical need for blood. Divorce isn’t revenge. This isn’t War of the Roses, the 18th century, or Japan. You MUST teach your clients that for the majority, divorcing a spouse does not mean your child loses a parent.
In family law, the parties are forever bound by an invisible thread that does not exist in civil law.
There Are No Victims in Family Law
There are no victims in family law. The only victims are the innocent children caught up in the bullshit behavior of parents who engage in nasty custody battles.
Family Law Cases are Much More Stressful
Going through a divorce with children is one of the most difficult things in life. In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe examined the medical records of over 5,000 medical patients as a way to determine whether stressful events might cause illnesses. Patients were asked to tally a list of 43 life events based on a relative score.
Divorce is listed amongst adults as the 2nd (after death of spouse) most stressful life event affecting health, and the 4th amongst non-adults. Incidentally, death of a parent ranks 1st amongst children.
Arguably, divorce is both #1 and #2. It causes stress to adults and children, affecting their health.
The sum of the life change units of the applicable events in the past year of an individual’s life gives a rough estimate of how stress affects health. A score of 300+ is at risk of illness.
|Life event||Life change units|
|Death of a spouse||100|
|Death of a close family member||63|
|Personal injury or illness||53|
|Dismissal from work||47|
|Change in health of family member||44|
|Gain a new family member||39|
|Change in financial state||38|
|Death of a close friend||37|
|Change to different line of work||36|
|Change in frequency of arguments||35|
|Foreclosure of mortgage or loan||30|
|Change in responsibilities at work||29|
|Child leaving home||29|
|Trouble with in-laws||29|
|Outstanding personal achievement||28|
|Spouse starts or stops work||26|
|Beginning or end of school||26|
|Change in living conditions||25|
|Revision of personal habits||24|
|Trouble with boss||23|
|Change in working hours or conditions||20|
|Change in residence||20|
|Change in schools||20|
|Change in recreation||19|
|Change in church activities||19|
|Change in social activities||18|
|Minor mortgage or loan||17|
|Change in sleeping habits||16|
|Change in number of family reunions||15|
|Change in eating habits||15|
|Minor violation of law||11|
A modified scale has also been developed for non-adults. Similar to the adult scale, stress points for life events in the past year are added and compared to the rough estimate of how stress affects health.
|Life Event||Life Change Units|
|Death of parent||100|
|Divorce of parents||90|
|Acquiring a visible deformity||80|
|Fathering a child||70|
|Jail sentence of parent for over one year||70|
|Marital separation of parents||69|
|Death of a brother or sister||68|
|Change in acceptance by peers||67|
|Unplanned pregnancy of sister||64|
|Discovery of being an adopted child||63|
|Marriage of parent to stepparent||63|
|Death of a close friend||63|
|Having a visible congenital deformity||62|
|Serious illness requiring hospitalization||58|
|Failure of a grade in school||56|
|Not making an extracurricular activity||55|
|Hospitalization of a parent||55|
|Jail sentence of parent for over 30 days||53|
|Breaking up with boyfriend or girlfriend||53|
|Beginning to date||51|
|Suspension from school||50|
|Becoming involved with drugs or alcohol||50|
|Birth of a brother or sister||50|
|Increase in arguments between parents||47|
|Loss of job by parent||46|
|Outstanding personal achievement||46|
|Change in parent’s financial status||45|
|Accepted at college of choice||43|
|Being a senior in high school||42|
|Hospitalization of a sibling||41|
|Increased absence of parent from home||38|
|Brother or sister leaving home||37|
|Addition of third adult to family||34|
|Becoming a full-fledged member of a church||31|
|Decrease in arguments between parents||27|
|Decrease in arguments with parents||26|
|Mother or father beginning work||26|