December 12, 2013

Your Day In Court

Day in CourtSomewhere, deeply ingrained in our psyche, is this 30-second commercial in which a line of angry, stressed-out and hurt people trudge through the doors of a courthouse only to exit a few moments later smiling, having unburdened their woes before a judge who, recognizing the righteousness of their arguments, has decided in their favor.

The problem is, this little commercial leaves out the announcer who spends the last 5 seconds telling us that “these results are not typical” and informing us that side effects may include everything from premature balding, to death.

I know it is a nice little vignette but, regrettably, there is little evidence that “having your day in court” will do much to ease the emotional turmoil of an adversarial divorce and a great deal of evidence that there will be some serious side effect in terms of stress, cost, time and possible collateral damage to your children (its not the divorce, its the conflict that’s the problem).

The problem is that, while the court system does a good job at enforcing public policy, it is not particularly suited to assuaging emotional turmoil. In fact, taking your divorce to court is less about winning or losing than it is about being reasonable. When it comes to divorce, I’d bet that most judges would be likely to say that their goal is to be sure that if anyone wins, it will be the children. Beyond that, they are likely to agree with whoever’s solution comes closest to matching a solution that reasonable judge would agree to.

The law-based approach to divorce (what you get during your day in court) considers divorce from a very limited point of view. The law looks at things in terms of societal norms; things like: as a society “we” want parents to support their children, thus we have child support and custody issues or, as a society “we” believe it is good if marital assets are divided equitably–with little or no consideration as to whether or not the implementation of these norms fits the reality of a particular couple’s situation. The end result is that you end up working within a limited solution space trying to craft that reasonable solution.

The good news is that you don’t have to step into a courtroom to get a divorce; and if you are open to doing without a little conflict, there are alternatives that actually can help you feel better about your divorce. Alternatives like mediation and Collaborative Law provide an safe environment that supports positive communication between a couple; an environment that affords both parties opportunities to be “heard” on all the issues involved in their divorce.

Bruce Cameron
Attorney, Cameron Law, PLLC

Bruce Cameron, JD, MS is a second career attorney, practicing Quaker, and advocate for small town law practices. His solo practice focuses exclusively on collaborative law and mediation with just a soupçon of estate planning for excitement. Bruce believes that alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, like collaborative law and mediation, are powerful positive means to reduce the destructive conflict typical of litigation. He has found that a little peacemaking tends to produce better outcomes for his clients. Learn more at

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