Stop Using Litigation to Heal Your Emotional Pain

Seeking Justice for Your Emotional Pain

When I was a divorce attorney, I encountered people getting divorced for a number of reasons. Sometimes my client was the one ready to move on, and sometimes they were surprised with divorce papers. Sometimes there was infidelity in the marriage, sometimes an addiction to alcohol, or gambling, or drugs. On a few occasions a restraining order was necessary to keep the client or the children safe. There were stories of verbal, emotional or physical abuse. There were times when there was complete agreement in how the divorce would go and I only had to prepare the documents to sign. Some themes for the divorce felt the same, and yet each case was distinct from the last. One thing was always consistent; these were people, and people are emotional creatures.

Every so often I would get a client who was ready to really stick it to the other spouse. They talked about taking their spouse for all they are worth, for restricting parenting time with the children because of something their spouse said or did to them. There would be talk of not giving in “on principle” or because they did this thing to them, and this was their way of fighting back. This is common in divorce cases, and a big reason why some attorneys do not want to practice family law. There’s a lot of emotion.  

And I get it. I totally and completely understand. Especially if you’ve been disempowered during your marriage, or abused, or made to fill small, or you’ve been wronged in some way over and over and over again during the course of your relationship. It only seems natural to use the legal system to fight back, to stand up for yourself, to let them know that you are not taking it anymore.

But I’m telling you to stop. This is what I call “litigating your emotions.” I want you to stop because this is not going to serve you in your divorce. It is not what the legal system is for. It is an expensive way to deal with what is really happening. You are hurt, or scared, or grieving, or angry, or stressed, or overwhelmed, or all of the above. 

And let me be clear; this is different than advocating for yourself and your needs. There are absolutely times when you do need to make sure that you are getting a fair shake, or are protecting yourself. It’s when we let our fear drive the car we become unable to see all the possibilities. When we use the legal system to get back at the other spouse for hurting us, we are using it for the wrong reason.

Litigating Your Emotions Does Not Serve You

Litigating your emotions looks like seeking justice for your emotional pain during your divorce. It looks like rejecting an offer, that would otherwise be fair to both of you, because you feel like your spouse owes you more property because of that affair they had, or because they wanted a divorce, or because they were not there for you when you needed them to be. It looks like telling the judge how wronged you were in the marriage in the hopes that they side with you. It looks like hoping you get everything you want and they get nothing because somehow that will address the pain caused by the divorce.  

Litigating your emotions is not going to serve you in your divorce, because your attorney is there to advise you on your legal issues, and the judge is there to resolve your legal dispute when you are unable to resolve it on your own. They are there to help advise you on the legal process of going from married to divorced. They are not there to determine who was right in your marital dispute, or be your therapist. Taking rigid positions based on principle, or penalty, or using your divorce to try and get back for being wronged or hurt, will only make your attorney richer and your judge more angry when they see you in court over and over again.

Litigating your emotions is not going to serve you in your divorce, because the judge does not care what happened between the two of you, unless there is a safety concern. They are looking at your marriage like a business and trying to figure out how to divide the assets and debts when you and your spouse are unable to do so. You can waste a lot of time trying to tell your side of the story about who hurt who, and the judge will just tell you to stop. They will ignore what you said and focus on the property, debt, and schedule for the children, and whether any payments need to be made for spousal and child support.

Litigating your emotions is not going to serve you in your divorce, because fighting back might feel good for the moment, but it will not go far to resolve what’s really at issue; feeling hurt, or scared, or grief, or anger, or stress, or overwhelm, or all of the above and more. You will end up spending a lot of money or time on something that is not designed to help you to feel better.

Litigating your emotions especially does not serve you when children are involved. The more they see you engage in conflict, the longer the litigation drags on, and the longer you are stuck in the divorce process, the more they will be affected by it. Even though you are divorcing your spouse, they are still your child’s parent.

How Can I Help Resolve The Pain Caused By My Divorce?

Divorce is a major life event, and we should start treating it as such. Your attorney is trained to handle the legal aspect of your divorce. The court is there to make your divorce official, and resolve disputes over the terms of your divorce when you are unable to do so. They have no special training to help you work through the emotional part of your divorce.

Everyone who is going through a divorce would be best served to surround themselves with the appropriate support to address the pain they are feeling. It’s a legal process, but it’s also an emotional one, the part that often gets neglected. When you are receiving help with the emotions that arise from getting divorced, you are able to more clearly handle the legal process. Rather than letting your emotions drive the case, you can let your rational thinking work out what would be the best legal outcome for you in your case.

I work with women who are going through a divorce to feel empowered in their decisions, become clear on what they want for their life, and own their worth. Contact me for a free Clarity Call to learn how this can help you.  

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