Why does Divorce feel like War?
How does a divorce start?
In Louisiana divorce starts with an adversarial process. What is an adversarial process? It is a lawsuit where one party sues the other. During this process it allows each side in the dispute to present its case as persuasively as possible, subject to the rules or evidence, and an independent fact finder, either judge or jury, decides in favor of one side or the other.
Due to this family law is very personal.
When you start a divorce, you file a Petition and you get your spouse served. This feels like a hostile or adversarial act. Each party in this matter may have feelings stemming from this. “The embarrassment and shock felt by the one who receives the initial papers may trigger an even more aggressive response. As a result, you and your spouse suddenly may find yourselves heading in a direction neither of you expected or wanted to go, well before either one of you has had the opportunity to fully consider your options.” (p. 9-10, Webb). Family law deals with a lot of emotions during the divorce process, that is normal. Don’t think your feels are not valid just because you filed for divorce or you were the one who didn’t file for divorce.
How do we make the family law process better?
“I can’t stress enough the central fact about that opening conversation about ending your marriage or partnership – namely, then the way it goes down is likely to be the way the rest of the dissolution goes. Therefore, your objective should be to begin as you mean to go on, and for both of you, that should mean acting like grown-ups caught in one of life’s difficult situations.” (p. 44, Wasser). Now, while your feels are valid, it is very important that I stress you should speak to your spouse about ending the marriage before so. It will really help make this process and smoother experience. While everyone is allowed to feel hurt and upset that should not affect the way you act during this process. You are still a grown-up, who should handle themselves as such.
“Preferably, any and all of these legal actions will have been preceded by a one-on-one conversation most likely, more than one. But the exchange between the two of you in which you first speak of divorce is a strategic moment. What you say at this moment and how you say it can establish the tenor of the entire proceeding to come and can affect both the results and the price each of you pays.” (p. 31, Wasser). Again, speaking about divorce with your spouse first is highly important. But, when going into that conversation you may feel like you are being attacked and need to defend yourself, no this conversation should be a calm and collected conversation between two adults. Having a calm conversation will help the divorce process most likely in the long run.
TV shows have portrayed divorce like signing papers over a kitchen table or conference room table. (See link below when Jackson and April get divorced on Grey’s Anatomy – it’s non-adversarial but still heart wrenching!). However, In the state of Louisiana it is required that one party “sue” the other party to be able to get divorce. This action creates bad feelings. For both the sue-er and the sue-ee!
Make sure when looking into getting divorced you look into the process that your state requires.
Potential changes for Louisiana.
On January 24, 2022, the Louisiana Law Institute issued its Report to the Louisiana Legislature (See link below) supporting the adversarial divorce process. The Law Institute overlooks the feeling of the parties entirely and makes it sound like people can have an adversarial divorce quickly. They acknowledge that 25 other states allow non-adversarial divorce. They choose to look the other way when it comes to how ugly adversarial divorce makes people FEEL. Instead, they focus on the costs to clerk’s offices for handling affidavit-only divorce. This insensitivity does serve Louisiana well, and I hope that we will be seeing change in the future.
Additional resources provided by the author
· It Doesn't Have To Be That Way, by Laura A. \Wasser
· The Collaborative Way to Divorce, by Stuart G. Webb
· Louisiana Law Institute Supports Adversarial Divorce
· Grey's Anatomy Divorce: non-adversarial