Is Divorce Court Dehumanizing?

{2:30 minutes to read} Oftentimes, stereotypically, we think divorcing couples—both the person who decides to divorce and the person who doesn’tare angry or revengeful. Although it’s true that those feelings are often present, but reallycontrary to popular beliefthe overwhelming emotion for both is sadness. Regardless of what has happened, what the story is, sadness prevails as the dominant emotion.

Often it is the process of divorcing that creates rage and deep resentment. It’s really the court litigation system that drives people from sad to furious, sad to enraged, sad to revengeful (not so much what happened that led them to decide to divorce, it’s the process of divorcing itself). I think this happens through a series of dehumanizing experiences where the parties are forced to make decisions based on criteria that don’t necessarily make sense to them. Furthermore, they’re forced to make decisions in a time frame that is uncomfortable: either too fast or too slow. They’re forced to go through processes that involve a lot of hurrying and then waiting in a setting that isn’t what they would necessarily choose.

The system is also dehumanizing for lawyers. Although our clients might disagree, nobody goes into family law for the money. Lawyers enter this field because of an impulse to help families. We all went into this area because we wanted to work directly with people. But we often find ourselves stuck between what clients would like to do and the court system. We too become dehumanized over time. We become distanced from what originally motivated us to work with people in conflict. We become distanced from our own sense of humanity and compassion. That’s what the court system requires in order to work.

I think it’s heartbreaking how a court system meant to help people resolve conflict is so often inefficient in actually accomplishing that. Honestly, I cannot understand why mediation and collaborative law are not the default choices for divorcing families. Mediation and collaborative law permit those people who want to find a humane resolution to a heartbreaking problem to work together with dignity and respect to find solutions that make sense to them.