About Face – or what Happens when your Life Goes in the Opposite Direction…
For many of us, when a relationship ends, we are forced to regroup…to turn about face and relate differently to an ex-partner, our children, in-laws, friends, and so on. It is awkward, painful and uncomfortable. We are at our worst and it hurts. We are disoriented, lost, and confused. If children are involved the break-up is even more challenging because we must be at our best even though our world is collapsing emotionally and financially. We are confronted with the financial challenges of one household becoming two? Compounding the trauma, drama, and fear is the anticipated legal battle to resolve whether or not you will see your children more than alternate weekends, supervised or not supervised, who gets what, and so much more. We are confronted with the emotional challenges of uncoupling after ten years, twenty years, thirty years or more of being a couple?
The reality is that when a relationship ends more is required than just moving on, particularly, when there are issues involving homes, real property, personal property, retirement accounts, debts, and most important of all, children. These issues are resolved traditionally through the Court litigation process or by some other alternative dispute resolution method such as collaborative law, arbitration, mediation or some hybrid method. From my perspective, litigation is often the most difficult method, because it is the Court who holds the power to decide the outcome of your life. When the Court system is involved, the parties put their lives and the lives of their children into the hands of the Court–an absolute stranger–and the Court, be it a commissioner or a judge–decides the fate of your life and the relationship you have with your children. The Court knows little about the dynamics, the realities and the truths of your lives. The Court knows little except what it is told and what it chooses to hear, to believe, and to understand. And, even if the Court knows, hears, believes and understands, there is no guarantee that the Court will then rule in your favor. I believe that in the end, the Court more often than not tries to do what it believes right–which is quite often not what either party believes fair, reasonable, just, appropriate or even logical. Many clients unrealistically think that if the Court just heard “their side,” then the Court would be compelled to do exactly what that client thinks reasonable. The truth is that the Court routinely gives the parties some of what they want and a lot of what they don’t want!
There are alternatives to traditional litigation which minimize Court involvement and help the parties retain more control over the course and the outcome of ending a relationship. Ultimately, final orders, such as a decree of dissolution or legal separation or registered partnership require the signature of a court commissioner or judge. However, getting to the end result does not always mean litigation. Sometimes, traditional court litigation is the wisest path to resolution of a particular case. Sometimes not. Alternatives to litigation include collaborative law, mediation, arbitration, and some hybrid forms of these.