Family court cases present multiple issues, such as legal decision-making for a child, parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, and property or debt division. Each of these issues, in turn, is complex. So it is not unusual for parties to get disorganized, confused, or overwhelmed by the minutiae of divorce filings. Without support and helpful resources, people can misstep.
People working without legal assistance often miss important dates, like filing deadlines, appointments, mediation conferences, or actual hearings at the courthouse. When you miss a deadline, you antagonize the judge, disrupt the work of her staff, and reduce the likelihood of an agreement that could have saved a lot of money and emotional energy.
Disorganization will kill your case. If you can’t find papers or remember dates because you didn’t keep a binder or calendar, you run a terrible risk of presenting a mere shadow of the case you could have shown the judge otherwise. You may also feel compelled to agree to a bad settlement because you lack confidence about the quality of your preparation.
Panic hinders your ability to think clearly and affects your memory. It also makes you inattentive to your surroundings and what a judge or appointed evaluator is saying to you. You can defeat panic in a couple of ways.
First, be organized (see directly above). Keep a “to do” list (e.g. witnesses and exhibits) and daily journal of deadlines and events. Outline the questions you intend to ask of witnesses, or the points you would like to make. These preparations will not guarantee “ultimate victory.” But you will feel smarter and more confident when you finally appear in court.
Second, keep some perspective. Of course the litigation is important. Children are important. Take this process seriously. But the outcome will not cement your existence for all time. Your children will grow up … and you will eventually move on financially, no matter how grim things look now.
Many people going through divorce or a custody dispute are new to the civil justice system. They chose different careers, and do not eat, drink, or breathe legal complexities. So they will not expertly navigate the court process. Consider consulting with an attorney who understands the issues unique to your situation.