The Long, Painful And Sometimes Unjust Process Of Divorce

If you are going through a divorce and feeling frustrated, think about this. OJ Simpson was released from prison yesterday after serving 9 years in a Nevada prison for armed robbery. Yes, his sentence was abnormally long for his crime, but let’s be honest: we all know why the judge gave him such a long sentence. And now, the 70 year-old is going to live out the rest of his life playing golf in Florida.

So, how do you think Nicole’s family, and Fred and Kim Goldman are feeling today? Can you even imagine the injustice they once again have to live with? Nicole and Ron are buried in the ground and their killer gets to play golf through his old age.

I can’t really compare the injustice that they are feeling to divorce, but there are similarities in the fact that so many men and women going through a divorce feel that there is a tremendous amount of unfairness, and that when it comes to the legal process of divorce, it can be long, painful, expensive and seem very very unjust.

The idea for this blog post came from a Facebook group I belong to where women going through a divorce can vent and seek advice about their divorce. What I see so much of, is women who write comments about their frustration with not only their ex’s, but with their attorneys, the judge, and the legal system, in general.

Here are some examples:

1. A woman’s ex refuses to abide by a clause in their divorce agreement that has specific pick up and drop off times for their children. Her ex is constantly late, and she has taken him back to court several times. But, there is no consequence given by the judge. No fine. No jail time. No penalty at all. So, why should the ex listen to the agreement? All the court does is hear the case and say “Don’t do it again.” Then, the woman gets her invoice from her lawyer and owes $3000. And the ex knows this, so he keeps doing it.

2. A woman wrote “I finally got some child support today.” Although she was happy, she had probably been to court several times and it most likely cost her thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to finally get what she was legally awarded in the first place. No fine against the ex for not paying. Why didn’t he have to pay her attorney’s fees? I just don’t get it.

3. One woman’s ex made up allegations against her for drug use. He told her in private he was going to destroy her. She ended up with supervised visitation and almost lost custody, until she was able to “prove” her case to the judge. Why can someone just make up stuff and the person accused is assumed guilty until they spend tens of thousands on an attorney to prove their innocence? And then once they prove their innocence, why doesn’t the accuser (who falsely accused her) have to pay the attorney’s fees?)

4. A woman’s ex told the children lies and manipulated them into hating their mother. They have not spoken to her in almost a year. The court system is slower than a turtle in making decisions and the woman therefore has had to just sit and wait (and pay attorney’s fees during this time, mind you.) She is the victim, yet no one (not even the GAL, who knows exactly what is going on, seems to care enough to speed up this process and set things straight.) Meanwhile, the more time that goes by, the more alienated the children are becoming from their mother.

Here’s the thing. I would love to believe that the court system works wonderfully and that it provides justice and the truth, and sets everyone on the path to moving on and starting a new, better and more productive life. And in some cases, that might be the case.

I know many really good divorce attorneys, but I also know many more bad ones. Really bad ones. I think that many divorce attorneys get burned out, they have too many cases and they are unable to empathize with their clients. Plus, if you think about it, the structure of the system is very bad because the attorneys get paid hourly, so theoretically they have the motivation to drag the case on and on so they can make more money. I’m not saying all attorneys do this, but I do know some who do.

I have also seen the burn out, the excessive workload and non-empathy from judges. The decisions I have seen certain judges make in certain cases cause me to cringe and become nauseous because they were such bad decisions.

These judges are making decisions knowing too little, and not having the time or patience to really think things through. What is so very scary is that a judge can make a decision based on his or her mood that day! Again, I am not talking about all judges. Some judges are great. But I have seen horrendous decision making also. In one case, a judge said, “I just don’t want to make this decision today. Come back in 60 days.” OK…. so an innocent woman has to be without her children for another 2 months.

I often wonder something that I wish I could directly ask a judge. If someone comes back to court because his or her ex didn’t abide by a court order, and if a judge finds the ex in contempt, then why does the ex not get a consequence? Why not a fine that has to be paid right then and there? The ex should have to pay the legal fees for their spouse right then and there—with checkbook in hand or they go to jail until it is paid. Sound too harsh? If you say yes, then you’ve never been in the shoes of a person going through a divorce with a difficult ex who doesn’t pay attention to the divorce agreement.

Also, if there is a clear indication of parental alienation, then why wouldn’t a judge hand over custody to the victim that minute? There should be no ifs, ands or buts here. The bottom line is, I think some judges are just way too soft and give too many chances. If the judges would inflict consequences, then the judges would have a lot less cases because people would stop breaking the fucking law!

OK, so now that I vented, I want to offer some advice to those going through a divorce where they feel injustice and unfairness that leads to frustration.

I recently talked with a therapist who explained that frustration is a combination of two things: helplessness and rage. So, if you are frustrated, you are most likely feeling helpless-like no matter what you do, things are not changing for the better, and that there is really nothing else you can do and no good solution. And, you can’t physically speed up the legal process, you can’t change your ex’s behavior, you can’t change your attorneys fees, and you can’t change the decisions a judge is making.

Frustration also includes being furious. How can you not be?? You have a lot to be pissed about.

So, how does one cope with frustration? The therapist was telling me “you just have to learn how to sit with it.” Huh? What? How the hell do you do that?!

     1. Patience. It’s very difficult but you have to have patience and see the end game in your head.

     2. Grace. Remember to keep your dignity and not call everyone you know and badmouth your ex.

      3. Strength. This is a time to be strong and have confidence that you are doing everything you can, and whatever happens is out of your control.

     4. Faith. Have faith that God and the system (slow as it is) will eventually show the truth and justice will prevail.

     5. Breath. Use your breath, big inhales and exhales to calm yourself and stay in the present. When the mind drifts to “what if?…” it can be toxic to your mental health.

     6. Enjoyment. Life is meant to be enjoyed, so whatever else in your life that you like doing, do it. Leave the judging to the judges and go live your life. Because if you wait for the legal process, you will be wasting years of your life.

     7. Love. No matter how unfair things seem, don’t stop loving. Love your family, your spouse (if you have one) and of course, your kids. And lastly, love yourself. At the end of the day, if you know you have done all the right things, made all of your decisions based on what you think is right and fair and best for you and your kids, then you have done great! If you can look in the mirror and like what you see, then you should be able to be at peace, not only with waiting for justice, but with the outcomes that might or might not be in your favor.

Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.

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