Is Divorce about Freedom or Transition?

Is Divorce about Freedom or Transition?

Is divorce about freedom and independence?

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This month in America, we see all kinds of stories about freedom and independence. This made me wonder if divorce is actually about freedom or, like the name on my door, transitions in life.

Because, a person can feel free within a marriage, right? And a person can feel caged, too.

Likewise, a single person can feel stunted or yearning, or independent and available. The legal state of a person’s relationship status has nothing to do, really, with freedom.

Maybe it’s a state of mind?

Certainly, in cases of domestic abuse or assault, a person can be in a very real situation where they are denied freedom of identity, movement or thought. In those cases, divorce can be a lifesaver, and a necessity. Every person should have the freedom to determine how they will live and with whom.

Beyond that, though, it’s important to realize that freedom is a choice, a perspective, a belief. We can limit our lives by believing that we don’t have options. Simply separating from a partner does not guarantee that a person will have any more freedom of thought, movement or opportunity than they had before. They must decide to make it so.

this month, America focuses on freedom, and independence

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When a divorce client comes to Transitions Legal, we are careful to explain that they must set realistic expectations for the process ahead. There will be ups and downs, and emotions (plenty of them). Sometimes it will seem like an impossible and endless situation. Sometimes they will feel hurt by the proceedings, and by the person they called partner and love for so many years.

And by the end, most clients feel a mixture of relief, possibility and optimism, but sometimes the hurt and raw emotion continues. It’s not always over when the judge pounds their gavel or the ex-spouses sign the divorce judgment.

To be free of sadness, loneliness, hurt and betrayal is something one works at. It takes time to heal, and sometimes help is needed to get there, fully.

That’s why I think I’m saying that divorce is about transitions (hence our firm name!) and not necessarily freedom and independence. Freedom is something to shoot for and which everyone can attain, but it does not merely come with a divorce.

Processing Divorce in Court during COVID… On Zoom?

Processing Divorce in Court during COVID… On Zoom?

Processing Divorce in Court during COVID… On Zoom?

It’s not news that we are in extraordinary times, with divorce court cases being held over video chat platforms like Zoom. I’ve been wondering how this experience is for clients who, for the time being, don’t have to stand in front of a judge in a hushed courtroom.

How do they hear things differently?

How is the feeling different – better or worse?

And is the judge’s ruling in a divorce case as effective from afar?

The Difference Is Big

It’s one thing to stand in the courtroom in front of a judge wearing a robe with deputies standing nearby. The formal and reserved ambience of the courtroom does not exist in a virtual experience.

Divorce on zoom
Does that mean the messages are not as strong or impactful?

From the safety of home, we are more relaxed. When a judge admonishes a client for improper behavior in a virtual hearing, is it perceived as severely?

Remote Cases Affect All Parties

Divorce on zoom

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From a lawyer’s perspective, preparing for an evidentiary hearing and having to do a trial by Zoom is also different. We call witnesses, and they respond from their own homes or offices.

Are they reading information they would not otherwise be able to refer to if in person?

Are they texting a friend or the Jameson Law firm for help?

Body Language Is Impossible to Read in Remote Cases

The judge may hear things differently, too, unable to read the body language or pick up on certain inferences made by those present in a courtroom.

Often in family court, judges will make comments from the bench to address the parties, to send a message. I wonder, is that message as powerful while the party is sitting in an easy chair in his living room, listening without really being present?

Consider this Case Study

Divorce on zoom
As an example, not long after we were all required to stay-safe-at-home, a party filed a motion to prevent the other parent from traveling out of the country with their children – when travel out of the country was really not possible due to pandemic limitations on travel. We still don’t know when it will be possible to travel beyond our borders.

The judge looked at both parties on the virtual hearing and said, “You have to choose your battles. This is not an emergency. Nobody is going anywhere right now, so come back to me if there really is an urgency.”

The co-parents were arguing about what was essentially an irrelevant point. The judge tried to emphasize this point sternly, but I have to say, I don’t think the point sticks as much with clients when we’re relegated to video hearings.

Isn’t It Good to Revere the Judge?

In the courtroom, when a judge makes a comment from the bench, and an order is entered into the court docket, it’s a serious thing. You can feel the gravity of the situation when you’re standing there, in the windowless courtroom, with the judge seated higher than everyone, and no one else utters a word.

You stand, out of respect for the judge, and wait for him or her to respond to your motion. And what the judge says, goes.


Let’s Get Serious

I’m convinced that while the order stands and is as effective and imperative during this time as any other time, the parties don’t feel the gravity of the situation in the same way.

There is one upside to this new normal, though. In divorce cases where abuse or violence is present, not having to show up in the same physical space as your abuser is a relief for clients seeking freedom and safety from domestic abuse.

In these situations, staying in your own home while the abuser remains in another space is a gift for the victim. However, I’m not sure the abuser receives the severity of the proceedings when the judge is on a screen.

Divorce on zoom

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Does the Location of Your Divorce Case Matter?

The takeaway from all of this is that if you were planning to divorce, think about how the inability to appear in a physical courtroom will help or hinder your case.

There are non-court-based options for divorce, of course, like Collaborative Divorce or Mediation – which might be better alternatives.

If you’re looking for a divorce lawyer at this time, you might want to consider talking with a lawyer who is familiar with and practices both the court-based, litigation model and is specially trained as a mediator or Collaborative attorney – someone like me!

After all, is it worth litigating if you’re not appearing in front of a judge?

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