As I was in court this Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t help but wonder how all the couples in the process of ending their marriage may have celebrated this day during their relationship. Did they send flowers to their spouse? Spend time picking out just the right card to express their love and affection? Make dinner reservations at their favorite restaurant or prepare a special meal at home? Did they leave work a little early, and look forward to spending time with their significant other?
It has been said that family court involves good people at their worst. This Valentine’s Day was no exception. The courtrooms appeared as full as any other day. The conflicting stories, tension and zealous advocacy by attorneys was in full swing.
My parents fell in love and married young. They celebrated 54 years together, lifelong partners who took care of each other through good times and tough times. I remember my mother saying that marriage is not always easy. But during the difficult times she always remembered the good times, and that, far outweighed the challenges. Even the best relationships are tested. Everyone makes mistakes, and couples let each other down, sometimes in small ways and other times in important matters. It may be a fine line between a relationship that endures such challenges and one that does not. Yet it is very different listening to a couple talk about their relationship on their 25th or 50th wedding anniversary, versus a pleading in a dissolution matter.
I wonder how much easier it would be for couples who are ending their marriage if they followed my mother’s advice – always remember the good times. I am not suggesting that parties dismiss conduct that may need to be restrained under a proper order, in some cases that even requires a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. Of course, parties should bring to the court’s attention relevant information that affects the best interest of their children. But much of what I hear during the precious little time the court allocates to each matter on calendar is not relevant to the issue(s) before the court. Many of the contested issues I observe argued in family court could have been resolved between the parties if they just talked about it with a spirit of mutual respect and compromise. However, meaningful settlement discussions cannot take place if parties focus on what led to the breakdown of their marriage.
I believe one’s perception is his/her reality, and this leads to conflicting versions of the same events in the parties’ declarations and testimony. Rather than acknowledge this and move forward to a peaceful resolution, parties become inflamed when the other spouse does not acknowledge their own reality.
California is a no fault state. The court does not want to hear about infidelity, whether your spouse helped out around the house, or never liked your family or friends. Surprisingly, the court doesn’t care much about what you think is fair or what you think is in your best interest regarding a custody order. The court does care about what custody orders are in the best interest of your children so that the court can make appropriate orders. The court also cares about truthful and accurate financial disclosures so that the court can make appropriate support orders and divide community property. Finally, the court wants parties to make a good faith effort to meet and confer to resolve as many issues as possible.
Fortunately, many of the family law attorneys who represent the other spouse in dissolution matters do make a good faith effort to resolve or at least narrow the contested issues outside of court. When parties and their attorneys are able to work together in this manner, the parties can avoid unnecessary legal fees and conclude their dissolution in a reasonable time. Most important is that their children benefit from a peaceful resolution.
Divorce can be a difficult process, both financially and emotionally. But one factor each party can control is their own attitude. I believe that a shift in perception, namely acknowledging what was good in their relationship, can help parties move forward to an amicable resolution of their case.
Do you want to hear more about the any area of divorce? If you have questions about divorce information, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. The Law Office of Bawden & Kochis also handle legal issues regarding adoption, annulment, mediation, child custody, child and spousal support, community property, visitation, separation, and domestic violence as well as pre-marital and post-marital agreements. Telephone (909)792-0222, or email us at [email protected]