A trip to court for your divorce will no doubt be full of surprises, but they don’t have to catch you off guard. As a former family law attorney, I regret not putting more time into addressing these surprising, but predictable, events with my clients. It wasn’t until I started empowering people to represent themselves in family law court that I had a realization — a day in court is like an obstacle course. And I had the roadmap. Some obstacles are big, some small, but all have the potential to do legal and emotional damage. Luckily, most are predictable. Here are two obstacles that repeatedly trip people up:
The anxiety that comes with running late to one’s court date can be crippling, especially if you are representing yourself. Parking is often an overlooked obstacle because, well, it’s boring. However, it can ruin your morning. Imagine showing up to court ten minutes before your court appearance only to find that there are multiple parking lots; lines of cars to get into all of them and none are located within a close walk to the courthouse. Your ten minutes just evaporated. Panic sets in and can mean you are not the best version of yourself when you race into the courthouse. Plus, there are other obstacles waiting to cause delays after you park. Always plan to arrive at least 20 minutes early, but 30 minutes is better.
The New Love Interest
The court hallways are full of people coming, going and waiting. Don’t be surprised if you turn a corner to see your ex and their new love interest among them. Whether the divorce was your idea or not, this obstacle can feel like a punch to the gut. Distractions like these are the last thing anyone needs when trying to focus on legal issues. My best advice is to assume it’s going to happen and prepare for it as best you can so you are not blindsided. There’s no way to eliminate the impact, but preparation can soften the blow. And that extra focus can pay off in the courtroom.
The complete Obstacle Course is covered in detail in the Empowered Woman’s Guide to Divorce.