Ugly divorces hurt us all. Resolving divorce and family law matters in a non-adversarial process benefits us all.
The destructive effects of an ugly divorce almost always reverberate throughout a community. They can destroy friendships, parent and child relationships, extended family relationships, and even church affiliations. Ugly divorces can destroy families forever. Teachers, therapists, clergy, co-workers, friends, and family can become involved whether they asked to or not. They can be required to miss days of work and pay when they are hauled into court or a lawyer’s office to testify. They can spend hours on the phone helping someone through the latest crisis or battle. None of these people want to be involved in someone else’s ugly divorce.
The kids, the couples’ creditors, and family members who may be called on to foot the legal bills feel the financial devastation of expensive divorce. Some couples never recover financially. The costs of adversarial divorces consume retirement accounts, home equity, and college funds. Ugly divorces have pushed more than one couple into bankruptcy.
Further, our courts are greatly overburdened by needless lawsuits. The system simply cannot keep up. The Wake County Family Court is drowning in cases filed by people who have already been to court multiple times. These people are filing “show-cause” actions to continue their fight well after a judge has decided their legal issues. It has become so bad that that Wake County Family Court has instituted a mandatory mediation program for show-cause actions in an effort to reduce the backlog. Because the court system is financially stretched to the limit, these mediators work for free. Cases that can be resolved in other avenues clog the system and consume the court’s resources.
If more of the resolvable cases were settled prior to a lawsuit, the court would require less personnel and fewer resources. Given that our tax dollars largely pay for our courts, that would help us all. If nothing else, the court would use the same personnel and resources to process cases faster and more effectively.
Further, we would all enjoy a better court system if we reserved the courts for the matters that truly needed the enormous resources that the court system burns. If the resolvable cases were removed from the courts, then the truly unresolvable matters could be heard and decided much faster than they are today. Due to the backlog of cases, it can take years for a case to be heard. Court calendars on any given day are usually filled with two to ten times the number of cases that the court can hear in a day. It is typical for a Wake County Family Court Calendar to have 50 hours of cases scheduled for 6.5 hours of actual “on the record” time per day.
Removing cases that do not actually need to be addressed by a judge allows a court to swiftly and efficiently decide the rare but important unresolvable cases for the rest of us.
Plus, wouldn’t we all be happier if there was less jury duty to go around?
The bottom line is that it is up to us (the public and attorneys), not the government, to exercise better judgment about how we use our courts. There are so many excellent processes for resolving disputes without the courts that only the rare dispute truly needs to be brought in court. Whether through Collaborative Law, mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation or some other dispute resolution process, we would all benefit from resolving our family law disputes, as well as other disputes, outside of the courtroom.