When on holiday recently I read a book by Sophie Kinsella called ‘The Wedding Night’. Yes, I know that some of you literary snobs will disapprove of my choice of books but before you judge me read on.
The book focuses on two sisters; one who is going through a bitter divorce and the other who is desperate to be married. An observation made in this book really resonated with me. The divorcing sister is gnarled up with resentment regarding the behaviour of her ex. However minor or trivial his behaviour, she emails and telephones her lawyer with details. This results in her lawyer having to repeat to her, once again, that she must not live the ‘Divorce Fantasy’:
“The Divorce Fantasy will never happen,”
he repeats with emphasis.
“The judge will never read a two-hundred-page dossier on Daniel’s shortcomings aloud in court, while a crowd jeers at your ex-husband. He will never start his summing up, ‘Ms. Graveney, you are a saint to have put up with such an evil scumbag and I thus award you everything you want.’ ”
I can’t help colouring. That is pretty much my Divorce Fantasy. Except in my version, the crowd throws bottles at Daniel too.
“Daniel will never admit to being wrong,”
Barnaby presses on relentlessly.
“He’ll never stand in front of the judge, weeping and saying, ‘Fliss, please forgive me.’ The papers will never report your divorce with the headline: TOTAL SH*T ADMITS FULL SH*TTINESS IN COURT.”
I can’t help half-snorting with laughter.
“I do know that.”
“Do you, Fliss?” Barnaby sounds sceptical. “Are you sure about that? Or are you still expecting him to wake up one day and realise all the bad things he’s done? Because you have to understand, Daniel will never realise anything. He’ll never confess to being a terrible human being. I could spend a thousand hours on this case, it would still never happen.”
So why do I pick this extract? Well, part of our job as your lawyer is to manage your expectations. Family law will very rarely deliver you a result where your ex is firmly put in their place. You will run up considerable legal fees if your lawyer, upon your instruction, sends volumes of correspondence to your ex (or their solicitor) detailing every failing of your ex. Such exchanges generally have the ‘boomerang’ effect, where your ex simply slings insults back, making you feel even worse.
Lawyers are encouraged by the Court to veer away from such exchanges and are, instead, encouraged to focus on finding resolutions for their clients. So, if your lawyer, advises you that it is best to rise above the bad behaviour of your ex (and by this, I do not mean domestic abuse, which is, of course, unacceptable) then do not presume that your lawyer is not on your side. On the contrary, your lawyer is acting in your best interests, is working hard to keep your legal fees down and focusing on the main issues of your case and finding solutions for you as quickly as possible.
So, when your lawyer says that the Judge will not take into account the fact that your ex had an affair or that your ex is entitled to put their case, however, insulting it may be to you, remember they are acting in your best interests. The best revenge you can have against your ex is by getting on positively with your life and leaving the bitterness behind you. This is easier said than done, but if you recognise yourself as veering down the Divorce Fantasy road, stop, take a deep breath and change direction. By doing this you will take control of your divorce but most importantly, of yourself.
Samantha Jago – Former partner, rhw solicitors LLP (Family Law Solicitor)