Litigation is no picnic. Even less so when it’s against someone you’ve loved. For 17 years I’ve been a lawyer guiding clients through the process, day after day. Then I got to experience it myself as a party in a family lawsuit.
Clients complain about the overwhelm and mental exhaustion they feel during their court case. Of their own lack of control in the process. Of the unmanageable amount of paperwork. I’ve felt all those things.
But having the opportunity - funny choice of words, I know - to go through it has also given me a greater understanding. It’s forced me to test out the tools in my toolbox. To practice what I preach.
We talk a lot about the strength it takes to get through divorce. How you need strong mental muscles to get through this time. It’s not just the emotion of divorce you need to muscle through. It’s wrangling with the legal system itself.
This may be your first time being a party to a lawsuit. It can feel scary, intimidating, and at times infuriating. But like so many other tough things in life, the only way out of it is through it.
At Divorce in Good Company, we want you to have as many tools in your toolkit as possible.
So here are 3 things to help you mentally get through your own court case. I’ve used each one of these during mine, and they’ve helped me a ton.
1. Don’t procrastinate.
There’s a lot to do in litigation. And since none of it is enjoyable, it’s tempting to put it off as long as possible. Don’t.
If you get something that has a deadline, do it as early as you can. Let’s say the other side sends you a request to provide them with documents, and you have 30 days to respond. (This is part of what’s referred to as “discovery.”) Gather as many of the documents as you can within the first 15 days. Even better, do it in 10.
Being up against a deadline is never fun. Allow yourself a cushion so you’re not down to the wire. So you’re not up at 11 PM the night before your response is due, fighting with slow WiFi while comforting a child with strep throat. (It’s Murphy’s Law.)
No matter how daunting it may feel, it won’t get any easier if you wait. Do it early, cross it off your to-do list with a giant red marker, and get it out of your head.
2. Rest when you can rest.
When I had my first child, I remember the advice of mom friends was “when the baby sleeps, you sleep.” It sounded sweet, but I didn’t listen. I didn’t have time for sleep in the middle of the day! Or even to chill out.
Instead, when the baby slept, I washed bottles, cleaned my pumping gear, and caught up on work emails. I rarely gave myself a break, and I was exhausted and on edge. Maybe you can relate?
Like those first weeks with a newborn, litigation is tiring in a way you haven’t known before. It also ebbs and flows. Sometimes it’s really busy and you’ll feel like you’re running on all fours to keep up, and sometimes there’s nothing going on. When that happens, try to accept the break. Do things that recharge your body: connect with friends, exercise, read a book. When the baby is sleeping, you should sleep too.
3. Recognize that your case isn’t all that unique.
My case feels unique. It is to me. And yours is to you.
But my case isn’t really unique to my lawyer, and yours probably isn’t to your lawyer either.
How do I know this? Because as a divorce lawyer, I’ve dealt with every kind of narcissist under the sun. I’ve helped clients face abuse, infidelity, and addiction in their marriages. I’ve watched spouses hide assets from their partners and lie to the federal government. There’s not a lot I haven’t seen!
Maybe right now you’re saying to yourself - “But Pilar, you don’t know my particular situation. You haven’t heard my marriage story, the specific things that happened to me.” You’re right. Every situation is different because every relationship is different. But the pain you feel? The doubt and uncertainty? The loneliness? You share those emotions with thousands of other women.
Recognizing your case isn’t unique means you can finally know you’re not alone. Whatever you’re going through, chances are you’re in really good company.Remember that, and seek out those people for support when you need them.