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Divorce is a very difficult process, what makes it difficult is two human beings usually two human beings who used to love each other very much, now not so much. Sometimes, they hate each other. Sometimes only one hates the other. Maybe a spouse has cheated on the other spouse and we’ve got feelings of guilt and feelings of anger and feelings of hostility, and that creates a high conflict divorce. Maybe you’re involved in a very ugly custody battle and you’re fighting over your children: high conflict. How do you simplify that? It’s almost impossible to simplify that without the cooperation of both parties, and that takes a lot to achieve. But the good news is divorce is a process and it does take some time, and over time you and your spouse are going to be exposed to the emotional drain and the financial drain associated with constantly fighting with each other over and over again. And ideally you will each have consulted with experienced, competent, skilled family law attorneys who have a lot of experience dealing with high-conflict cases. And in that context, those counsel hopefully can steer you to other professionals like mental health professionals, marriage counselors, or child custody evaluators. Take every opportunity to pull the emotions out of the process so the two of you can see this as what it is. It’s the dissolution of a marriage; it’s the dissolution of a partnership. You’re trying to create a scenario where you can go both can go on your separate ways as intact human beings. That’s going to require respect, patience, and a willingness to compromise. Settlement is not you doing what I say and, there, we’ve settled; settlement is you giving up and me giving up and we meet in the middle. And you have to get to that place in order to simplify and make your high-conflict case capable of being solved without going through the battle in court.
A lot of people really resent the suggestion that they have to go see a counselor or they should go see a counselor because they say “there’s nothing wrong with me; it’s all his fault” or “it’s all her fault.” What do we do in that situation? And that very dynamic calls out for some form of counseling, some form of back and forth, to help you realize if you what you really want to do is simplify this process so that you can get it over with and move on with your life, this might be one of the steps you should consider taking, if not for your help and immediate benefit, for the help and the immediate benefit of your spouse. You’re trying to work together to work things out, and if you start out at each other’s throats, until you put the guns down you’re going to have a very hard time coming to the bargaining table.
Sometimes, settlement is simply not possible. An experienced family law attorney who has dealt with high conflict matters before will be able to let you know, or at least give you guidance, when you’re at that place. And what do you do? How can you settle with someone who is completely unreasonable? And the answer to that question is that you might not be able to. That’s what the courts are there for; that’s what the law is here for. California has a whole system of laws in the Family Code that basically lay out the road map for how divorces will get done: how custody will be determined, how visitation will be determined, how property is divided, it’s all there. If you can’t work it out as two civilized people at the bargaining table then you’re going to have to go to court and you’re going to have to let the court work it out.
Some people are hopeful that if they file in a particular jurisdiction they’ll get a better result. For example, “well maybe if I was living in Ventura County I would be able to get a better result than I can in Los Angeles County.” The truth of the matter is that’s not the case; the law is the law throughout the state of California. And the only variation that there might be between any jurisdictional difference within the state is going to be a result of the particular judicial officer that’s hearing your case. Those people may have they’re own experiences that they bring to the table and they’re own sense of what they should or shouldn’t do, and there is some leeway within the law. But in general no matter where you are, Los Angeles County, Ventura County, anywhere in the state of California the law is going to be applied the same.