Divorce Papers Are Scary

The mere involvement of the legal system will often cause unanticipated delays. I have yet to meet a person who took kindly to divorce papers filed by their spouse, no matter how “no-fault” the papers sounded. We do not like reading about our lives in court documents.

Divorce papers are formal, no-nonsense, and downright scary. A divorce case is still a legal case, and the law requires lawyers to meet certain standards of pleading even when their clients would prefer they refrain from riling up the other side. Lawyers have little choice in the matter. Court papers are court papers, friendly divorce or not. Even the most softened documents are humbling and brutal to the spouse who receives them.

Divorce papers also convey a sense of powerlessness, not unlike the feeling we get when a traffic cop reminds us we are not free to roam the countryside at any speed we wish. They let us know our civil rights have changed and that we can now be put under house arrest. The papers tell us that the legal system has taken away our keys to run our own lives – that the court is now empowered to dole out the constitutional rights (to freedom, movement, speech, property, privacy, etc.) that we may exercise during the time our case is pending. 

It is important that the party against whom the case is filed does not overreact. If appropriate, they should be told that the act of filing is typically more mechanical than it is meaningful. It also helps to explain that the wording in the papers is likely to be the same boilerplate language that lawyers use in every case, and that the affected spouse was not singled out.

The legal system creates enough fear and anxiety as it is; the mere act of filing should not be allowed to unnecessarily add to the havoc.