Speaking to other people who have gone through the divorce process can be helpful. They can help you understand the process and commiserate with your thoughts and feelings. However, comparing the specific custody, support or equitable distribution terms may not be helpful to your situation because of differences between individuals and families. Sometimes there is incomplete information and significant issues that are being left out when people share their story. Is the person you are talking to providing you with all of the relevant information? Frequently the only people who know the whole story are the parties themselves and their attorneys.
Imagine two families as similar as can be: they live side by side in the same style home in the same subdivision, parents earn the same income, have the same number, gender and age of children. Even these two families may have drastically different outcomes for a variety of reasons. How long have the parties been married? Is there a prenuptial agreement? What are the parents’ working hours or commutes? Can one family maintain its’ lifestyle and support two households, or will they have to reduce their expenses? Does one family have substantial debt and the other substantial savings? Is there domestic violence? Is there substance abuse? Do both parents participate in child rearing activities in one family while in the other family one parent has been the primary caregiver? Does one set of parties want to amicably resolve the situation? Does one set want to win at all costs? This list is just a small number of the innumerable ways that similar families can be dissimilar from one another.
Additionally, there is the unknown of the judicial system itself. Frequently, we will not know which judge will decide your case until shortly before or even the day of the trial or hearing. The vast majority of judges sincerely attempt to be fair and equitable in their decisions. They try to uphold the judicial canons of integrity and independence. They endeavor to avoid the appearance of impropriety. They attempt to not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence their conduct. They try to perform their duties without bias or prejudice. They try to give people the opportunity to be heard, to have a voice under the numerous constraints of an overworked judicial system. However, judges are people too. They have bad days. There are incredible time constraints as most hearings or trials are only a few hours to a couple of days long. That is not a lot of time to fully understand a complex situation. The court system is financially strained. There are lots of litigants many without attorneys. Judges are under a lot of pressure. They make incredibly hard decisions with limited information and limited options under the law.
It is important to have a core set of friends or family members while you are going through a separation, divorce, or custody matter. Rely on them for understanding, support and commiseration. Take any suggestions or examples with a grain of salt. Unrealistic comparisons and expectations can be detrimental to a reasonable resolution of your case. Rely on your legal counsel to provide you with the best advice. I will never treat you as a number. Tell me your entire story and I will seek to understand and help you achieve the best possible resolution for you and your children. If you don’t trust your attorney; then, find another one.