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Alan Ravitz, MD


Don't Go to Divorce Court Without Reading This

Posted: 03/01/11 03:17 AM ET

Divorce is almost never easy, especially when there are children involved, and it's often seriously rancorous. After seeing your kids every day, you suddenly face the prospect of becoming peripheral to their lives; this can be incredibly painful. The temptation is to fight for every shred of time, every bit of contact, even if it means taking your custody dispute to trial. But my advice is to resist this temptation if at all possible, because going to court is likely to create more damage than you anticipate--to you, to your children, to your relationships, even to your faith in humanity.

Some lessons from divorce court that can help parents and kids alike:

Lesson 1: Don't Go to Court Looking for Justice
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Parents understandably harbor the hope that in a trial, wrongs will be righted. Unfortunately, a trial is more a battlefield than a forum for honest reckoning. No matter how confident you are, or what your attorney tells you, a trial is never a sure thing. At trial, your words, your story, and your issues become part of a nebulous, often shifting narrative determined by the rules of evidence, the skill of your attorney, and the predisposition of the judge. In a trial it's not the whole truth that comes out, but simply one version of the truth - a version you may not necessarily like. The best way to maintain control over the outcome of your dispute is to settle it outside of court.
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Alan Ravitz, MD, is a pediatric psychopharmacologist and senior director of forensic psychiatry at the Child Mind Institute. For Dr. Ravitz's take on everything from effective parenting to how divorce is portrayed in film, visit