What to Do When Your Ex Demands Litigation!
We will never forget the day when a simple knock on the door changed our lives forever.
We’d been married just four years. And in that time, we learned first to be a family: Scott, Vanessa and Michael, Vanessa’s son from a previous marriage. Then we had three more boys in quick succession. All the while, Scott worked on launching a new business and Vanessa completed nursing school.
We thought 2017 would be the year we could catch our breath. Instead, that knock turned into a gut-wrenching custody battle that lasted the entire year. It was a fight we never saw coming and couldn’t escape. It took a heavy emotional toll and dramatically changed all of us.
Maybe you’re in a similar situation. It can be overwhelming to receive court papers from your ex demanding litigation. And when you consider what’s potentially at stake—your child—you might be tempted to lawyer-up and prepare for battle, no matter the cost.
We’d like to share a little bit of our story and the things we learned along the way in hopes of helping you. We’ll talk about how to find wise legal counsel who also aligns with your faith. We’ll also share some of the best advice our attorney gave us.
First and Foremost: Recognize the Real Enemy
To be brought to court by an ex-spouse feels as though you’re being told, “You’re a terrible parent,” and boy, does that sting! Your gut reaction—as was ours—might just be to say, “Fine. You want war? Let’s go to war.” We were defensive, angry, and determined to win the battle, which we learned was not the best approach.
The truth, though, is that your ex isn’t the enemy. The enemy is the devil. He desperately wants to destroy your family, and he hopes to crush your peace and confidence along the way. We learned this lesson in the midst of the battle. But you don’t have to make the same mistakes we did if you keep the truth at the forefront: your ex is a tool of the enemy. Satan is a deceiver and liar and he loves dissention and disunity.
So go to war, yes. But go to war against the devil. We learned to do this through daily prayer and crying out to God, asking for his help, wisdom, and provision. My (Vanessa) fuzzy white carpet in my prayer closet became my battleground for my family and marriage. This shift in perspective allowed us to continue our difficult journey without giving the devil a foothold (Eph. 4:27), and it even allowed Scott to go from speaking in depositions with Vanessa’s ex to later coaching with him on the baseball field. That is a reconciliation only the God of peace and unity could orchestrate, and we are grateful.
You may be angry at your ex and heartbroken over their actions. You may feel betrayed and defensive. That’s okay. We’ve been there, too. Those emotions are real and they are strong. But you must remember that your ex is not your enemy. That title is reserved for the devil alone.
Find the Right Lawyer for Your Family
When litigation is inevitable, so is hiring a lawyer, and that can feel like an overwhelming and impossible task, especially if you’ve never had to work with one before. Above all, you want to find someone who will help you arrive at the best possible solution for your family. We’ll share what we’ve learned from our own journey (and the school of hard knocks!) as well as the advice we received from longtime family practice lawyer, Leslie.
Here is the Step What to Do When Your Ex Demands Litigation
You can start by gathering some information on the front end, asking:
- How much do you charge for your services? We know the temptation to equate cost with competency—the more expensive the lawyer, the more likely you’ll win. Or so it seems. The truth is, price doesn’t guarantee great performance, but that mindset can be costly–in the most literal sense. We’ve talked with so many couples who paid big fees on the front end only to find out they couldn’t afford the legal costs required for an attorney to carry the case for months and months, and sometimes over a year. And they had to go with a less expensive lawyer in the middle of the case, which prolonged the process and added an unhelpful layer of complication.
- How well do you understand my case and the local courtroom? You can ask potential attorneys about their experience working on cases like yours as well as their track record of success. It’s also important to see how well they know the people inside your local courtroom: do they have rapport with the judge who will be overseeing your case? Do they understand the processes? Believe us, having a lawyer who understands the system and the people can give you an added measure of peace when your world feels like it is in a storm of uncertainty and anxiety.
Once you’ve got a shortlist of attorneys you can afford and who understand your case, schedule a time to meet face to face. Talking in person gives you an opportunity to see how well you connect with one another and to gauge how understanding they will be of your situation—particularly on difficult days when you need an extra measure of grace and patience.
You can also use this time to ask about their guiding principles for work. For us, it was crucial to work with a lawyer who was also a believer—someone we could trust to cover our case in prayer and to go to God for wisdom. We wanted someone who could integrate their faith into their work and the law itself.
The Best Advice We Got from Our Attorney
In parting, we want to share the best advice our lawyer gave us. He called it “The Highway Exit Strategy” and it works like this:
With litigation, it can feel as though you’re racing down the highway at breakneck speed as you work to hire a lawyer, gather documentation, and show up in court over and over again.
As the months drag on and you find yourself still on this never-ending highway, you’ll look for an exit ramp. Yet many of them will be blocked. The solution will not work for your family or is not agreeable to your spouse. And so, you keep driving, still at that breakneck speed.
As soon as you see an accessible off-ramp—as soon as you arrive at a solution that you can live with and that serves your child well—take it! You may not have a better option down the road.
This may sound like settling, but trust us, once we were in the thick of our custody battle, we longed for an exit. Was it a perfect solution? No. It was a solution we could live with, and it worked for our family. In this kind of situation, being willing to compromise on the negotiables allowed us to stand firm on the non-negotiables.
Because we knew who the real enemy was, and because we were equipped with the right lawyer for us, taking that exit provided the best possible outcome for our family. And we believe it will for yours, too.
Want more information on how to handle litigation?
Check out our recent podcast series, get a copy of our book on Amazon, and stay tuned for more litigation articles on the blog.
It’s all about What to Do When Your Ex Demands Litigation!
Scott and Vanessa Martindale
Founders of Blended Kingdom Families