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Emotional Justice

Definition: The elusive sense of fairness and validation clients rarely achieve in litigated divorces.

What is justice? Well, there is legal justice—which may be defined as the decisions made by courts of law. There is social justice—equality of treatment of others regardless of race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. There is blind justice—meaning the application of legal principles and rules without bias. And there is cold justice—legal punishment imposed on a perpetrator without mitigation or sympathy for the human condition.

In divorce cases, clients commonly crave emotional justice. The circumstances and events that lead up to divorce are dominated by emotional injuries. Clients tend to enter the divorce process expecting that the system of family law justice will re-balance their emotional scales.

A campaign for emotional justice can be blind, cold, antisocial, and self-defeating. The emotional and developmental lives of children often become collateral damage. Friendships and family relationships are sacrificed. Victories are pyrrhic. In the quest for emotional justice, clients often pursue fights that cannot be won; cling to positions that cannot be sustained; and, unwittingly, exacerbate their emotional injuries.

Yet achieving a sense of emotional justice is necessary for clients to move on to healthier lives.

Who can deliver emotional justice? Not one’s attorney, not one’s judge, not the court system. The process of family mediation can provide a birthing room for emotional justice. But it is not the mediator who delivers it. Emotional justice can be served up only by the clients themselves. It comes from within.

How is this possible? One’s attainment of emotional justice is best achieved by the heroic act of letting go of painful, negative emotions; by giving up the quest for externally delivered justice; by cycling through the negative stages of grief (anger, denial, bargaining, depression), and by submitting to acceptance, finding meaning, and creating personal growth from a most unjust experience.

The process of divorce is the process of detaching. The legal system can sever legal bindings and deliver disconnection in financial matters. But only the client can disconnect emotionally. This is not cold, antisocial, or self-destructive. Emotional justice is simply a contract with oneself to stop being hurt, manipulated and controlled by the emotional or psychological issues of a once-significant other.

What’s the Takeaway? Emotional Justice is achievable in every divorce case. It’s always within reach. It may be the only kind of pure justice one can truly get.
Describe an experience with emotional justice below in the comments section. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for upcoming blog articles, please feel free to contact me at dkellem@kellemlawgroup.com.