Here’s the scenario…
Your divorce has been in the works for months. As the day of your court appearance nears, you experience intense and mixed emotions that might include relief, vengeance, regret, guilt, fear, elation, or a thousand others that are normal as you approach a big life change. In response you turn to friends across the country for comfort. You search social media for connections to replace your loss. Some nights when worries crowd out dreams, you reach for a mindless game to give your brain a break. Add to that a near constant exchange of emails with your lawyer or opposing party. Meanwhile, you utilize your smartphone to search for a new condo or preschool. You have a therapist on speedial. You scan your bank account to check for unusual charges. Perhaps you met someone special during your separation who gives you inspiration that life will rebuild and return to a new normal. That person’s sweet nothings and kissy face emojis may fill your text inbox with hope that brightens your days.
In short, your world has revolved around electronic connections afforded by a pocket-sized miracle of modern technology.
And then the day of your actual court appearance arrives. It’s perhaps a day when all the emotions and worries reach a crescendo. As you anticipate with excitement or dread, you are informed that the one tool that has made communication and stress-relief possible all these complicated months is prohibited. It can be a blow.
Most people dismiss Smartphone Addiction as something that happens to others. We read about phantom ringtone and obsessive smart-watch checking and laugh. What a silly thing to be addicted to. “Lucky me, I can quit using my smartphone anytime,” we say blithely. Until we are forced to.
One look at top smartphone accessories shows endless varieties of backup batteries, car chargers and solar panels. We are so afraid of losing our electronic connections we are actually buying tools to charge our iPhones while camping in the wilderness. It would be ridiculous if we were just talking about cat videos. But how do most teenagers learn how to change a flat tire? YouTube. How do we find our way to a new office for that life-changing job interview? GPS. We can order groceries to be delivered to our home. We can change the thermostat from 40,000 feet. We gain peace of mind when we track our kids as they walk home from the bus stop by themselves for the first time. The ultimate life-and-death smartphone tool? 911.
All of that just goes to show how indispensible smartphones have become – perhaps doubly so during a legal battle. We can electronically file our divorce papers, access quitclaim deeds, and transfer interrogatories. We store our home appraisals, kids’ report cards, and medical records on the cloud. And we catalog our partner’s indiscretions and poor decisions on the hard drive. With all of our life documents online, it’s no wonder we can become acutely technology-dependent during a legal case.
Which brings us back to the court date scenario. How can we be expected to go smartphone-less when the very legal process has been driving us toward electronic reliance?
Just knowing ahead of time is important. “Spending time at a courthouse is not something that the average person does very often. It can come as a shock for some to arrive and realize they can’t bring their phone in,” said experienced family lawyer Kathryn Wayne-Spindler. “I’ve seen people kind of flip out in the security lines.”
Here are three suggestions:
It may sound extreme. But give yourself a trial run. (Hahaha.) In the preceding weeks, intentionally leave your phone in the car for a few hours to see what complications you encounter. You’ll discover ahead of time which smartphone conveniences you miss most. Once you determine your smartphone crutch, set about finding alternatives and training yourself to use them. Don’t make your court date the first time you go without.
Proponents of going off the grid have suggested that smartphones have meant the death of forethought. That we have become more impulsive as a species because of our ready access to time-saving and life-saving technology. In the “good old days” we would get a AAA triptik weeks before a big road trip and study it together as a family. Now days, we rely on Siri to tell us where to go. And that’s a wonderful time-saver until the cell connection fails and we have to read a map for the first time while navigating the M-5 detour.
In the case of a court appearance, preparation includes everything from making copies of necessary documents to arranging with a neighbor to walk the puppy. Think ahead. Anticipate the ways you may depend on your phone and think of alternatives. Jumpy when you’re nervous? Candy Crush may usually settle you down but on court day bring a Fidget Cube instead. Expecting an important work email? Give your assistant step-by-step instructions for responding in your absence.
“It helps to run through your typical day. Picture all the ways you use your phone and find a non-electronic way to accomplish them,” said Wayne-Spindler.
Let others know that you’ll be out of contact. We are so programmed to respond immediately to texts and emails that our relations and colleagues may be confused, or even worried, if we don’t answer instantaneously. It can be comforting to give the important people in your life an alternate contact for the day. Rely on others to help solve any problems that arise. “Asking others for help can actually be beneficial all around,” said Wayne-Spindler.
Family members who are concerned about your emotional welfare have likely been peppering your inbox with “what can I do to help” emails. Giving loved ones a small assignment on court day can actually make them feel like they are supporting you even if they can’t be in the courtroom by your side. For instance, arranging with grandparents to pickup your children from daycare can be good for everyone. The kids get ice cream. The grandparents feel purposeful. And you get peace of mind that even if the trial runs longer than you expected, your family is safe and cared for.
Don’t discount the severity of smartphone withdrawal. It’s no small thing. With advance prep and training though you can handle it. (Now going without Diet Coke for a whole morning is an entirely different matter. We’re at a loss.)
Want to know if it’s ok to wear a hat to court or bring your laptop? Check out our other blogs on kssattorney.com or contact the law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000. The experienced divorce and family law attorneys at Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates help clients throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Livingston and Genesee counties. We handle cases in Milford, Michigan; Hartland; Highland; Wixom; White Lake; Walled Lake; Waterford; Commerce; Howell; South Lyon; New Hudson; Linden; Holly; Grand Blanc; Clarkston and many more local communities.
Written (on a laptop) and posted (via social media) by Christine Donlon Long, Communications’ Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates