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Archive for March, 2011

When I first graduated from law school I worked as a bailiff for a Superior Court Judge.   She was very much against my decision to practice divorce law (what we call “family law” in Washington State), and did her best to dissuade me.  While I was working in her courtroom, I saw several divorce trials and grew to understand her aversion to this area of practice.  The issues were messy; the parties were bent on taking as much time as allowed to say the worst about each other; and there were no good answers for solving anyone’s problems.  For instance, how can a judge who has never met the children decide an appropriate parenting schedule for them?  Her task as judge was impossible. 

The judge did not succeed in her campaign to change my mind, however, and I landed a position in a law firm practicing family law after I left Superior Court.  My first family law mentor had a poster in his office that was a black and white photograph of a large building with the words “Divorce with Dignity” carved above the doorway.  Certainly, what I had seen as a bailiff in court had not been “divorce with dignity”, and I have spent the last fifteen years of my career trying to figure out what that means.

I have come to the conclusion that “Divorce with Dignity” is when both people in a divorce can stop their headlong pursuit of blaming the other person for everything.   There is enough blame to go around in any divorce for both people to be found guilty of undermining the relationship.  But a divorce is not about what happened in the past.  It is about the future and how both spouses will be able to move forward with their lives after the divorce is finished.

This shift in thinking is really hard for people going through a divorce.  It means both spouses have to take responsibility for the end of the marriage.  It means each of them has to care about what happens to the other person.  It means they have to let go of all of that anger and frustration and pain that has built up over time.  And, at the same time, they have to decide together how to create a life without the other person in it:   how to split the resources that used to be “ours”; how to parent children when they don’t live in the same household; and how each party will support himself without the other’s income. 

Sometimes people just cannot make this shift.  That is when you end up with those ugly divorces that most people want to avoid.  But when you can shift from “past” to “future” thinking, you can find a way to divorce with dignity.  And even when only one party succeeds in shedding the past, divorce with dignity is possible.

This blog is about the shift – about letting go of the past and looking into the future during a divorce.  It is hard work, but it is worth it.

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Most people don’t wish to turn broken marriages into contentious courtroom battles. They don’t think it is worth spending a lifetime of savings on a long, needlessly protracted divorce. They want to know how they can end the marriage while maintaining a relationship so they can raise children together.

Many people are asking, “can we divorce in a manner that does not destroy us both?” 

The answer is yes. A sustainable divorce is possible. The sustainable divorce option you choose will depend upon how much help you need to reach acceptable agreements about ending your relationship.

The fact that divorces are handled through the courts does not mean divorces have to go to trial or even be contentious for the parties to reach resolution of their issues.

Collaborative divorce, mediation, the use of an attorney consultant and even the option of doing your own divorce are the topics of discussion in my blog. Please join the conversation!

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