Divorce Mediation Blog

Top 25 Ways in Which Our Current National Government is Like Divorce Litigation

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

  1. Both can last up to four years, eight with appeals.
  2. Both can feel a lot longer – and the effects will outlast it.
  3. Facts are often “alternative facts”.
  4. Objective truth is aspirational.
  5. Memory is selective.
  6. Transparency is an illusion.
  7. Ad hominem is de riguer.
  8. Spokesmen never get the message quite right.
  9. “Zealous” is conflated with “blind”.
  10. Sound and fury signifies nothing…but doesn’t stop anyway.
  11. Ethics are situational.
  12. “Approval” is conflated with effectiveness.
  13. Volume exceeds quality.
  14. Yes-men (and women) abound.
  15. People want more service for less cost.
  16. Positions over-ride interests.
  17. The person who has the last word thinks s/he will win the argument.
  18. The person who speaks the loudest thinks s/he will win the argument.
  19. A good judge is one who agrees with the client.
  20. A good decision is one that agrees with the lawyer.
  21. Cost-benefit analysis is rare.
  22. Efficiency is a second – or third thought.
  23. Hypocrisy abounds.
  24. Victimhood abides.
  25. The best interests of the children/population often get lost.


It's not a world war, after all

Thursday, September 17, 2015

One of us has been listening to a multipart podcast about the First World War. The podcast may be as long as the war itself, but it makes a workout seem quick, by comparison!

In describing the siege that took hold in the fall and winter of 1914-1915, the narrator describes the phenomenon of European powers having invested so much in blood and treasure that no one was willing to consider any form of withdrawal from the winter stalemate, let alone a nuanced solution to the conflict.

This description resonated with many seemingly endless experiences of clients who enter into divorce litigation with black-and-white views, and goals to match. Sometimes, like quicksand, the deeper the descent, the stronger the pull. The more invested, the less the inclination to compromise. As time and costs increase, perspective, empathy and the ability to listen to, let alone hear or consider the “opponent’s” point of view, diminishes proportionately.

Until, that is, someone is broke or broken, or the clock runs out.

The comparison between divorce litigation and the conflict that introduced a level of lethality previously unknown to human warfare is fraught, to be sure. Divorce litigation almost never kills anyone. Too often, it does, however, diminish people, their coffers, their ability to co-parent and their dignity. Strategy and tactics replace perspective and understanding.

In our practice, we mostly see people avoid the carnage, and we work with many who are in the midst of it and are looking for a way out, sometimes desperately. We preach, at all times, the need for clients to be wary of conflict, and to review every stage of their divorce matter from the perspective of cost-effectiveness, both financial and relational.

Most listen; some cannot. For the unfortunate few with whom we work who cannot, many are condemned to ignore Santayana and reenact their own personal version of the European siege one hundred years ago. The hope that these numbers will become fewer and fewer motivates us to do keep at it, every day.


Do Mediators and Court Reformers Enable Divorce? Jennifer Graham Might Think So

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In her June 16, 2014 Boston Globe column "The divorce is worse than the marriage", Jennifer Graham praised a movement to curtail access to divorce in America, lamenting that “conservative” efforts to make divorce more difficult to obtain carry the political/cultural tag of being "fringe". She contends that the near universal right of divorce without cause has become politically correct and, thus, immune from clear-eyed political re-examination. Coupled with the damage that divorce inflicts on family life, social stability and children's well-being, she crudely terms divorce in the 21st century a "...sacred cow with poisonous teats...” To stem the tide, Ms. Graham suggests that perhaps pre-divorcing couples ought be required to endure a day in family court before filing is permitted. Her thesis suggests that watching the humiliation of others will slap couples back to sensibility, domestic tranquility, or at least resignation. Sort of a domestic Reefer Madness.

Tasteless analogy aside, Ms. Graham ‘s piece raises an ironic question: do people who dedicate their professional lives to making divorce less humiliating and costly, more humane and child-sensitive, cause more harm than good, by making the divorce experience less poisonous for families?

They come in many professions and roles. They are judges, probation officers and lawyers; psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers; teachers and researchers; accountants and financial consultants. They experiment, innovate, mediate and collaborate. They work to make courts less intimidating and more efficient; to assist unrepresented litigants; to create early intervention programs to spot and address child trauma; to educate parents and allied professionals; and to create, refine and staff out-of-court dispute resolutions processes that stress self-determination, self-respect and privacy, outward respect and action on mutual interests and solutions. They pursue different theories and practices. They succeed and fail. They are united in common cause: to reduce trauma, to lessen cost and to enhance children's outcomes.

As divorce mediators, do we work at cross-purposes to Ms. Graham’s defenders of marriage? If fear of humiliation is an effective way to deter divorce, do well-meaning efforts to make divorce less traumatic undermine the family? History brings us the state of marriage. As divorce mediators, we cannot stop it; but we can make it less traumatic. If that enables divorce, sobeit.

Incidentally, we agree with Ms. Graham that good can come from a real day in court, but for different reasons. Real life court watching can provide perspective to those considering marriage, and those considering divorce litigation alike. To the former, the seriousness of the decision to marry may be reinforced; and viewing the agony of others may drive would be litigants to out-of-court processes that are less costly and destructive. It can encourage a wavering litigation client to settle, to avoid the spectacle and uncertainty of trial and pursue out-of-court options.


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