Divorce Mediation Blog

Divorcing Parties Playing Against Type - Don’t Do It

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Recently, we spent a Sunday evening at a new Easthampton, MA business: a “free movie” venue called “Popcorn Noir”. This creative venture offers gourmet popcorn, snacks, dinner, hot cider; and intimate seating for 20 or so lucky viewers. Members pay a modest annual fee to have access to this storefront treasure with vintage films.

We watched the Billy Wilder-directed Fred McMurray and Barbara Stanwyck classic “Double Indemnity”, from 1944. A film student introduced the show with the comment that one thing that made this noir piece so effective was that every actor played “against type”. For those of us who grew up with McMurray on “My Three Sons” (most of us) knew exactly what she meant. She also described the coming feature as a tale of three people enmeshed in a spiral of events of mutual destruction, leaving them all dead.

This all got me thinking (after the show) about divorce mediation! Divorce lawyers like to tell prospective clients that criminal lawyers see bad people on their best behavior while family law clients are “good people at their worst”. This cliché is largely geared towards providing cover to the upset spouse for out-of-control feelings and decisions, but there is also truth to this stereotype. Many people react to the crucible of stress, worry and fear of impending divorce in ways that lead them to make quick decisions that yield far-reaching and long-term effects on families, sometimes quite negative. As friends and family urge the spouses to “protect” themselves (and their children) from each other, they are often inclined to accept the most aggressive lawyers and advice, and the most assertive processes that they can find..

Sometimes this advice is absolutely on the mark, and there is no good choice but to lawyer up and get to court. But, too often, this just sets a tone of heightened confrontation, crushing costs and lost years of litigation, when calm reflection and facilitated discussion might serve the family more effectively, leaving people in a place where their ability to cooperate is less damaged and sometimes even enhanced. There is a reason that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court requires lawyers to discuss alternative dispute resolution options with clients before filing suit,. But we suspect that this rule is honored far more in the breach that in its careful and enthusiastic observance, as many lawyers perceive litigation as the “only way” to go.

Good people in crisis should not play against type. Beginning divorce with an arms race when unnecessary consigns the family to a spiral of controversy and financial calamity, when reflection and facilitated negotiation are likely to be less expensive, less antagonistic and more constructive than the alternative. Divorce does not have to be all noir. It can be seen as a transition: to be managed and experienced as an honest, direct and personalized process in which people “play” themselves, and not the mythical “worst behavior” caricature.

Mediation is not for everyone. But, almost everyone should at least consider it – seriously.

Get e-mail notifications of new blog posts! Enter email address below.:

Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles

recent posts


divorce agreement resolve disputes family and probate law disputes divorce mediations DOMA annulment Massachusetts lawyers lawyers divorce and family law mediators conciliation LDRC Levine Dispute Resolution Center Alimony Reform Act family mediation divorce process COLA Chouteau Levine Massachusetts divorce lawyers lawyer-attended mediation disputes arbitrators high-risk methodology dispute resolution Divorce Agreements alimony Boston how baseball arbitration works divorce arbitrators lawyer separation mediation IRC §2704 family support divorce and family law alimony statute Child Support Guidelines med-arb Defense of Marriage Act Massachusetts alimony and child support divorce arbitrator traditional negotiations alimony orders arbitration family law Baseball Obamacare SJC Same Sex Marriage arbitrator Matrimonial Arbitration special master mediators Baseball Players General term alimony The Seven Sins of Alimony alimony law Massachusetts divorce mediators mediator Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly divorce mediator Baseball Arbitration med/arb litigation MLB labor agreement Levine Dispute Resolution Act Reforming Alimony in the Commonwealth divorce judgment divorce lawyers Massachusetts divorce mediators rehabilitative alimony Major League Baseball Arbitration medical benefits Massachusetts alimony Levine Dispute Resolutions Uniform Arbitration Act private dispute resolution family law arbitrators family law arbitrator Cohabitation Levine Dispute Resolution Center LLC pre-ARA alimony alimony reform legislation health insurance health coverage facilitated negotiations divorce litigation mediations Family Law Arbitration divorce arbitration family law mediation self-adjusting alimony divorced divorce mediation support orders Divorce Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act child support fraud Self-adjusting alimony orders