OVER THE BACK FENCE

NEWS EDITOR

In this extraordinary time of social distancing – of relatively short duration, we hope – it may seem out of place to discuss the place many people exchange information about their lives.

Neighbors have chatted over the back fence for decades about everything from life and death, taxes and politics, religion and families, and of course, divorce. (Social media may have replaced some of that interaction, but not all.)

As people engage over the back fence, if not literally then figuratively, the talk may lead to what this or that person “got” in their divorce or why or what happened with a divorcing cousin in another town. Of course, human nature is to compare and contrast the result.

The unfortunate thing is that the comparisons lead to a judgement about whether the outcome was “fair.”

Even in cases in which the divorcing parties want to work things in a reasonable way there is often pressure to place blame and seek a solution that may satisfy an emotion but not be constructive for the future.

In an article in the Family Law Quarterly from several years ago, this comment appeared:

“..…[collaborative divorce]…is a huge departure from the adversarial culture….and is thus too uncomfortable of a thought to attorneys trained in a “rights-based orientation” warlike philosophy of litigation”

From the very first trainings about Collaborative Divorce, there has been a part of that training focused on the “paradigm shift” attorneys (and other collaborative professionals) have to experience to become effective practitioners. Imagine training your mind to think in a way very differently than that for which you studied and worked for three years, or more.

There are many reasons for the need to embrace this shift, including be able to think outside the box for answers that are unique and fit the circumstances of the couple and not a generic “fits all” solution.

Guidelines and formulas seem to exist for many things in life, including components of a divorce.

Guidelines may easily become standard for “what is fair” when in reality, they may be very unfair for some couples and some situations. Thinking outside the guideline is what makes collaborative unique.

The Family Law Quarterly article mentioned earlier also contained this statement:

“….attorneys are not the only ones who think this way; concerned family, friends, and co-workers may try to sway a divorcing spouse to hire a warrior of an attorney, fearing that their loved one will get taken advantage of in the collaborative process.”

What the traditional divorce process offers a couple is representation with a warrior mindset, using guidelines and standards driven by commonality or “averages”, adjudicated in a process that is confusing to most, with an outcome that is identified by “winners” and “losers.”

Add to that mix the support and ideas offered over the back fence through comparisons to other situations that are in no way comparable, and we have a system that should not dictate the future of any family.

As one attorney said in a video featured elsewhere on this site “I can’t imagine why anyone would want to go to court…” [as a way to divorce].

Another good approach would be to ignore the advice offered over the back fence. Every situation is unique and so seek a unique solution. Collaborative offers that possibility.