Photo: Essaouira, Morocco May 2017
As a family law mediator and attorney, I usually describe my practice as "peaceful law." This is often met with a somewhat incredulous smirk, followed by curiosity as to just what is "peaceful law" in a divorce and further, does it really happen??? The short answer is that "yes," it can be done. The longer reply is that it does take concentrated effort.
What is "peaceful law"? In my law practice (as well as in my life outside of family law and mediation), my intention is to do no harm (or to put into crude parlance: to try not to be an as___le). Obviously there are challenges to this noble intention, especially in a hot divorce situation.
How to practice peaceful family law when the other party's attorney is not (and is threatening to take my client to court, threatening to remove children and assets, etc.)? Very challenging. And still, I believe that in most circumstances, it is possible to practice peaceful family law. For example, various peacekeeping techniques include: not threatening to file an RFO (Request for Order) every time the parties/attorneys are in disagreement; not hitting reply on that nasty email you've just written -- even when it's in reply to a nasty one received; taking a break when tensions flare -- this can be done whether in person by stepping out of the room or on the telephone by "taking a moment" or suggesting the call be continued to the next day.
In family law mediation, sometimes it's necessary to allow the "un-peaceful" stuff to be aired and as a mediator, I try to pay close attention to what is being expressed and work toward getting the parties to hear each other. Most often during mediation when the parties listen and acknowledge the feelings the other person has been having, they can then work together to move forward in a peaceful manner. (It might sound too good to be true, but it really does work!)
Keeping the peace also includes not fanning the fires of hurt and anger in my clients by telling them they can "get" their ex by going to court. Instead by acknowledging my client's very real feelings, we can work together to respond from a reasonable and objective place. Again, I'll restate the obvious: these things are not always easy in family law when emotions are raw and there are so many serious life issues on the line. However, the benefits to practicing peace as part of any family law proceeding are huge -- financial and emotional. Sure it takes some work, but so does practicing war and in the end, I think given a choice, most people would choose peace....
- There's even a WikiHow page on this topic: http://www.wikihow.com/Divorce-As-Peacefully-As-Possible
- What parties can do to get peaceful: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-lifshitz/how-to-have-a-peaceful-di_b_7216226.html