(note: this blog is NOT legal advice)
A sure way to make a separation painful and bitter is to have a court battle. True, there are some hard cases that need to be decided by a judge. But many don’t, especially in today’s environment where there are numerous options for out of court dispute resolution processes, including collaborative practice and mediation. These options have become more and more popular, for a variety of reasons. These include the preference to minimize conflict for the sake of the children, not to mention the sanity of the parents! Add to this the unfortunate reality that the family court system is overloaded, leading to delays, frustration, and overwhelming cost. This can lead to courtroom “victories” feeling rather Pyrrhic. Even when you win you lose.
It is frequently preferable to sidestep the courtroom and opt for the out of court processes. For example, in the collaborative process, the parties sign a deal up front agreeing to be respectful, provide disclosure, and work on settlement options. Ultimately, if litigation becomes the only way out, then new lawyers must be hired.
It’s generally quicker, cheaper, and far easier on children. Plus, by avoiding court, collaborative law tends to preserve and build on the parties’ goodwill, rather than stoking the flames of rage and recrimination. The goal is an amicable separation, and it is possible — just look at the phenomenon of the “divorce selfie.”
Friendly, even triumphant divorce selfies have become increasingly common, according to a recent story in the Washington Post. Instead of wallowing in anger and hate, these people are “optimistic about the future, and celebratory about the past.”
Obviously, the more amicable the separation, the better for the children. And the children seem to have been the paramount concern for the Neumans, pictured above. Their selfie caption says it all: “We have respectfully, thoughtfully and honourably ended our marriage in a way that will allow us to go forward as parenting partners for our children. They’ll never have to wonder which side of the auditorium to run to after their Christmas concert or Spring play because we’ll be sitting together. They won’t have to struggle with their own wedding planning because we’ll be sitting on the same side of the aisle — THEIR side.”
Now, that’s a win all round.
Bill Rogers is a Toronto-based lawyer, journalist, and family law mediator.