I believe that:
People want to do the right thing;
They want their kids to be OK; and
They want a fair settlement.
Depending on why the divorce is happening and how recent the decision is, they may not realize this. It is the job of the professionals – and sometimes that just means lawyers – to help them understand this sooner rather than later.
Why? So they can save money, feel better and become better people. Do the right thing, protect their kids and be fair.
My parents started their divorced when I was 24. As I was getting married. My mother was 43, my father, 52. She was only 18 and pregnant when they got married. By the mid-seventies she decided she wanted out. I didn’t believe she ever loved my father. She surely didn’t treat him or speak to him as if she did. I think the wanted to experience the freedom promised by the seventies and Women’s Lib.
For a three-month period, when we moved from Boston back to New York, my husband and I lived with my father. Every night at the dinner table he would ask, “Why did your mother leave me?” And every night I would try to explain that she was young and wanted to experience the freedom and fun she never had. After this scene repeated itself a number of times my husband began kicking me under the table. It was clear to him that my father would never get it. He never did.
In fact, neither one of my parents ever accepted any responsibility for the demise of their marriage. They didn’t learn from their mistakes and go on to lead better lives, though they both remarried. At one point after my mother and her husband had moved to Florida, and my sister, Jaye, was living there, my father and his wife went to Florida for a visit. Jaye called me up with this observation, “Dad and Marie are exactly like Mom and John. They talk about the same things, they speak to each other in the same way and they are equally miserable. If you close your eyes and listen to them you can’t tell one couple from the other.” Up until the day he died my father continued to insist, when talking about his marriage to my mother, “I did nothing wrong”.
Whether I am mediating with a couple or representing a spouse in a collaborative case or litigation, I see people let down their defenses every day. I see people open up and become vulnerable. I see people speak from the heart. And apologize. And cry. And care about each other. And take responsibility, become accountable, learn from their mistakes and go on to be better people and have better lives. And that is very rewarding for me. Rewarding to know that people can do it and not be stuck like my parents. It heals the pain of my parents’ misery. And it’s very rewarding to know that I can help people even though I couldn’t help my parents.