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A Safe Place

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals has created a twenty-minute film titled “A Safe Place” which follows the true life story of a couple as they make their way through a Collaborative divorce. At one point, the couple reads out loud a portion of the mission statement they have written for their divorce.

“We want our children to grow up feeling loved and nurtured by both of us and without a sense that their parents are angry with one another or conducting a quiet war behind the scenes. We want to continue to work as a team in raising our boys, to share in the major decisions, to support one another and to share in the traditions and celebrations we have established.  We want as little change for our boys as possible.”

Later, when the couple gets stuck trying to divide a particularly coveted asset, their collaborative team goes back to their mission statement, revisiting the couple’s longterm goals, to help them come up with a creative solution both parties feel good about.

The film beautifully illustrates how the Collaborative process works and why it benefits the couples who use it. Click here to watch A Safe Place.

The Marriage Eulogy

By Ty Supancic, Esquire
Associate Attorney at The Law Collaborative, LLP

There is an old saying, “History is written by the winners.”  In litigation, there are winners and losers.  We believe that when parties in crisis choose mediation over litigation, everyone has the potential to come out a winner.  If the winners write history, why can’t the winners in a dissolution write their own history?

Fifty years after a divorce, the children and grandchildren of the original divorcing couple will tell and believe a story about why their parents and grandparents divorced, what kind of people they were, and what aftermath or legacy they left behind.  A couple going through a dissolution has the opportunity to write what they would like that story to be.  By writing that story, and by keeping that story in mind, they can guide their actions and decisions in such a way that the story can become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.  Without having the story as a guideline, the parties are building without a plan, traveling without a map. They’ll build something and end up somewhere, but not with anything or anywhere they would have hoped.

The exercise of having individuals who are going through a dissolution of marriage write a “Joint Divorce Story” is not a new idea.  Ron has been recommending it to his clients for years.  Unfortunately, few ever take the time to engage in this useful exercise.  Oftentimes they confuse the Joint Divorce Story with a mission statement or their short-term goals.  The exercise might be more easily understood if it is renamed “The Marriage Eulogy”.

One of our paralegals, Maria, told me that when she was in high school, the nuns had them write their own eulogy as part of a “Death and Dying” class exercise.  The idea was that by writing about all the great things they wanted to be remembered for when they died, one might be guided in making decisions during their lives.  The Marriage Eulogy has the same goal.

At common law, upon marriage a couple ceased to exist as individuals and became one entity.  This concept lives on today as new couples dream about what their married lives will be like.  Couples build powerful dreams that take on lives of their own.  While divorce never ends a relationship, it does end marriage, and with the end of the marriage, that powerful dream of marriage dies.  Couples going through divorce really are witnessing the death of an entity. Psychology informs us that children witnessing the divorce of their parents can be as devastated as a parent losing a child.

Often when we lose somebody important to us, we feel compelled to write a eulogy in honor and memory of that person.  A eulogy is not something scrawled in haste.  It is not something we compose in our heads while driving.  A good eulogy is something we take great pains in writing.  It is something we craft and hone and polish so that the result is powerful and evocative.  We are trying to sum up the essence of an entire being in a few succinct words.  The Marriage Eulogy should be written in such a manner.

When couples are not ready to write a joint eulogy, I have proposed that they write individual eulogies to exchange and reflect on individually.  Knowing how your ex-spouse wants your marriage to be remembered by their grandchildren can be a powerful thing.

One might tread more softly and be more thoughtful if mindful of what history could say about them and their life.  “I can’t think about my ex in that way yet!  It’s too soon.”  Okay, but you could write a fairy tale about how a divorce would be remembered.  That is a powerful starting place.  If we all were to conduct ourselves in accordance with the values and motives of a fairytale hero or heroine, we would all find ourselves kinder, gentler, nobler, and wiser as a result.

Making Divorce Work

In Diana Mercer’s new book, Making Divorce Work: Eight essential keys for resolving conflict and rebuilding your life, the author discusses the benefits of designing a “divorce mission statement”.  She points out that a divorce mission statement is a compass one can use to guide oneself away from conflict and toward peace.  She reminds us that there is a huge distinction between what’s important and what’s urgent.  We are often drawn to the next most urgent thing, when in reality it’s the most important thing that we should be focusing on.  A divorce mission statement allows you to focus on designing the behavior that will help you to achieve consequences congruent with your long term objectives.

Ms. Mercer also points out different ideas that might be considered useful, such as: I was kind and honest throughout the entire process.  My children had two supportive parents committed to co-parenting and we did not have to go to court to resolve our differences.

She adds a checklist for statements that are realized such as: I will ask advice from people who are positive influences.  I will put my child’s interests above my own.  I will take care of myself physically and emotionally.  I will forgive myself and my spouse for the divorce.

I thought this was a great read and I recommend it highly.  For more information you can click here to visit Diana Mercer’s personal blog, or click here to visit her mediation blog.

The Law Collaborative,
Bringing peace to the legal process