"I know that you have a hundred complex cases,
Against God in court,
But never mind wayfarer
Let's just get out of this mess
And pray to be loving and humble...."
- Hafiz, From Translations of Daniel Ladinsky
"The Gift: Out of this Mess" -
Mindful Divorce: A Middle Way
Our aim is simple: How best to get you out of this mess?
Whatever its usefulness in protecting business interests, the American
model for resolving legal disputes as applied to
relationship transitions tends to be inadequate. An adversarial system founded upon conflict ignores
the consequences of making a contest over every issue to individuals,
and to their families. It encourages decent people to become obsessed with winning at any cost,
which may wind up quite differently as a terrible loss.
The high conflict divorce is expensive and destructive beyond reason. It
invites the next generation to repeat the experience, and so the children
of divorce themselves may be forced to work through their parents'
rage over the course of their own lives.
The practice of family law is a noble calling. There are situations where
court intervention is the only solution to people's relationship conflicts.
But many may not be best served by beginning the dissolution process at
the courthouse. Divorce and family law contests tend to invite a form
of trance, and some lawyers subscribe to the viciousness it provokes,
or to encourage it through misconceived aggression, or just don't
know how to integrate another approach. It is not their fault: The warrior
role that we lawyers are trained to assume remains the consensus, and
we live in a world of five second sound bites and screaming talking heads.
At times people need this form of advocacy, and lawyers can contribute
greatly to their safety through vigorous devotion to their client's
perceived best interests.
Still, there are lawyers who realize that the old style of practice misses
the point and accomplishes avoidable misery. These attorneys have remembered
why we became family law professionals in the first place - something
in them resonated with the suffering of others. As lawyer and author Steven
Keeva observed, "[t]o the extent that you enter it as a calling,
the practice of law is about hunger - the hunger for resolution; for healing
the lives of individuals,... and communities; for enabling society to
function harmoniously and productively; and ultimately, for justice."
I aspire to be such a lawyer. It took years of battling like the rest to
comprehend a middle way, and to understand that it is possible to be both
a zealous advocate and an enthusiastic peacemaker without sacrificing
the needs and safety of those I serve. Even in the most enmeshed and highly
conflicted of family law disputes, sensitivity towards the trauma of divorce
can restore dignity to the process for both sides. Whether your matter
is resolved through settlement or following a trial, your experience may
be positively shaped by the attitude of your legal representative.
There is a satisfactory alternative to the high conflict divorce and all
its downstream consequences.
Let us help you get out of this mess, intact!
Learn More About My Divorce Practice
and Mediation Philosophy
Family law litigators operate within a radically confrontational setting.
Clients who seek us out find themselves deep within the throes of wrenching
emotional disequilibrium. The fact that people will deposit with us large
retainers in amounts they might never otherwise consider spending upon
themselves may be more a reflection of the participants' distress
than the fact of how 'good' a lawyer are - at least when we first
meet. Understanding the effects of client crisis, and the possibility
of addressing it constructively, offers a path to redemption for lawyers
and clients. This original article by T. W. Arnold is published by Martindale-Hubbell/LexusNexus.
The emotional benefits of mindfulness in divorce will not only save and
protect you, they will resonate far into the future and improve the lives
of everyone with whom you come in contact with, including not just children
(the best reason), but everyone else whom you meet. This original article
by T. W. Arnold is published by Cutting Edge Law.
Financial benefits may be the most immediate but also the least obvious
result of a mindfulness practice! The cost of reactive divorce - that
is, any divorce where people are responding with their emotional brains
rather than consciously choosing how to feel and behave - is mind boggling.
This original article is published by Cutting Edge Law.
People enmeshed in divorce tend to think that they should hire the most
aggressive divorce attorney they can afford. Some lawyers market themselves
to respond to such values and this impulse. They advertise their practices
as "aggressive advocates" or "aggressive divorce lawyers"
"or "aggressive family law advocates." They often describe
themselves as offering "compassionate representation" or "charitable
divorce help." Which is it? Having it both ways is unlikely. This
original article by T. W. Arnold is published by Cutting Edge Law.com.
"Mindfulness" in divorce requires nothing because it exists outside
the realm of achievement. It is based within the present moment, and the
present moment exists without concern for past or future. The present
moment doesn't care about striving to change anything. It is not in
argument with "what is." Yes, we are forced to come to peace
with the past, and with the this new future. As time-frames, these concepts
remain highly relevant. We will not disappear in a cloud of bliss.
Before you step into a lawyer's office, you should know something about
them. Today this is easy. Go to the California State Bar website. Search
the attorney's name. You will learn where they attended undergraduate
school and law school, when they were admitted to the Bar, if they are
family law specialists, whether they belong to any Bar Sections and stay
current with the law, and how long they've been practicing family law.
If you are considering or facing a divorce, I invite you to think outside
the box. You have the ability to define your experiences upon separating
your affairs from those of another whom once you loved. Seek out lawyers
who aspire to be peacemakers rather than warriors. Destruction is easy:
Set a brave new course instead. This creative article is published by
Cutting Edge Law.
Family scientists have gathered considerable information that suggests
that peacemaking solutions to divorce and breakup might offer a brave
new option for people transitioning out of relationship. Peacemaking offers
a "controlled" alternative to the chaos of adversarial struggle.
While peacemaking lawyers are not therapists, the process that peacemaking
facilitates is itself entirely therapeutic because it allows both parties
to concentrate on their felt interests and the interests of their families.
It a "controlled process," managed by the parties themselves
and orchestrated by a peacemaker. This article by Thurman W. Arnold was
recently published by Mediate.com, the largest mediation oriented source
of information in the country.
Being a mediator is a metaphor that speaks to our desire to live whole,
meaningful, and generous lives. We are blessed with an invitation to redeem
our personal stories in the course of helping others, and thus to live
more wakefully in the present. The disputants who share their conflicts
with us offer a path to such open-heartedness. Those we hope to lead themselves
remind we facilitators that each one of us lives fully only in relationship
with others. That is their great gift to us in return for our efforts,
and one reason why we are drawn to this practice.
The power of forgiveness is of immense importance to working with the feelings
and difficulties we experience in relationship transitions, but it is
frequently ignore. In many cases true wrongs were committed and real injuries
were suffered. Forgiveness doesn't deny that, it just offers perspective
and freedom from the cycle of rage and reactivity.
It is amazing, is it not, how tightly we hold to our stories of being wronged
- how over time we identify with these stories (relatively true as they
may be) of suffering at the hands of others, or perhaps more realistically
our own. True forgiveness might be a journey that only the bravest among
us dare to undertake.
Together with Bev Jewell, a mental health professional with whom I have
co-mediated cases at my mediation center in Palm Springs, we are driving
south after completing a five-day retreat workshop at the Zen Center at
Green Gulch, located in Marin, put on by The Center for Understanding
in Conflict and taught by Gary J. Friedman and Catherine Conner.
How we feel in relationship transition has a lot to do with the fear, fight
or flight that the amygdala predisposes us for: We are hardwired to survive
and the limbic system is here to aid us! Unfortunately when the amygdala
is engaged our pre-frontal cortex tends to shut down (for one thing the
brain consumes huge amounts of energy from our bodies, energy that needs
to be conserved if our limbic system is stressed) - and instead of behaving
"rationally" we tend to act "instinctively." Those
conditioned responses (like fear or anger) that might help us to flee
or otherwise survive a threat in nature may not be an adaptive response
within our social and familial interrelationships, where a different response
might be far more appropriate in serving a more enlightened and energetically
positive form of surviving.
Family victimization is a national crisis for women and children. These
victims may be immobilized and rendered helpless, with an attendant loss
of self-respect, but often they suffer much more serious consequences.
Family victims are characteristically “trapped, cornered, or overpowered,
physically or psychologically, and they cannot function”
*Certified Family Law Specialist -
Board of Legal Specialization, State Bar of California