"Divorce Corp": Dr. Drew's Take of Divorce Trance
I've reviewed You-Tube snippets of Dr. Drew's new documentary entitled "Divorce Corp", but not the movie itself which is scheduled to be released next
week. I know a number of the speakers who were interviewed in the film.
Some of them, like Woody Mosten, sincerely practice what Dr. Drew's
work intends to preach. Others of them, some of whom I've encountered,
not so much. However, that is not an attack. Many divorce attorneys had
earlier incarnations as vicious litigators, but we are reinventing ourselves
with the maturing wisdom that years of experience fortunately tends to
Divorce trance sucks in the family law practitioners and legal consumers alike.
As a family law specialist, collaborative attorney, and mediator for over
30 years my observation is that there has to be a sea-change in the way
the parties themselves view conflict and the emotional triggers that cause
"divorce trance". Absolutely too many attorneys fail to recognize
their potentially powerful roles as peacemaking guides, possibly because
they are financially incentivized to do so but also because they pander
to their client's reactivity. In California particularly, family law
has become so impossibly complex that outcomes for property division -
for example - can be difficult to evaluate and non divorce law specialists
lack the insights for understanding the likely outcomes as to any particular
fact/legal issue. Lack of predictability, whether in terms of legal complexity
and ambiguity, judges who hail from other legal backgrounds (like public
defenders and criminal prosecutors) who are usually the first choice for
new judicial appointments and then are tossed into generally unpopular
family law assignments, and the emotional nature of unwinding relationship
all combine to make the experience ruinous on every level.
This movie will serve as important wake up call for legal consumers because,
ultimately, the system is responding to felt needs and until consumers
demand a change the experience of divorce will be the same old same old,
but just more confusing, complex, and expensive. There is no question
that mediation and collaborative processes are superior in every respect
- but such mechanisms for resolving conflict require two willing participants.
Too often, people - the legal consumers - won't buy into the gentler
softer way. Here is a blog I wrote for J. Kim Wright's Cutting Edge
Law.com website some years ago, that I think aptly describes our aspirations,
dilemmas, and challenges in overcoming a system of dispute resolution
(by court) that is quite certainly broken entitled
"Beware of Lawyers Who Advertise "Aggressive Divorce': Clients
Can Bring About a Paradigm Shift!" Kim is a noteworthy peacemaker who Dr. Drew missed!
Possibly, this movie will scare the bejeezus out of you - the family law
consumer! Yet, just last week I met with two seemingly willing parties
and helped them architect a perfect settlement, only to have the husband
back out over the weekend because some fool told him he was giving up
too much. As a result, I referred the parties out to the lawyers they
seemed to want in order to play attack dog. So sad. People, you must wake up!
In the meantime, many - and I mean many - divorce and family law attorneys
are seeking a kinder, gentler way that is transformational. It remains
a work in progess, like so much else, eh?
The real transformation for family law away from destructive adversarial
litigation at its core will only occur when the parties themselves want
a different sort of experience and outcome than what they've been
conditioned to expect and demand. Fortunately, it is true that attorneys,
and particularly those who've trained in mediation and collaborative
practices, are increasingly engaging a more empathetic approach that will
within a generation (or sooner) help to facilitate the much needed transition
from the prior norms that Dr. Drew's work so rightfully indicts.
Thurman W. Arnold III, CFLS