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SECOND OPINIONS With THURMAN W. ARNOLD - Honest Feedback on Family Law Matters


Quality Divorce and Family Law Legal Advice and Second Opinions

and Some Philosophical Spice!

Because this Blog has brought me into contact with so many wonderful people, a segment of whom are facing daunting struggles in their personal lives who would otherwise never wish to share the company of attorneys (not because family law attorneys are necessarily bad companions, but because divorce lawyers like myself are rarely called in except when situations reach critical mass), I hope to share from time to time about issues that extend beyond my role as a family law specialist and speak to the dangers that flow from the disintegration of our core identity and value systems - the family unit.

Whether mine is an exercise in self-aggrandisement or a cutting edge dialogue about the elephants in the rooms we all inhabit remains to be seen. However, as a person on the front lines where people battle against one another about basic concerns over economic and emotional security, I worry that the collapse of the most basic unit of human interaction - families in whatever configuration - potentially guarantees the collapse of the social structures upon which we all depend. We may deny that Americans are vulnerable to the same erosions that beset Pakistan, Syria, Africa and so many parts of the world. But once traditional expectations for the quality and entitlements of peoples' everyday lives seemingly becomes impossible to fulfill (for instance because fundamental needs for food, shelter, or intimacy cannot be met) a radicalization will occur that devalues and undermines all social glue in a self-perpetuating cycle of violence.

If at the end of relationship, as I observe not infrequently, people seek out lawyers to act as destroyers and imagine courtrooms as the place to accomplish revenge, they are already living within a self-imposed world of divorce jihad. Indeed, I have written much about how "people blow themselves up in divorce all the time." Considered from that perspective, the self-centeredness that devalues the lives of others and goes to war with each and every other person's right to seek happiness becomes the soil in which we figuratively begin to plant roadside bombs within our own communities.

The good news for those who find such thoughts depressing is that with a click of the finger you can vote to relocate your attention elsewhere in an instant! : ) For those for whom the tone of this website resonates, I'd like to deepen our relationship.

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I remember with great fondness and gratitude many of the lessons of Richard "Dick" Flacks, a sociology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara (now retired), who made his mark on me back in the 1970's when we lived in a seemingly kinder and gentler world that was nonetheless beset by challenging and scary transitions.

Everything that we worried about and foresaw at that relatively innocent time of our cultural and even global development has unfolded in ways consistent with our darkest fears. And yet, the seeds of all of the glimmerings of hope and social responsibility remain with us and have sprouted in equal measure. This tension between polar extremes seems to be the battle that we are waging today, whether as individuals and nuclear and non-nuclear family units or 'tribes' of people. These are difficult and frightening times. People at the end of relationship and families in transition are the microcosm that collectively mirrors our experience as individuals in a larger way. Society's successes and failures tend to match our individual interpersonal successes and failures - and this interdependency ought be noticed, honored, and managed carefully - for the future of us all. If we cannot regulate our choices and behaviors in positive ways when we come together in twos and threes why should we expect different results en masse?

One of the most enduring principles that Richard Flacks taught was the idea of "making personal history", a concept that was not based upon a vision of egoistical success of becoming an 'historical figure' as the words seem to suggest, but which referred instead to the idea that each one of us can make our own small contribution to improving the circumstances of others (and therefore ourselves), one person at a time, by incorporating morality and ethics into the decisions and choices our daily lives. The fact that Dick was one of the founding members of the 1960's movement known as the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) made him something of a radical, authoritative, and inspiring figure (I remember meeting with him once after class about a paper I was writing, and having him point to an indentation in his skull received by a gun butt when the FBI raided the SDS offices - or at least, that is my memory of what I was told).

Relationship transitions and the struggles of families managed by adult human beings struggling with conditioned minds that easily slip into trance (fear, resentment, the imperative to control) is where the rubber hits the road in terms of our impacts upon others and our own happiness. And in terms of charting our way through the trainwreck of our times. How we manage divorce and family law trauma can enslave or redeem us.

My desire is for all of us to speak the truths more often than not. For those people in the midst of a divorce or custody crisis, and for purposes of this Blog article, who have found themselves questioning the legal advice and performance of the family law or civil attorneys upon whom they are forced by circumstance to rely upon, or for those others who cannot afford counsel and just don't know what to do, my wish is that something in these pages gives you some insight or inspiration to do things better than might otherwise be the case.

But my greatest desire is that the lessons of Richard Flacks live on through your decisions and choices - for you and your family, that you decide to make "personal history" in ways distinct and more evolved than what you did before, or what your parents did. Divorce trance is generational: It passes from parent to child until someone questions and betrays the cycle of unthinking insanity. True, you must not sacrifice your safety. But safety is not always that image that our fears first cause our minds to define.

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One of the aspects of the practice that I greatly enjoy is weighing in on how you might better navigate whatever path lies before you and helping to evaluate the professionals that you must employ. I do it for a fee, but if I hit the lottery I promise to devote myself to public service (sound familiar? I've never won more than $2!). In the meantime I am available for Skype and phone and office consults for those who otherwise don't wish to or cannot retain my services directly.

I do my best to answer emails for those simply seeking free advice, but please don't be offended if I do not respond to you directly. Hopefully the articles and blogs contained herein serve you and make some small difference!
Thurman Arnold, C.F.L.S.