"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 finally develop. 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.