When have you ever heard someone say his/her divorce wasn’t that bad? Or that they got a pretty fair deal? We all hear about the crazy divorces, that take up years of people’s lives and tons and tons of dollars but we rarely hear about the divorces that mediators see all the time. The ones in which couples get beyond their anger, hurt, and grief. The ones in which couples put their children first. I’m not sure why we don’t hear much about those. Maybe it’s one of those things in which good news isn’t news but bad news is. Or maybe it’s that it’s macho to fight to the last dime for one dime’s advantage over your “opponent” who incidentally happens to be the mother or father of your children. Maybe it’s considered weakness in our society if we compromise and we certainly don’t want to be perceived as weak. Just think of the language we use to describe the process of resolving disputes. There’s litigation, which is when lawyers duke it out, and then there’s alternative dispute resolution, which is when couples use mediation or collaborative law to resolve a divorce. So if mediation is an alternative, that sounds like the standard method is litigation. Don’t most of us want to use the standard way of doing anything? The alternative is good for the early adopters, the granola crowd, but not for us. For the sake of families, maybe it’s time for us to change the language of divorce.-mgm 12/10/07.
Divorce urban myths are plentiful and never seem to die. Maybe it’s that people feel so vulnerable emotionally and financially. Some shred of seeming truth to cling to makes us feel better because we feel we have some sense of control and predictability. How else to explain the stubborn resistance of these myths to death by fact? It’s almost as if divorce creates its own antibiotic resistant culture(legal MRSA). Why else would people in 2007 be insisting that mothers “always” get custody of the children? Just because studies have shown that depending on the state or county 35%-90% of couples have joint legal custody (parents share all important decision-making) and 10%-60% of couples have joint physical custody as well, doesn’t seem to kill this urban myth. Same with the myth that says “if property is in my name, I own it and get to keep it.” An interesting myth and reassuring, if you’re the person who has the property in his or her name. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it’s just a myth. Property regardless of whose name is attached to it, is usually considered marital property or community property unless there are a bunch of conditions met like it was acquired by the “name” before the marriage, maintained as separate property, not used to benefit the other person during the marriage, etc. And then there’s the most frequently spouted myth: “if I move out of the house, that’s abandonment, and she/he staying in the house gets to keep the house.” That myth keeps couples together in a household in which the tension is enough to drive everyone crazy. Perish the thought that a couple could sit down with a mediator and discuss that tension, and that living separately is essential to reduce tension, how the second place will be paid for, and that it will change nothing in the ultimate division of assets and debts.- mgm 12/10/07.
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