For those of you who know me, I was adopted. I was a foster child to the Hemminger family. To my luck, they decided to keep me. It was because of this fluid definition that my parents had about family, that opened up their hearts to raise more than one child from infancy to leaving home that were not their biological children. That fluid definition of family is something that my siblings and I carry forward in our own lives still.
Today, I want to talk about how we as a culture can do our part to put divorce lawyers out of work (or at least a substantial part of what divorce lawyers fight about).
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As a Divorce Lawyer
I’ve been working in this industry for over 20 years. When people divorce, they have a lot of things that they need to figure out. They have to figure out things like how to divide their assets, support issues, child support payables, spousal support payables, the list goes on.
*Side note: I actually really think it is a good idea to get a divorce lawyer to walk you through that kind of stuff. It’s actually a good use of their time, energy, efforts, and skills to ensure everyone walks away with what’s appropriate.
The thing is, a HUGE part of what divorce lawyers fight about is kids. In my law firm, one of our beliefs is that going court is really the last place you want to go to when it comes to children. What happens is parents literally hand over to a judge who has never met or spent time with them to make huge decisions about their kids. You’re probably thinking, “WHY would you do that?!” Well sometimes, at least in my practice, it is necessary because there are times when the parent just doesn’t have the capacity to execute the job of such parenting properly. Or sometimes, the parent might have personality disorder that really affects their ability to parent
the child well.
Now, when people separate, of course they are critical of their ex. If they weren’t critical of their ex, they’d probably still be together! However, most of the time, what most parents are able to do is realize that they know the other parent isn’t perfect, but they know they love their kid. They realize that they probably won’t get their child every Christmas, and they’ll have to share, but parents usually hold their noses and stumble through it. I can say in my law practice, of every one to three files we open a week in a family law matter, at least one of those files is involving children, and yet we only do a Supreme Court trial once or twice a year. This gives you an idea about how many parents settle.
That being said, what I’ve noticed is that we have a cultural problem about families or parents separating. What that problem has to do with is that people get married, we join two families together, everything is roses, and it all seems beautiful and wonderful. But then if the parties do end up separating, which happens a lot of the time, the two families (or at least one of the families) sees it like a piece of paper ripping in half – with each side of the family on a different side. What that does, is it creates an “other”. It creates tension, it creates “Now we’re at war with the other side”.
In the Hemminger family where I come from, people don’t do this. Unless safety is a concern, if someone is not safe for children, then that’s fine, that can’t happen. But for the most part, we know that if someone was in our family as a spouse, a long term partner, a parent of a child, and things just didn’t work out in that Mom and Dad relationship, that doesn’t mean we have to completely turn on the other person.
I was at a mediation recently, and what I couldn’t figure out was why one of these parents was SO upset about his ex’s family. What really landed for me during this mediation was that this guy, when he became engaged to the mother of his child, he was part of a family. Part of something bigger. Part of a global situation that he found great meaning in. Then what happened when the relationship broke down with who he thought would be his wife, her family completely shut the door on his face, didn’t touch base with him, didn’t see how he was doing, etc. Now, I’m sure they have their own narrative on why that happened, but the thing is, these parties have now gone on, and have both spent a bunch of money on legal fees, and then finally go on to a mediation where they spent more money but at least have an in term agreement.
So instead of ending the relationship with positive thoughts on how his child is part of this other family, and how he really connected with his brother-in-law, and how his son will be in really good hands when they’re having a family gathering. Or how his ex’s mom is awesome and he knows she loves her grandkids to pieces, and although it hurts the relationship is over, he knows they’re going to do a good job with his kid. All he could see was that they were split now, and they had their troops and he had his troops, and they were going to go to war with each other.
What I think, as a culture, if we saw separation between parties more like “this family just looks different now, it’s gone through a transition”. How we look at everyone within that family or how they’re going to move forward might not be the way we expected, but it’s still going to move forward and we’re going to do what we can to see the good parts in others. Again when we’re talking about a child’s safety is a issue, of course we’re talking about something else.
I know some people who have recently separated from a long term relationship, and something one of the grandparents did, was made sure call the parent (who wasn’t their child) and told them that they are still part of their family, they still love them, and although things didn’t work out with their adult child, they are still in their hearts.
What do you think that would do if everybody did that? If everybody was able to open their hearts regardless of how things turned out? As divorce lawyers, I think, the most frustrating part of our job, a big part of what’s frustrating, a big part of the expense, a big part of what make divorce law seem so tense or difficult would simply lessen a little bit. And that would result in people keeping more money in their jeans rather than paying for their divorce lawyer (just sayin)!
That’s my suggestion about how to do your part to put divorce lawyers out of business: Embrace the other side, extend the olive branch.
“If you are committed, so be it”
Never ever compare yourself to others. Just like being committed to someone. Never ever compare your family to others, every family has its own unique way of living. It maybe be simple or not, happy or not,
contented with one another or not. Family is very important, knowing the consequence is unpredictable yet you must face towards the aisle that no matter how you win or loose, family is there to provide the inner most of you. They will never leave you no matter what, as long as you have the courage and patience.
From my home to yours,