Divorce Corp Family Law Reform Conference

You might recall how excited I was back in January when the movie Divorce Corp came to a theater near me (I wrote about it here).  This past weekend I was even more delighted to attend the Divorce Corp Family Law Reform Conference in Alexandria, VA.

Divorce Corp ConferenceThe event was attended by a wide variety of people:  lawyers, therapists, coaches, consultants, moms, dads, friends…  each one with a personal story and a deep desire to see some serious changes in the family court system.  The speakers were passionate, knowledgeable professionals with captivating stories, facts and missions to share.  I laughed.  I cried.  I stood to applaud.

It was wonderful.  But… it also made me realize how much farther we have to go as a culture.  Because while “reform” is a great start, it isn’t enough.

The moment of clarity came Saturday afternoon as I was seated in a small room full of people examining the topic, “Litigation vs. Mediation.”  Personal introductions of participants caused me to shake my head in disbelief and breathe several sighs of sadness.  It was apparent, without question, that our current system of family court litigation is tragically broken and causing far more harm than good.  Everyone agreed  mediation is a helpful and hopeful alternative.  Yet, mediation has been around for decades, and it hasn’t caught on.  Why not?  What needs to be done?

We talked about the lack of public awareness about mediation.  We talked about the lack of standards and certification for mediators.  Lists were made to say we need:

Mediation Degree Programs
Mediation exposure at the elementary level
Mandatory mediation
Flat rates to avoid price gouging

The list went on.  The suggestions were good, really.  However, my mind started to drift as the words of a popular song by The Who came to mind…

“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution.  Smile and grin at the change all around…”  … “There’s nothing in the streets looks any different to me.  And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye.  And the parting on the left are now parting on the right…” … “Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.”

I felt sad, to say the least.  No doubt, a mandatory mediation process would be a monumental improvement over the current litigation structure.  But… that’s not the kind of Ideal Divorce Norm that I dream of.  In truth, I don’t think we need a system through which families transition.  What we need, I think, is pretty simple:  We need community.

When the word “divorce” can be spoken without shame, blame and fear, we’ll know that our communities have risen to the occasion.  When separating couples are supported by society at large, they’ll feel empowered to handle family changes as a devoted team.  There will be no need to fearfully place their fates in the hands of a bunch of “experts.”  (Seriously, who are the real experts when it comes to your family?  You!)

Of course, that kind of change doesn’t happen overnight.  Battleships don’t turn on a dime.  I realize progress should be slow and mindful.  As long as a system is being utilized, let’s at least make it a better one that doesn’t rape, rob, imprison and alienate.  We might have to try out and tear down several new models before we realize that our families are our own business.

In the meantime, I hope we can bring more awareness to the public.  People need to know about the human (non-litigious) resources which exist to educate and assist families as they move to a bi-nuclear model.  I long for the day when the phrase, “I’m getting divorced” is met with something other than a recommendation for legal representation.

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