The fundamental interconnectedness of all things is a concept that was put forth by science fiction writer and philosopher Douglas Adams in his now six part trilogy that started with the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” As a lawyer I see frequently how one seemingly little thing goes wrong in a relationship, and before you know it, the whole relationship is on the trash heap of history.
Little things matter. For example, if you leave from the Santa Monica Pier by sailboat and you’re headed to Hawaii, if your map is off by only 1 degree, you’ll miss Hawaii by about 60 miles. That initial error, which seems so tiny at the beginning of a voyage, casts a huge shadow over the rest of the trip. If it’s an around the globe trip that you are starting, by the time you are trying to navigate back into the Santa Monica Bay, you’d be off by about 600 miles. Which puts you either in Oregon or Mexico.
I use that example with people often when I want to communicate how important setting a foundation for a course of action is. It’s important when we start relationships, or are trying to resolve them, that we have a clear and accurate idea of what we are attempting to accomplish.
Lately I’ve been doing more mediation. It’s a sign of the times we are in. People want to save money every place they can. I think one of the greatest benefits of this forced practicality is that people have become more reasonable and don’t want to engage in protracted fighting for no purpose.
As an observer of societal trends, what I am noticing in my divorce and family law practice is that more and more people are coming to me seeking a mediated divorce.
I’m being hired for my knowledge of how the court is most likely to rule, and my ability to work with people in fashioning a solution that is tailored to their individual needs. Ten years ago the first divorce I did out of law school was a couple that was married just over eight years. The two had no children, one house, and a couple of retirement plans. For a little bit more than most retainers, I was able to complete their entire divorce.
The reason why mediation is so successful, is that both parties are able to settle on a common goal. It may be the first time in years that they’ve been able to do this, but it is the key to a good mediation experience. They want the emotional and financial benefits of achieving resolution without the blood and gore of two lawyers battling it out over the last dime.
My mother used to always say there was no hell like a bad marriage, and she should know. My parents had no business being married after year one. The emotional toll an unhealthy marriage takes on people is devastating. It goes back to that interconnectedness concept.
Every area of your life is affected by every other area. Which is why going through a divorce seems so hellish to those people who fight over everything. It taints all aspects of your life. But for the couples who choose to mediate, they are already on the path to healing the emotional pain.
The costs savings are also immense. In these tight financial times, who wants to spend the $40,000 a simple family breakup costs some people? For a little bit more than one lawyer’s retainer, mediated divorces are generally complete. That means that there is more money available for the parties to establish their new lives, get the therapy they both probably need, and rebuild the homes they want.
By avoiding a scorched earth policy, the parties are also able to rebuild the relationship, which is so crucial if there are children involved. When the parents are able to demonstrate to their children that they can put aside their hurt, and work for what is best for the children, they are setting the stage for a better future. Children learn more by the actions parents take, than by the words they speak.
It’s basic, the parent’s relationship will affect the children, and they will repeat what they learn, and they learn by seeing. Mediated divorces are an excellent teaching experience for parents and children because those children are likely to be faced with similar situations in their life, and will remember how their parents handled the breakup.
Douglas Adams was correct, it’s all fundamentally interconnected.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.