- A respectful divorce can lay the foundation for a thriving family post-divorce.
- The choice of a "peacemaking divorce" can empower families to work together amicably toward a solution that is best for everyone.
- Families should choose their attorney carefully, asking about their goals for the family and deciding if the process will resemble war or peace.
If you are considering divorce, you have probably been advised by well-meaning friends to hire a tough, aggressive “shark” as your advocate.
Perhaps you’ve heard the horror stories of vicious courtroom battles, where there is a Winner and a Loser. The stereotypical lawyer is often described as a “shark,” but most divorcing couples don't need to go that route, and it is often disastrous when they do. There are many lawyers with great advocacy skills, who also have very big hearts. These lawyers are the "Peacemakers." and Stephanie Dobson exemplifies that kind of lawyer. This is her story. I hope that you will find a peacemaker lawyer if you are considering divorce.
When Stephanie Dobson moved from her hometown in British Columbia, Canada to the neighboring province of Alberta 16 years ago, she was fresh out of law school. She quickly found that there was a huge need for lawyers focusing on family law and divorce work. She quickly found meaning and purpose in her work—peacemaking.
Stephanie tells me, “I realized that there are processes that help families maintain dignity and respect during and after their divorce. My calling was to work with families who wanted to preserve respect towards their former spouse as they untied their marital ‘“knot.’” Stephanie, like many attorneys, is not out to “win at all costs” for her clients. She wants the whole family to win.
More than 500,000 divorces a year in the US involve children under 18. So, it is crucial to understand the effect of conflict and toxic stress on children’s brain development. High conflict divorces cause stress and pain for children and overcoming parental conflict is the key. A peacemaker works to help families move past the conflict so that the entire family can recover and move on. Many attorneys proudly identify themselves as peacemakers.
A respectful divorce can lay the foundation for a thriving family
The good news is that parents almost always agree about one thing: They want healthy, resilient, thriving children. They need to learn to reduce their conflict and become the best co-parents they can be.
Stephanie wanted to reach beyond her small town in Canada. So, in 2020 Stephanie created an online course to teach parents the skills they need to be successful co-parents. Her ambitious mission: to reach beyond her law practice to help families thrive in two homes everywhere.
During a divorce, people need to absorb as much good information as they can at a time when emotions are intense and it’s hard to retain a lot of new information. There is a wealth of information about divorce on the internet, some of which may not apply in your jurisdiction or to your situation. Some blogs or websites may alarm you, offer misinformation, make unrealistic promises, or add fuel to the fire of conflict in your relationship. Some may also be fishing for your business. At a time when you are most vulnerable, and in need of reliable information and support, it can be hard to know whom (or what) to trust.
Choosing the right divorce process is the first and most important decision
Perhaps the most important task for divorcing partners is to choose the negotiation process that they would like to use. It’s important for families to know all of their options so that they can make an informed choice of which one suits their family best. “Most families don’t realize all the options they have for “how” to divorce; they think that court is their only option,” Stephanie says. Their choice can empower families to work together amicably toward a solution that is best for the entire family.
A global community of divorcing families sharing the goal of a thriving family post-divorce
Stephanie’s goal is to create a global community of separating and divorcing families who have one common thread that joins them together—the desire to have a healthy, thriving family in two homes. As you search the internet for answers, solutions, comfort, or support, seek out resources that promote ways to divorce with respect. Look for resources that provide support for your healing and transitioning from one home to two. And avoid inflammatory sites that will increase your anxiety.
As you look at websites for mediators and attorneys, look to see whether they offer resources that will support a peaceful dispute resolution process and promote recovery for yourself and your family. Stephanie has interviewed divorce professionals from around the world on topics of interest to divorcing families the world over. These interviews vary in length from 15 to 50 minutes. Topics include when counseling is critical, how to use a realtor most effectively, how to deal with second marriages, how to draft parenting plans, what to look for in choosing a divorce lawyer, how to plan for and control costs of a divorce process, how to have difficult conversations, how parents can work effectively with their children’s school to help them thrive, how to heal post-divorce, and more.
Another search for support may take you to lists of positive and constructive books relating to separation and divorce, for parents and for children. Read reviews of the books to see if they will be a good fit for you or your children. You can also find books and videos that cover the basics of what families should consider as they are contemplating or embarking on their separation or divorce.
Websites for divorce professionals often include helpful resources for those contemplating divorce. “I hope that divorce professionals will use a learning portal as a resource for their clients to deepen their understanding of how to create a healthy thriving family in two homes,” Stephanie says.
Many divorce professionals want to help families thrive after divorce. Find a peacemaker, not a shark.
There are many lawyers who share peacemaker values. It is important to interview lawyers before you retain one and ask them about their goals for divorcing families. The key peacemaker value underlies the mediation and Collaborative Divorce processes, so learn about the advantages to these processes. Find a peacemaking lawyer or divorce coach with a big heart. You and your family will benefit now and in the long term.
If you have a question or would like to comment you can go to my Facebook page to join the conversation.
© Ann Gold Buscho, Ph.D. 2021