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we can work it out…

Try to see it my way, Do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on?

While you see it your way, run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone.

We can work it out, We can work it out…

Life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend…

Try to see it my way, only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong. While you see it your way there’s a chance that we might fall apart before too long.

We can work it out, We can work it out…

-Lennon/McCartney

Today, as I was in court, I was struck by a custody case that was on before my client’s.   Among the issues to be decided was whether the mother’s visitation that weekend should be preempted by the father’s family reunion on Cape Cod.  The mother had an equally (to her) important obligation – a gathering of her family members in Maine to commemorate the 5-year anniversary of her mother’s death.  The judge was, essentially, asked to decide whose family reunion event was more important for that weekend, and therefore where the child would go.   To make a decision about the issue, the judge was forced to ask such questions as, “how often do you have these events each year?” and “how often does the child see these particular relatives?”  These seemed to be such delicate issues for determination by an unknowing third party. I was once again saddened by the litigants’ perceived need to transfer the power of decision about their personal lives to the hands of a man in a black robe who does not know them.  Regardless of the empathy of the judge (and this was a keenly empathic judge), there is no way for any judge to truly understand the circumstances of people involved in these intimate disputes.

I often find myself saddened or frustrated when I am in court, listening to the never-ending series of he-said, she-said conflicts that come before the Probate and Family Court judges.  People in the midst of these conflicts who choose to use a court-involved process often reveal incredibly intimate details of their lives to the public through these open hearings, and turn over an extraordinary amount of power to a judge who does not know them.  People voluntarily take away their own power of self-determination when they give control to the judge to make these decisions, and in doing so generally come away feeling unhappy. I often compare the cases I hear in court to playground disputes; if my children come up to me on the playground (or at home), arguing in the same manner with each other as I see many litigants doing, I generally say to them, “unless someone is hurt, go work it out together.”    Generally, find that when I intervene directly with my children (except in emergencies) no one is happy, and the disagreements persist.   But if I encourage them to resolve it themselves, they do – almost every time.  Granted, I have worked to give my children many tools to resolve their disputes, and continue to do so.  I reframe, reflect, empathize – and try to model by “mediating” my own disputes with them as best possible.   I know this modeling works.  I was struck by this one afternoon, when “discussing” (arguing) with my then-5-year-old-daughter whether we should go visit my wife at her work first or go do an errand first.  I said, “you know, I’d really like to go to the store first, because then we can get that out of the way, make sure that’s done, and then go enjoy our time with Mommy.”  My daughter countered, “Mama, I can appreciate that the store is important to you and you want to get this out of the way.  But I’ve been looking forward to visiting with Mommy for a long time, we haven’t done it in a while, and it’s going to be hard for  me to wait – so can we please do this first?” How could I say no to that kind of negotiation?  We can work it out.

1 Comment
  1. Suing your spouse to end your marriage has always struck me as absurd. Serving Documents, Applications, Answers, Requests to Admit and Affidavits. Give me a break! The participants were married to each other for crying out loud. Even if there are now irreconcilable differences, it doesn’t mean that they cannot engage in a civilized discourse and provide for the orderly division of property and agree upon necessary and adequate child or spousal support within the framework of the law.

    Any honest trial lawyer will tell you that litigation is crippling in the stress it creates. Mediation, as compared to litigation, is a walk in the park. Smart Divorce Solutions mediators insist upon respectful, non-threatening communication and the process is tolerant, enlightened, and downright refined as contrasted with traditional lawsuits.

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Whole Family Law and Mediation | 769 Plain Street * Unit M * Marshfield, MA * 02050 | T (781) 780-2500 | F (781) 780-2501 | amy@wholefamilylaw.com