Every attorney learns lessons from the divorce cases with which they are involved. Some attorneys learn lessons that have unintentional, destructive consequences for the family of the client whom they serve. Other attorneys learn lessons that contribute to a peaceful resolution of disputes.
Lessons Learned in Divorce Cases
After 25 years of practice, Washington collaborative divorce attorney Nancy Retsinas shares lessons that she has learned along the way:
- Many roads lead to resolution — collaboration, mediation, even plain-old cooperation. The courtroom should be the road of last resort.
- Listen to gain understanding. Only by actively listening — without preconceptions or judgments — am I able to truly understand my client’s needs.
- Don’t ask for — but also don’t be afraid of — conflict. Everything is figure-out-able.
- Build rapport. Understanding all perspectives in a dispute results in better, more durable agreements — and almost always keeps people out of court.
- It is not only possible, [but] it is imperative to treat all people respectfully — especially those you disagree with.
- “The Law” rarely solves “The Problem.”
- Plan for peacemaking and be prepared for a few the bumps in the road before getting there.
- Be future-focused. Encourage clients to look forward and not dwell on past hurts or resentments. It’s the only way to true resolution.
- Clients seek clear legal guidance focused on their underlying interests. Legal advice given in a vacuum is rarely helpful.
- Honesty above all else.
Lessons for You
The main lessons for spouses to take away from Nancy’s list is that court is rarely the answer for divorcing families. Rather, respect and cooperation provide spouses the best opportunity to (i) move on with their lives as quickly as possible, (ii) protect their children along the way, and (iii) spend the least amount of money in the divorce process.
Adam B. Cordover focuses exclusively on out-of-court dispute resolution with a focus on collaborative divorce, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services. Adam is a co-author of an upcoming American Bar Association book on collaborative law.