Recommendations for Divorce Reform
Recommendations for Divorce Reform
Many people still think divorce must be handled through attorneys and litigation. A large number of experts disagree. Deborah Moskovitch recently summarized some of their recommendations in a Huffington Post article. Here, with Deborah’s permission, is a shortened, edited version of what she wrote. Sources and citations appear at the end of this post.
Recommendations for divorce reform:
• Separation counseling — to help the parties communicate more effectively, with dignity, honesty and respect.
• Financial advisor — one or both parties should conduct a cost/benefit analysis. For example, if going to court, a full financial picture should be laid out upfront. Many people have no idea how huge the sum of their legal fees is likely to be if they take an adversarial approach to divorce.
• Parenting expert or therapist — In addition to basic parenting education, teach parents what happens to the child in cases of not paying child support, estrangement, abandonment, parent alienation, etc.
• Sensitivity training for lawyers — help them better understand personality disorders and mental illnesses.
• Reinforce realistic expectations — Clients sometimes blame, seek revenge, and make unreasonable, nonnegotiable demands. Often emotions fuel and foul the divorce process. Lawyers should take greater responsibility for acting in the client’s best interest, which is not necessarily seeking what the client wants. For example, they should educate their clients about outcomes that are not attainable, such as getting assets that are not marital assets (e.g., inherited funds and gifts).
• Disclosure penalties — When a client won’t disclose relevant information, what action does his or her lawyer take to compel the client to do what is required? How does the court enforce rulings when one party does not provide information required by a court order?
• Penalties for the spouse who stonewalls the system in an effort to be vindictive. This unnecessarily prolongs the process and creates astronomical legal bills. Many times that individual will self represent, while their soon-to-be ex is represented by a lawyer. If prolonging the battle costs the vindictive spouse nothing and costs the other spouse and the children a lot, the stonewalling party should face consequences.
• Greater access to legal aid. Many people do not qualify for legal aid but cannot afford a lawyer. Greater government funding should be made available to increase access to cost effective independent legal advice for a minimum of two to three hours. Individuals would be better informed and so might end up costing the court system fewer dollars because the divorce process might be managed more effectively. Given a little legal advice, many more couples might decide to mediate, not litigate, as many of their issues as possible. This would lighten the burdens that financially- and time-stressed court systems must manage.
• Guidelines about which disputes are matters of law and which are not. Many issues are brought to court that simply do not belong there and probably cannot be resolved there. This results in unnecessary frustration and unwarranted legal bills. For example, if parents can’t agree on a simple matter such as tutoring for a child, then it’s the child who loses out. While there are parenting coordinators to assist with decision-making in high-conflict, irrational cases, some disputes should simply be thrown out of court.
Divorce is one of the most expensive and emotional decisions an individual will ever make. Following the recommendations above could reduce the emotional and financial damage families suffer during and after divorce.
Some of the sources of these recommendations:
You can read the complete Huffington Post article here: Solving the Problem of Divorce, Have Your Say!
This site is for informational purposes only. Nothing here should be construed as legal advice. Virginia L Colin, Ph.D. is a Professional Family Mediator certified by the Virginia Supreme Court. She is not an attorney or a therapist. For a free consultation about whether family mediation would be helpful for you, contact Dr. Colin at mediatorQ@gmail.com or 703-864-2101.