In the July 2011 Divorce Magazine, there was an article entitled “Highland Park’s Finest Garage Sale.” The article read “Our next door neighbor recently held a garage sale. At the edge of the driveway, she’d placed a cushion-less leather couch. ‘Where are the cushions?’ I asked when I walked over.
“The answer came not from the owner herself, but from a second neighbor after an awkward silence. ‘Her ex-husband took them,’ the second neighbor whispered. The owner moved behind a ladder, which wasn’t for sale. ‘So what’s a buyer supposed to do?’ I asked. ‘Track him down and make a separate deal on the cushions?’ The second neighbor nodded, ‘I guess, if they want the cushions.'”
The article goes on to say in the last paragraph, “Garage Sales are our most intimate market places. Sellers show us their cushion-less lives, the people they used to be.”
For those of us that work in various roles in Family Law, litigation becomes the garage sale that reveals our client’s most intimate details.
Let’s take a drive to the local courthouse and see what’s for sale during the litigated divorces.
The first items seen are all the household furnishings: couches, beds, tables, dishes, desks, books, TVs, exercise equipment…the material “stuff” that made home look like home. There is literally a garage sale price value placed on household belongings unless an item has substantial monetary value. Imagine having a household full of furniture that you and your spouse or significant other have worked hard to obtain, and being told by the person in the black robe that it is all to be valued at garage sale prices.
Moving forward from the curb and going into the courthouse, just past the metal detectors, there are boxes of Broken Hearts, Dreams Lost, Misunderstandings, Regrets, Grief, Lost Trust, Worries About What Everyone Will Say/Think, Alcohol, Drugs, Mental Breakdowns, Lies, Affairs and Failures. People are pilfering through them looking for things they can use when they get to the courtroom.
Once in the courtroom, I see two large boxes off to the side, near the jury boxes, with
“Destroyed Finances” in one box and the “Children” in the other box. I see attorneys arguing over the prices with each other and with the judge. The judge, however, is the one that determines the final cost of divorce at the courthouse because no one else could come to an agreement on the price.
I remember that I noticed signs along the way into the courthouse, in the elevator and in the court room reading “Everything for Sale” “Buy One Get One for Free” and “Make an Offer.” Many will make it through this garage sale; however, the things that are always left over are the things that others don’t want, and you can’t get rid of: anger, bitterness and resentment.
Family Law litigation is the garage sale that reveals our client’s most intimate details, BUT it isn’t the only way to end a marriage/relationship. Instead of going to the courthouse to get divorced, there are many peaceful divorce options aside from the garage sale of litigation. Alternative Dispute Resolution options do exist.
Alternatives to resolving disputes at the courthouse include Mediation, Arbitration, Parent Facilitation/Coordination, Cooperative Law and Collaborative Law. All of these other options provide more friendly divorce opportunities than litigation does, and actually increase the value of you and your family. These Alternative Dispute Resolutions offer healing, support, privacy, closure, peace and a spirit of collaboration. Cooperative or Collaborative Law can provide a private and respectful way of ending the most intimate part of the life that you have lived. It allows a form of closure that has the potential to reduce, heal or get rid of the anger, resentment and bitterness that keeps us from moving forward.
When your marriage/relationship falls apart, what will you do with it? How will you give closure to the most intimate life that you have lived? Garage Sale it, or end it with the respect and compassion of a peaceful divorce?