Let’s Be Civil: Talking and Listening Across the Political Divide

Let’s Be Civil Talking and Listening Across the Political Divide The Detroit Jewish News

How to Achieve Civility in Divorce

How to Achieve Civility in Divorce

How to Achieve Civility in Divorce

Recently, I coordinated a program for collaborative practitioners with the Great Lakes Civility Project. It was a 90-minute virtual Civility Session, where we explored what civility is, why we need it in these trying times for our country, and how each of us can begin to build civility into our existing relationships. (Watch the session here.)Civility Project Logo

I had participated in Civility Sessions before, which is why I felt it was important to bring it to my colleagues in the Collaborative Practice sphere. By definition, collaborative practitioners seek ways to compromise, to find common ground, to create solutions that serve all involved. And yet, even we at times have trouble always being civil.

Frankly, don’t all people?

In the situation of a divorce, emotions run high and vulnerabilities do, too. My clients and their soon-to-be ex-spouses both have things to lose and things to gain as the marriage ends, and sometimes winning feels like redemption if we are sad and feel rejected by the breakup. But winning is not always the best outcome.

What Stephen Henderson and Nolan Finley of the Civility Project teach is that all good people want the same outcomes – they just differ in how they will get there. I believe that’s true in divorce, too. Even when we are hurt by a marriage ending, possibly initiated by the other person, we want happiness, prosperity, security and to know that we are worthy of love. In the temporary fog of divorce, we can forget that the relationship might be over but both people’s lives (and the lives of their children) are ongoing and meaningful.

When people divorce, they can’t possibly agree on everything. Frankly, during the marriage, it’s unlikely that they agreed on everything! We all have different perspectives on everything from money to parenting, and I tell my clients that they didn’t agree while married, after the divorce, they’ll agree even less and have less control over the decisions their spouse is making.

The principles of civil discourse, as presented by Nolan and Stephen, are as follows:

  • A conversation is not a competition. Nor is it intended to convert the other person to your way of thinking.
  • Set honest goals for a conversation.
  • Learn to listen fully – which means not jumping in with a retort when the other person stops speaking. It means, asking follow-up questions and regurgitating what they said after they said it, so you know you’ve truly heard it.
  • See the person behind their politics. In a divorce setting, I’d say, see the person behind the breakup. See them as human if you can. It’s the only way to have fair and easy interactions.

Taking it one step further from just a civil conversation, in a co-parenting situation, you have to be more accepting of your ex-spouse’s different beliefs or values. All people come to their beliefs on the basis of experiences and values and all people make decisions that they think are going to serve them, their family, their community. So when your ex makes a decision for the kids that you wouldn’t, it doesn’t mean they’re evil or out to get you. It means they parent differently from you.

Whether in the professional sphere, or in our relationships, we could all stand to become more civil. If civility were the goal, how different would our lives be?

Is It Possible to Love Your Ex?

Is It Possible to Love Your Ex?

Is It Possible to Love Your Ex?

Ever since I started Transitions Legal in 2013, I have focused February on learning to love your ex.

Some people find that idea odd, or distasteful, but it’s not what you think. Love is not preference or attraction, even. In this context, it’s about understanding and relatability. Seeing the human-ness in your former spouse.

loving your exBecause that is the only way to make your peace with your past and continue to co-parent successfully.

And if you don’t have children together, then “loving your ex” still has meaning. There is no need to communicate necessarily but your memories and experiences will take on more peaceful feeling if, in those moments when you think back, you are able to “love your ex.”

But the first step in loving your ex is being happy with yourself. Yep, you read that right: you must get happy on your own before you can look fondly on anyone else!

It is so important after a relationship ends to spend time coming to terms with your choices and your situation. Get to know yourself again, in this new stage and place. Find new activities and pursuits. Get creative! Make new friends. Join a gym. Participate in a hiking group or find a yoga studio where you can get your meditation on.

This is a focus you may have to take on at different times in your life; it doesn’t happen all at once, or necessarily immediately after the divorce.

This takes time. You won’t fall in love with your new life or your new self overnight! Be patient – it is a getting-to-know-you process, like any worthwhile relationship.

During this time, reflect on your recently-ended relationship in every aspect – what do you appreciate about it? What bothered you? What would you say you contributed to it, positively and negatively? And ask the same question about your spouse.

The things that annoyed you about your ex will never go away – but hopefully through this process of reflection and self-strengthening, you can come to a place of acceptance for what is, rather than resentment for what wasn’t. And when you get there, that’s when you can “love” your ex – rather, see the humanness in them, and have compassion for the good times you shared.

That is the best way to move forward with kindness and understanding. And if you are parenting children from your relationship, you’ll want a healthy dose of both to take you into the future!

How to Choose a Divorce Attorney

How to Choose a Divorce Attorney

How to Choose a Divorce Attorney

You’ve decided it’s time to end your marriage – how do you find the right person to support you through this process?

Finding a divorce lawyer can be a winding and complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of attorneys practicing family law in the state of Michigan, and one place to start is to visit the Michigan State Bar website to find a list of divorce attorneys in your area.You could do an online search and read reviews, visit websites, see who’s out there and what they have to say. It’s even better to do this after you’ve narrowed down your list, perhaps by asking friends and family for referrals. You could also ask a therapist, accountant, or attorney for their recommendations.

Finding a divorce lawyer can be a winding and complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of attorneys practicing family law in the state of Michigan, and one place to start is to visit the Michigan State Bar website to find a list of divorce attorneys in your area.You could do an online search and read reviews, visit websites, see who’s out there and what they have to say. It’s even better to do this after you’ve narrowed down your list, perhaps by asking friends and family for referrals. You could also ask a therapist, accountant, or attorney for their recommendations.

choose an attorney you can trustGood attorneys offer free initial consultations, so once you have 2-3 options that you really like, call to schedule a meeting. When I have a consultation with a potential client, I don’t get into detail about their case as much as I spend the time getting to know the person and seeing if we have the right chemistry to work together.

On the client side, look for an attorney that you feel hears you, understands you and will listen throughout the process. Choose someone who you can put your trust into, whom you feel will really have your back throughout the case. Above all, choose an attorney whose style gels with yours.

There are clients who want caring, nurturing attorneys, and others who want bulldogs. There is an attorney for every case!

Know what you want and see if the person fits that idea. I have turned clients away because we didn’t gel, and I am sure potential clients crossed me off their list if I didn’t offer what they were looking for! It’s a little like dating – try the person on for size, and don’t feel bad if it’s not a fit.

Above all else, client and attorney values must align. If I turn someone away, I often offer recommendations for attorneys who might be a better fit. There is someone for everyone.

Introducing Our Family in Two Homes – a divorce resource now offered by Transitions Legal!

Introducing Our Family in Two Homes – a divorce resource now offered by Transitions Legal!

Introducing Our Family in Two Homes – a divorce resource now offered by Transitions Legal!

If I had a resource like Our Family in Two Homes (OFTH) when I was getting married and raising children, I would have been so supported!

It never occurred to me way back when, nor does it to most people, to think through and articulate my values, my perspectives, and my beliefs on parenting, partnership, finances and more – and if I had, I bet I could have avoided many marital arguments or parenting disconnects.

Most people don’t really think through these things when it comes to the most important relationships of our lives because it’s just not embedded in our culture to do so. Think about all the romantic movies you’ve enjoyed in your life, which painted a picture of relationships as easy, automatic and synergistic. That rarely happens in real life.

Of course, I see couples when things have gone so wrong, they’ve given up hope that they can stay together. Nonetheless, I am excited to offer OFTH as a unique resource to help couples who are contemplating divorce, already decided to split or going through mediation.

They begin by going through pages 1-13 of the workbook, where they’ll find questions to help them get in touch with what is important to them for the divorce process. These pages cover communication, trust, emotions, values, expression tendencies and more.

It goes so much deeper than the kids or the house. What I love about this resource is how it helps clients discover their personal and collective core values and decision-making preferences. There is a lot of work people can do on their own before they come to an attorney, and this work helps them be more efficient with their attorney, which can sometimes reduce overall legal costs and time spent negotiating.

An example of this is when a client comes to me and insists they want to keep the house, but they’re not sure they can afford to do so, I have to dig deep with them to determine first what is important to them about the house. Then we explore the feelings behind it. That can take a lot of time at billable rates! I enjoy doing this kind of work with my clients. I am also aware that some clients are watching their money. This can save them on fees that might be needed further down the road, or better yet for their kids’ college education.

But if the same client worked through this on their own with the workbook, they would save time spent with me, their attorney, and get moving on the actions required to facilitate their breakup.

I use OFTH in Collaborative Divorce cases and also in Mediation. Individuals can purchase the workbook directly from Transitions Legal, and in doing so, they also get three consulting hours with me as they work through it.

The goal is for people to understand themselves better and understand the divorce process more. Also, they gain insights in how they interact and communicate, which helps an attorney know what they are dealing with in the case. They can draw out an introverted spouse or respectfully ask an extroverted spouse to give the other person some time to speak.

There are, of course, instances where using this workbook might help a couple to identify some of their nagging problems and decide to work on resolving them in an effort to stay together. That’s a lovely outcome when it happens!!

Regardless of the situation, anyone who uses this resource will gain clarity. They’ll understand elements of divorce like parenting time and custody, and know how these are established in the state of Michigan, where I practice. They’ll also know the background of the law to help them reach their decisions.

People often say, “I don’t know what I don’t know.” This resource gives you what you want to know.

To learn more about Our Family in Two Homes or to purchase the workbook-consulting package, click here.