While the pandemic itself is mostly behind us, we are living with COVID-19 as a regular virus for the most part, and life is starting to look more livable. Here’s a look at what we can expect in 2023 trends in family law and divorce.
Less Adversarial Approaches to Divorce
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People are realizing how beneficial it is to break up with dignity and grace, and how much more affordable it can be, so I anticipate more couples wanting a less adversarial approach to divorce. Sometimes called “no-fault divorce,” it’s always better to look ahead as opposed to looking behind at what caused discontent.
More Gray Divorce
As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age and Generation X is closely on their heels, we will continue to see a surge in Gray Divorce, the term for couples who break up after age 50. These relationships may have simply run their course, with the couple growing apart as they advance in career and personal pursuits.
Every year, more lawyers become certified Collaborative practitioners once they see the benefits of a team approach to divorce. This dovetails with the prediction of less adversarial approaches to divorce in the year ahead!
More Divorce Filings by Women
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This has been a hot trend in the 21st century as women gain financial independence. That will impact 2023 trends in divorce, too! Fully two-thirds of divorce filings in recent years have been initiated by women. It used to be that a woman only had access and agency when she was married. Not so anymore!
Continued Decline in Divorce Overall
Younger generations are not as quick to marry as their forebears, which makes them cautious and mindful – and less likely to divorce when they delay marriage and think it through more fully. For the last decade, the divorce rate in America has steadily declined, and we will likely continue to see that fall in the year ahead!
January has been dubbed “Divorce Month” in some circles because of the surge in divorce filings that happen after the new year. If you’re going to call it quits in 2023, here’s what you need to know and do to be prepared!
Decide HOW you want to divorce.
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From Mediation to Collaborative Divorce to duking it out in Court, there are many ways to end a marriage. I prefer the first two options for my clients rather than Litigation because of the responsiveness, flexibility and respect Mediation and Collaborative Divorce can offer to couples. Yes, you’re splitting – but that doesn’t mean you have to do it viciously. Mediation and Collaborative Divorce offer more peace-focused, work-together ways to break up than appearing before a judge in a cold courtroom, virtually, and waiting for her to make decisions about you and your family. How you divorce can determine how you move forward after your divorce – especially if you have children.
Find an attorney.
Do your research online, ask friends for recommendations, check out attorney websites and make a short list of practitioners who seem to match your vibe and desired approach. Then email or call to set up introductory meetings to determine if the chemistry will work for you!
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Not only the dollars you’ll lay out for representation, but the cost to your mental health if you choose a less responsive, more cantankerous approach. Identifying your priorities and values will help guide you to the right way to divorce, and if you choose a less combative path, you’ll likely pay less – not only in fees to experts, but in your time and well-being.
Get your house in order.
Before you divorce, you should have a sense of the assets in your marriage – including values, deeds and documentation for your house and other collective property. Gather documents for investments, businesses, tax returns, and other assets in advance. Come to the table prepared with information!
Learn the laws.
It never hurts to do a little online surfing to find out what the laws are in your state regarding divorce, custody, parenting time and marital assets. And of course, talk to your attorney about the laws. That way, you walk into the divorce process with realistic expectations for how your life might look after the split.
Do some career planning.
Whether you’ve worked the whole time or stayed at home raising kids, it’s wise to build a post-divorce budget, establish your own credit and financial accounts, and look for the type of work that will allow you to live on your own once your marriage ends. Don’t worry or be afraid – planning and researching can erase anxiety and concerns, and help you create a workable plan for your future. You may have to change your lifestyle, but at least you’ll know what you’re walking into!
You may want the divorce, or you may be hurt and angry that your spouse initiated the split – either way, do your best to get along, be kind and do not lash out. A divorce ignites lots of emotions – good people are often at their worst when going through a divorce. Keep your eye on the ball – a happy and livable outcome for you and your children, yes, even your adult children – and choose behaviors and words that will get you there.
Divorce mediation is a true first love of mine, and that love informs all the other approaches to family law.
I have always loved mediating cases, even as I continued to practice in other ways. Litigation. Collaborative Divorce.
Mediation is different from the act of practicing law in that the Mediator is a neutral third party, whose role is to help divorcing couples discuss and resolve their disputes. This happens outside of court.
One method I use for Divorce Mediation is the Insight Approach. It comes pretty naturally to me because I’ve always been more curious when asking questions.
The idea of insight is to not have judgment, to ask questions to get at what really matters to the clients. To help them make decisions and get to a resolution that they’re both happy with.
Let’s say a mother and father are at an impasse, and very angry at each other. I can take them into separate rooms and ask a simple question such as, what do you hope will be different if you are able to engage in an active conversation with the other person. Just asking the question gives them pause to reflect.
Many mediators just want to get the job done. This is true in any profession! But such an approach is at odds with the very nature of mediation.
You can succeed in mediation by telling people what they must do. But you haven’t really mediated their case. You’ve just finished it for them.
What about when you can’t get people to find a way to work things out, and you all agree going to trial is not a good idea?
That’s why I look at Divorce Mediation as a process that needs to involve the engagement of both parties.
I ask four questions from the Insight Approach, which I keep on my desktop at all times. They are a really good way to start a conversation with clients to get them thinking about what’s important to them.
I’ve used the Insight method during a Collaborative Divorce meeting, too, by asking a question instead of making an assumption.
It’s imperative to not make assumptions. We often ask questions with assumption as part of the question. A lot of us are problem-solvers, especially attorneys, and we come with good intentions. But if we don’t provide all the ideas or feel like it’s our responsibility to solve all the problems, it opens us up to creative solutions that fit that particular situation.
Because I love Mediation so much, the mission and vision of my law firm guide us to provide a different approach when we must litigate. Someone who is not litigious can end up in court, and they need someone who shares their values and understands why we’re doing what we’re doing and can handle it with compassion. A lot of litigation attorneys are missing compassion.
But at Transitions Legal, we are dedicated to bringing compassion, insight, and listening to every case. And that comes from my expertise in Mediation.
Divorce strategies, or how we approach divorce, develop from listening to the client, understanding their needs and desires, and looking at the law. Once we know the needs of the family, we can decide in which direction to move.
When it comes to divorce strategy, at Transitions Legal, we consider whether Mediation, Litigation or Collaborative Divorce will best serve the client. I prefer to leave Litigation for last, as it offers the least control to the attorneys and the clients.
Sometimes the strategy depends on factors outside my control, like which attorney my client’s spouse chooses. If it’s a difficult, litigious lawyer, then we are likely to land in court before a judge and have a pretty acrimonious and costly path.
That affects my strategies in terms of cooperation and communication. I might be more guarded if I know the other attorney makes everything difficult or won’t easily share information. That’s a strategic decision.
Nonetheless, I prefer to have control over how we will go forward. I like to have choices to present to my clients, let them decide which way best serves their needs and goals.
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I love when the other attorney is cooperative, and we know and trust each other. Then, we’re going to be more open and collegial, not question every move and tactic.
If having the kids more time is important to a client, then I think strategically about how to frame everything in terms of Parenting Time and Custody so that it serves the children through this transition.
Even in the Collaborative context, a process strategy might be, ok well I think I’m going to guide you more to talk with the divorce coach about your needs and desires.
Strategy depends on a lot of factors – the client’s needs and values, the opposing counsel, the type of case, the law, and more.
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Even background, details-while-married, factor into the divorce strategies. For instance, if you suspect your spouse is having an affair, that will likely drive the case. Once I have a full picture, I can recommend the strategy that will best serve a client. Then, we have options.
We can strategize where to put a client’s money – investigator or therapy? For instance, if your spouse spent a lot of time away from the family, leaving you alone to manage your children and the household – were they having an affair?
Investigating an affair is usually only important if the spouse spent time away from family, lying, when they were needed to help with the children, or were with the other person while also being with their children or they spent marital funds on this other person.
Divorce strategies weigh and measure what to spend our time, and resources, on. So perhaps my client is better off spending money on individual therapy rather than a PI so they can get stronger and healthier by dealing with their own emotions as they transition to their new phase of life. All of these details inform how we will move forward. And this is just one example of many!
And it really does differ from client to client. At Transitions Legal, we focus on serving our clients’ needs toward their best outcome. We do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to practicing family law. We innovate based on listening to our clients, understanding their values, and applying information to inform our divorce strategy.
When I started Transitions Legal in 2013, I created a tagline that has served us well: dignified divorce driven by compassionate expertise.
Those were the words and concepts I felt were important to convey about my approach to family law. In fact, I named my firm Transitions Legal because I wanted to emphasize that I see divorce as a transition from one stage of life to another – neither good nor bad.
Over the years, I’ve built a name for this firm, and for my approach to family law. After nearly 10 years in business, I felt it was time to change our tagline to represent how we’ve evolved and changed, to embrace insight and innovation in our approach to conflict resolution.
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So my marketing guru, Lynne Golodner, and I embarked on a quest to fashion a new tagline, that better represents where we are today.
I was surprised to realize that I could not come up with anything better than what we already have!! A tagline is supposed to serve as a quippy, memorable phrase that explains what we do and how we do it. What matters to us. What values this firm is built on.
Dignified divorce driven by compassionate expertise really says it all. The one thing I could change would be the word divorce – though I won’t, because I like the alliteration – only because we do so much more than divorce. Family Law is a far-reaching category of law that addresses any legal quandary or need in a family situation.
So why did I seek this change, then?
Because I wanted to make sure that key concepts were in our marketing messaging. Ideas like curiosity, innovation and insight.
But when I looked at my Guiding Principles, I saw that these concepts were already embedded in Transitions Legal language. My Guiding Principles emphasize how I talk to every client, ask questions and use insight to guide how we approach client cases.
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I reviewed my Mission Statement, too, and was thrilled to see that these ideas were already there, too!
I consistently operate with insight to learn my clients’ needs and guide them based on what they want to achieve. One key question on my intake form is, what are your goals.
The Our Family in Two Homes workbook, a resource which I encourage all my clients to use, helps people more clearly define their goals. It’s easy to say my goal is to make sure my kids are taken care of. Or make sure I have financial security. But what does that mean?
What does it look like for your kids to be feeling safe and secure? What does it look like to have financial security?
Such questions are not as easy to answer once you start digging into specifics. I’ve asked those questions, and the resources I’m using now are consistent with what I’ve always been doing.
So we are keeping our tagline! With almost 10 years in business, I am encouraged that the marketing messaging I initially created serves us still as we’ve grown and expanded. We are steeped in our values and approach. We are consistent. We know who we are.
This has made me sensitive to curiosity and the importance of asking questions, followed by focused listening. Many family law attorneys and mediators take a directive approach, working through the case to get it done.
But that’s not how we operate at Transitions Legal.
I embraced Collaborative Divorce long before it was a common approach in Family Law circles in Michigan. Even Collaborative Practice has changed!
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Since the Collaborative Movement started in 1990, and has been in Michigan approximately 18 years, we’ve learned that we can expand and evolve the model to better support our clients. Which should be our focus in the practice of law no matter what.
My marketing coach, Lynne Golodner, has always taught me that a tagline should be a pithy statement that is memorable, so that when a potential client learns of our firm, they know immediately what we are about.
We are about gaining insight so that we can innovate in the way we approach family law. Insight is a step deeper than knowledge. I help clients know themselves, their values, their intentions, based on a variety of factors – lifestyle, social affiliations, culture and background and more. From there, they can move forward with clarity.
When you’re thinking “should I get divorced,” you’re sitting in an uncomfortable place. Choosing a firm that will allow you to be dignified, where you will be led with compassion by experts in the field of family law, should be a comfort.
Dignified Divorce Driven by Compassionate Expertise. That’s what Transitions Legal stands for. That’s what we do.