The Future of Divorce Is Not in Court

The Future of Divorce Is Not in Court

If the Covid pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the way we always thought we had to do things may not be the only way. In fact, when it comes to the legal system, and in particular, family law, the old way of divorcing may not be the best way at all. The future of divorce will look very different from the past.

I believe the future of divorce is not in court. We’ve already seen a shift to Zoom hearings, and while at the start of the pandemic, it felt difficult and strange and not ideal, this necessary switch taught us that we can, in fact, find better ways to serve couples seeking to dissolve their marriages.

The future of divorce will happen outside the court room – photo by Headway on Unsplash

I don’t want to say that I’ve known this for a long time, but I have. Since I started practicing Collaborative Divorce, and as long as I’ve been a Mediator, I’ve seen firsthand that when a couple breaks up, the court system can’t look out for what’s best for them or their families.

By definition, a system needs to move people through quickly, and not necessarily efficiently or with an eye toward individual needs and circumstances. But a good attorney or legal team can.

Driven by the Insight Approach to Conflict Resolution, I approach Mediation with curiosity. This approach makes me more effective when there is conflict between divorcing parties. But instead of giving direction, I have learned to ask questions.

The Insight Approach helps me educate and empower clients to help them evolve through the course of their divorce. It’s a more holistic approach, which might sound touchy-feely and hard to understand, but now I have tools to make it way more concrete.

The more I get involved in this approach, the more I see how different it is from how typical family law practitioners do divorce. From the beginning with a client, I talk to them from a place of curiosity, so their experience is going to be different from the start all the way through the completion of their divorce.

Another tool that my Transitions Legal team employs with our clients is the Our Family in Two Homes workbook, which we give to every client before they begin their divorce to help them articulate their values and goals.

If you start with their values and concerns and ask questions that help reflect on their partner’s values and concerns, you can help divorcing clients change the narrative of their past, skip the arguing part and move on to their future. Doing the work beforehand helps me guide clients to the outcome they’re happy with.

Once you know how to do divorce with these thoughtful approaches, you can’t help but use it everywhere. It’s already built into Collaborative Divorce, which by definition seeks to divorce through a team approach that brings not only the spouses to the table with their attorneys, but also with the support of a team that includes mental health professionals, certified divorce financial advisors and more when needed.

I approach each divorce case with curiosity – photo by Hasse Lossius on Unsplash

The idea of Insight is not to tell people what to do. In the moment, when they’re going through their divorce, they might want to be told, but ultimately, it’s up to the client. I know how overwhelming and futile it can feel to be going through the end of a marriage you didn’t expect to end. No one does! But that doesn’t mean it’s OK for a lawyer to make decisions for their clients.

I can make suggestions or recommendations, but if the ideas come from the clients themselves, then they’re more likely to be happy with the outcome.

There are so many stories of court-based divorces where a client agrees to settle and then comes back to the lawyer months or even years later, unhappy with the settlement. The lawyers say, “But you agreed to this.” And that may be true. Or maybe they felt exhausted and pressured to just finish the darn thing or agree in the moment, but ultimately it never aligned with what they’re most concerned about and what they value.

A court is designed to make decisions for people. To put people in positions of power to apply the law as objectively as possible.

But a divorce is anything but objective. Which is why I don’t see the future of divorce remaining in the courts.

If we want families and individuals to thrive, we must approach each divorce with curiosity and questions to guide the people involved to their ultimate best destination. Every single client is unique, with their own interests, desires and challenges. A court can’t see that, but you we can. And that’s the only way to achieve the dissolution of a marriage with concern, care and compassion for the people most affected by it.

Why I Practice Family Law

Why I Practice Family Law

Why I practice family law - because I can help people at a difficult time of their lives, and support their families through the transitionWhen I chose family law as my specialty, it was because it was a more focused and high-level way to help families during difficult times of their lives. Originally, I thought I might go into social work but I learned that through law, I could empower and support families in meaningful and long-lasting ways.

Of course, I’ve been practicing law for decades now, and the reason behind why I do what I do has changed and evolved over the course of my career.

My career was inspired by the experiences of my own childhood – as happens with so many people. I grew up without a lot of stability in my family, and I wanted to help both children and parents not have to go through that.

So I became a lawyer, learned the nuances of family law, and recognized that even when a marital relationship breaks down, the family doesn’t have to fall to pieces. That’s the beauty of family law.

While there are many divorce lawyers around, not many focus on helping people. The natural inclination is to get the job done – file for divorce, go through the negotiations, see it through to completion and wish your client well.

At Transitions Legal, we focus on big-picture goals and the health of the family as guiding forces. And, we offer many ways to go about a family law case, from Mediation to Litigation to Collaborative Divorce.

However, even when a client must go through the litigation process – which I’ll always say is my very last choice for a divorce because it takes the power away from the couple and puts it in the hands of people who are not impacted by the outcome – we use Collaborative and Insight-based approaches.

We approach conflict with insight - that's why I practice family law

Photo by Chris Sabor on Unsplash

Many clients come to us because we specialize in Collaborative Divorce and also because I am trained in the Insight Approach to Conflict Resolution. But not every divorce can be Collaborative. However, we can and do use those principles and ideals to guide our case no matter where it ends up.

If we end up in litigation, don’t litigation clients also deserve a compassionate and insightful attorney that would guide them in the same way that I would guide a client in non-adversarial process? Absolutely! So that’s what we do.

And that’s why I continue to practice family law. Because not only can I help good people through one of the worst times of their lives with grace, dignity and compassion, I can bring a big-picture, insight-based approach to any divorce.

Insight into the Insight Approach in my Practice

Insight into the Insight Approach in my Practice

I’ve spent years honing my legal practice and the way I approach family law for a reason: I want to make my client’s divorce experience comfortable and more productive for them; and I want the process that my client invests so much energy in to have a greater purpose and more positive impact than simply getting to the end – dissolving their marriage.

That’s why I embrace the Insight Approach for conflict resolution in my practice and use it in Mediation, Collaborative Divorce and even in Litigation cases. (Well, frankly, I use it in everything I do, personal and professional. Once you are steeped in the Insight Approach, you take it with you everywhere!)

But I sought out this training, and became an expert in Collaborative Divorce, because I believe both of these wise methods pave a path that makes it easier to move forward after a breakup, for all involved.

For parents, the Insight Approach causes them to pause and reflect to consider what they know about themselves, the other parent and their children, and then to make decisions with this knowledge as their north star. It encourages clients to let the other parent lead, if necessary, to achieve a satisfying outcome for both parties. It embraces a learning process driven by what is truly best for the kids and not let ego get in the way – which happens way too often in divorce.

Basically, I want to limit the drama and expand the possibilities for co-parenting with success.

And for clients whose children are adults or who never had children, using my Insight Approach training, my client will also understand what is important to them and what they value at a deeper level to help guide their decision making throughout the process.

As attorneys skilled in the Insight Approach for conflict resolution we facilitate discussions between parties in the direction they want to take their family post-divorce. Thoughtful, productive, respectful and mutually beneficial conversations.

Photo by Afif Ramdhasuma on Unsplash

It’s not without challenge – not by a long shot! Divorce is a breakup. There are emotions, hurt feelings, old wounds and those can certainly create obstacles, but the right process deals with them.

When we set out with a deliberate desire to keep it peaceful and productive, we can and do achieve this! And the Insight Approach is the best way I’ve found to make this happen.

In the end, everyone gets to a good place. With this method, I can bring out the underlying ability everyone has deep within, to respect the other person and bring them to a healthy compromise where they are both happy and ready to move forward.

It’s important to understand why a particular family law attorney practices in the way that they do. When a client meets with me for an introductory meeting, I explain my perspective, my approach, my track record, and why I offer the specific methods for divorce that I do. I hope potential clients ask these questions of ALL lawyers they interview.

I’m sure not everyone does. And that’s why I’m writing about it here. Because the more we know, the more possibilities we have to end up content, empowered and ready to move on.

The Inspiration to Create Transitions Legal 10 Years Ago

my legal career has grown over the years

Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, at the beginning of Transitions Legal

When I embarked on entrepreneurship a decade ago, it seemed the next logical step in my legal career. I created Transitions Legal because I wanted to practice family law in my own way, according to my own perspective.

But I had no idea at the time that I’d build a growing, thriving firm with a talented team that continues to evolve as we receive more interest from potential clients!

It’s been a great and steady ten years. Sure, I’ve had some difficult moments and there were more instances than I’d like where I felt like I was faking it until I made it. But make it I did!

Looking back, I realize that I was inspired to hang my shingle and create my own company because I saw so many original, inspiring attorneys do the same when I was coming up. Talented lawyers who wanted to escape the protocols and bureaucracy of big firms could create a law firm that represented their approach to legal practice and map out my unique legal career.

While the law is pretty straightforward, how we interpret it varies from person to person and situation to situation. And in family law, no two divorces look exactly alike.

In the same way, no two law firms are identical. They differ according to the approaches, perspectives and experiences of the lawyers.

Transitions Legal grew out of one woman’s desire to practice on my own terms, in my own way, with a set of beliefs and values, and a perspective that I bring to family law that may not be like anyone else.

my legal career has grown as my firm has grown

A more recent picture of Alisa Peskin-Shepherd

In fact, when I branded the firm as Transitions Legal, I went my own way, with an original firm name because I wanted to communicate my values in the name of the firm. Simply put, I see divorce as a transition between one stage of life and another – not good, not bad, no judgment. So, we help clients legally transition from married to divorced.

At the time, I described my approach as “mediative” – a word I created to convey the idea of bringing my Mediation expertise and training to every family law case. Now, In Mediation, and in every one of my cases, using what I’ve learned through my study of the Insight Approach to dispute resolution, I listen carefully to the people or person in front of me, and we determine a course of action and the details of a separation or divorce that reflects their values.

When I look back at my legal journey, it makes me smile. I am inspired by the freedom I’ve had to put my mark on the practice of family law and offer clients in Michigan an unprecedented approach to divorce!

Let’s Talk about Mediation!

Let’s Talk about Mediation!

divorce mediation

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

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?

divorce mediationThat’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.