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.
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.
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!
There are so many approaches to divorce, options and paths to a healthy split today! I’m glad to see how much the legal arena has evolved to allow various approaches to family law, driven by the priorities and values of the divorcing couple.
It used to be that divorce was a dirty word, and the only option was to go to court and have a judge preside over your desire to uncouple. In those cases, families were often stigmatized, and in days of old, someone had to be at fault and women largely got custody of children.
We’ve come a long way, thankfully!
Many judges – dare I say, the good ones — are more empathetic and understanding of the variety of circumstances that can lead to a marital breakup. Likewise, they are often sensitive to how the split will affect children and the best judges make decisions with the children’s well-being in mind.
As far as how to proceed with a legal divorce, couples can choose Litigation, Mediation or Collaborative Divorce. Litigation is straight-to-court proceedings, with a judge directing the timeline for the couple and making decisions for the family when the couple cannot.
Litigation may be the only option for some couples who have animosity, abuse or resentment. Many divorces start out this way and it’s good that we have a system that can facilitate the legal breakup – but if it’s hard-going all the way through the divorce, that may forecast a tumultuous future. Many couples with children who divorce through Litigation end up back in court not long after the official Judgment of Divorce is rendered.
Photo by Jack Moreh from Freerange Stock
Mediation can be a milder approach, with two people coming to one table with a Mediator facilitating the compromises they can make to uncouple. As a certified Mediator in the state of Michigan using the Insight Approach, I love when couples choose Mediation as a way to end their marriage, because it usually means they are seeking a more peaceful dissolution.
Collaborative Divorce is dear to my heart, and an approach to family law that I am passionate about. By far the most amicable path to divorce, Collaborative assembles a team of professionals all trained in Collaborative Practice, and this team hovers around the divorcing couple to work out the best way forward.
The Collaborative Divorce team can include therapists, divorce coaches, financial planners, and more. It’s never a bad thing to have more expertise weighing in on the decisions you’ll be making for the next phase of your life!!
Whichever way you choose to go, know that you have options for how you divorce! And Transitions Legal is here to support you at the highest level.
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.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unspla
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!
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash
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.