It’s no secret that we are big fans of Collaborative Divorce here at Transitions Legal, and this blog will tell you why.
First and foremost, Collaborative Divorce is the most humane approach to the legal process of ending a marriage. It’s in the definition! Professionals trained in Collaborative Practice come together to facilitate the dissolution of a marriage.
Collaborative Practice is a way of resolving disputes without ending up in a courtroom and asking a judge to decide how you’ll move forward. This approach originated in the Midwestern United States in the mid-20th century and the movement, and it popularity are growing every day.
Both people must agree to the Collaborative approach to divorce. And then, once they do, each spouse hires a collaboratively-trained lawyer to represent them.
Photo by 2H Media on Unsplash
But there’s more. Joining the lawyers and the clients on the Collaborative Divorce team are mental health professionals, financial professionals, business and tax experts, and sometimes even advocates for the children. Whichever professionals will be most helpful in the case.
All participants in the Collaborative process sign a contract agreeing to this approach. Today, there are about 22,000 lawyers trained in Collaborative Law worldwide, with more than 50,000 cases already completed according to this method.
Even judges are on board with Collaborative Divorce, according to the American Bar Association. That’s because the process keeps courts from being cluttered with needless litigation.
Other benefits of Collaborative Divorce include…
A high level of privacy and confidentiality
More client control over the process
An opportunity to be creative and innovative with settlement details
A focus on building positive, fruitful post-divorce relationships
Prioritizes the children
A variety of productive perspectives and guidance
Learn more about Collaborative Divorce the Transitions Legal way here.
The very name Transitions Legal on my law firm door makes a statement that we remain judgment-free during divorce.
When a client walks in our door or calls on the phone, we don’t form an opinion. We listen. We take notes. We ask questions. We hear what the client wants to have happen. We compile information, do research, ask more questions, form a case.
Judgment never factors into our divorces. We are here to do a job – help a client achieve a desired outcome. We are here to guide people legally through the process of divorce and other family law situations.
We are not here to judge or offer personal opinion on anyone’s relationships. We remain judgment-free.
There used to be an automatic nose-wrinkling judgment in America (and elsewhere) when people admitted to being divorced. We are fortunate to live in a time when divorce is acceptable. And possible.
It wasn’t long ago, though, when you’d say you were divorced, and the automatic response would be, “I’m sorry.”
Well, no! What if the divorce was a good thing? It often is.
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
Divorce happens when a relationship has run its course or is no longer healthy for the people within it. Divorce is a legal option to end a marriage that isn’t working, or which causes more strife than support.
Divorce is an answer to a situation, a resolution, a way out. Neither good nor bad.
Which is why we insist on remaining judgment-free during divorce, and express this value in the name of the law firm, in our marketing messaging and mission statement, and in the way we discuss cases with clients and team members.
Think about what happens when you judge a situation: you assign your values to what is happening. You like it, you don’t like it, you pity a person, you champion them. You don’t notice and wonder, and you miss the opportunity to learn and offer support in a meaningful way.
Judgment changes from person to person, informed by their own background and belief system.
Which means judgment is subjective, always. And thus, it’s never truth.
This month in America, we see all kinds of stories about freedom and independence. This made me wonder if divorce is actually about freedom or, like the name on my door, transitions in life.
Because, a person can feel free within a marriage, right? And a person can feel caged, too.
Likewise, a single person can feel stunted or yearning, or independent and available. The legal state of a person’s relationship status has nothing to do, really, with freedom.
Maybe it’s a state of mind?
Certainly, in cases of domestic abuse or assault, a person can be in a very real situation where they are denied freedom of identity, movement or thought. In those cases, divorce can be a lifesaver, and a necessity. Every person should have the freedom to determine how they will live and with whom.
Beyond that, though, it’s important to realize that freedom is a choice, a perspective, a belief. We can limit our lives by believing that we don’t have options. Simply separating from a partner does not guarantee that a person will have any more freedom of thought, movement or opportunity than they had before. They must decide to make it so.
Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash
When a divorce client comes to Transitions Legal, we are careful to explain that they must set realistic expectations for the process ahead. There will be ups and downs, and emotions (plenty of them). Sometimes it will seem like an impossible and endless situation. Sometimes they will feel hurt by the proceedings, and by the person they called partner and love for so many years.
And by the end, most clients feel a mixture of relief, possibility and optimism, but sometimes the hurt and raw emotion continues. It’s not always over when the judge pounds their gavel or the ex-spouses sign the divorce judgment.
To be free of sadness, loneliness, hurt and betrayal is something one works at. It takes time to heal, and sometimes help is needed to get there, fully.
That’s why I think I’m saying that divorce is about transitions (hence our firm name!) and not necessarily freedom and independence. Freedom is something to shoot for and which everyone can attain, but it does not merely come with a divorce.
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 is no right way to determine parenting time in a divorce. Even the amount of time each parent gets with their children varies from case to case. Though it is based on statute, parenting time in divorce is still subjectively decided, negotiated and specific to the family in question.
And just when we think we know how it’s going to go, new details and circumstances introduce curve balls.
For instance, many divorce agreements stipulate that the mother always enjoys parenting time with the children on Mother’s Day and the father always has the children on Father’s Day, but what happens when it’s a same-sex couple splitting up?
Likewise, some parents want their children with them on their birthday, while others could care less. Same goes for the children’s birthdays. Many couples let the birthdays fall where they may on the calendar and celebrate with their children on the closest day to the child’s birthday.
When it comes to holidays, every family has their own traditions. Some divide Christmas Eve and Christmas Day or alternate year to year, while others pick the one that resonates most with their traditions.
At Transitions Legal, we advise clients to articulate their priorities and values in advance of filing for divorce, so that information can guide the details and outcomes of their split. We rely on the Our Family in Two Homes resource to guide clients in outlining what matters to them before divorcing – which can help determine parenting time, too. In the same way, we recommend that divorcing parents think long and hard about what is reasonable and realistic in the way they’ll map out their parenting time.
And, we remind them that parenting time is about the children – not about the parents — what’s best for the kids, not a competition between the parents for more time or to be the favorite.
Children – all people, really – crave routine and structure, so changing up the schedule too often can be unsettling for everyone. It’s important to mark special times in unique ways but not at the expense of your children’s comfort.
We often tell clients to let go of the way things used to be and create new rituals, practices and routines post-divorce. Doing so can help the children ease into their new normal, and also help parents be OK with a different kind of family life than they might have imagined.
Make the goal of parenting time a meaningful connection with your children – no matter what you’re doing or what day it is or how many days you have together. They’ll remember that you spent time together more than how many hours they had with you.