Diane Yale, J.D. on responsible divorce
This background on the "Responsible Divorce" was written by Diane Yale, JD.
Diane Yale is an attorney who has been practicing family and divorce mediation since 1984. She is a past president of the Family and Divorce Mediation Council of Greater New York, an accredited member of the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation, and a practitioner member of the Academy of Family Mediators. In the capacity of board member and chair of the State Council's Legislative Committee, she was the primary author of the model "Family and Divorce Mediation Act". Ms. Yale is a member of the Section on Dispute Resolution of the American Bar Association, and has also served on the Matrimonial Law Committee and the Committee on Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.
....As an attorney with a practice in divorce mediation, my clients have been self-selected to present a very different challenge.
Typically, they walk in saying, We want a divorce from each other. However, we have both been important to our children and intend to continue to be parents together. We want joint custody. We want to construct a system to care equally and cooperatively for our children until they are able to care for themselves. There is a moment in the course of our discussions when their faces light up as they realize that, indeed, though they are ending their marriage to each other, they can look forward to being proud grandparents together as the years pass.
These parents are likely to be in high conflict with each other. As we work out the terms of their agreement, fears, recriminations, raised voices, and tears may be felt and expressed. Yet they keep returning to their focus, which is to jointly shape a parenting plan for the good of their children, rather than to dissipate their energy in pursuing disagreement. A plan sharing the joys and responsibilities of parenthood. A plan establishing goals and principles so that as new situations arise in the future, there are guidelines in place for decision-making. A plan identifying a forum and procedure for resolving any future conflict that may present itself.
Each couple has the right and the obligation to choose and to design their own journey, whatever process works for them so that they may heal, and so that each child may receive all the love, attention, caring and help that is available to him or her. However, by its nature, successful mediation requires that both members of the couple say "yes" and remain committed to the individual and collaborative effort required in following this path. Being denied its rewards must seem all the more poignant to those who relied on having their day in court, and learned ... what a fallacy that was.
The conversations Serge (Prengel) and I had eventually developed into a workshop that we offered together, on Socially Responsible Divorce. Here participants contemplated the meaning of qualities such as fairness, honor, self-determination, collaboration. They practiced asserting their own interests while being respectful of their spouse's needs and balancing the best interests of their children. There was also discussion of how to use the available institutional options of court, attorneys and mediators, so that the couple's concerns would be heard and they would remain in control of the process and the outcome.
In my own journey, I have come to regard the bonds of family in a larger, more spiritual context. Whoever or Whatever has created what we call the Universe, a man and a woman who join with each other are also in a union with that creative force. When a child results from their union, then to nurture and protect that child is to perpetuate and tend to the continuation of human life on this planet.
It is a sacred relationship, there is a taking on of the divine, a path from original creation to infinity that transcends the activities and frustrations of daily life. Whether married or not, parents are joined in spirit to each other, joined to those fragile humans who will always be their children, joined to and entrusted with the holy process of creation and nurturance and being. The family bond deserves to be honored even when it is legally in dissolution. A family can be redefined and restructured and continue on.
Diane Yale, JD.
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