Setting Up Camps
It seems most everyone knows a family member, friend or co-worker who experienced a divorce that turned ugly—a divorce in which enemy encampments grew around the two spouses, with friends and family taking sides, and divorce lawyers serving as generals in the two warring armies. It can feel like a form of tribal warfare.
How do two people, who once cared enough for each other to enter into the most intimate of relationships, become embittered enemies, unable to communicate except through lawyers and court documents?
Certainly the pain of being “de-selected,” or the hurt of discovering a spouse’s infidelity, can lead the surprised spouse to want to strike back. Even so, how does one explain the divorce that takes two years, is financially ruinous, and leaves the former spouses unable to talk to each other even as they attempt to parent their children? Is it simply the nature of divorce, or is it something else?
After years of practicing law as courtroom attorneys in the adversarial legal system, and then years of practicing exclusively collaborative family law, in which the court system is explicitly rejected as part of the process, it is clear to us that the adversarial system is a major contributor to the bitter nature of divorce.
In court, attorneys are expected to be exclusively concerned with their own client’s interests. This professional responsibility comes from ideas behind criminal court, in which the lawyer is seen as the accused’s last line of defense against a mighty and over-powering state. An eighteenth century lawyer put it this way: “