By Marilyn McKnight
Cooperative Private Divorce
In the fall of 2012 I invited about 50 divorce professionals to a meeting where the initial goal was to design a divorce process in Minnesota outside the court that would encourage cooperation between couples negotiating their divorce, keeping divorce settlements private, not available to the public as they presently are. We met bi-weekly for many months, had a one-day workshop with 80+ in attendance for feedback from the professional divorce community in the spring of 2013, and finally drafted a bill that was introduced in the MN House last month.
Yesterday was the first “informational hearing” in the MN House where the bill was well received and appreciated by most who attended. For more information, please check out the website: http://www.cooperativeprivatedivorce.org.
I welcome your questions and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Steve Erickson
Even Pipe Dreams Can Come True
Thanks to Marilyn McKnight for taking initiative to send out that invitation two years ago asking therapists, judges, mediators and a former legislator to attend our first meeting of “Let’s get divorce out of the Courts.” I am pleased to report that I am also a member of that small group of people who have met regularly to figure out a way of extricating divorcing and separated parents from the adversarial divorce contest.
As we progressed in our thinking, it became more than just a pipe dream. We began to realize that the time was right for a change in thinking. Divorce should not be a huge industry of custody investigators, lawyers and courts, etc. with children caught in the middle. However, in order for divorce to become more peaceful, we realized it needs to removed completely from the toxic pull of win-lose thinking. We have to move it out of court.
Less than a month after Rep. Lesch and Sen. Pappas co-sponsored our bill in the Minnesota Legislature, here is what the news media is saying:
- Gail Rosenbloom writes in the March 29th edition of the Start and Tribune “Bringing Fresh Thinking to Divorce.”
- The Editorial Board of the Star and Tribune two days later on April 1, 2015 says “The smart idea would encourage more couples to use mediation and counseling to come to an agreement. If kids are in the picture, it would help them do a more collaborative job of co-parenting post-divorce.
This is only the beginning of the ride. We expect a lot of push back – but dreams (even pipe dreams!) sometimes have a way of becoming reality.
I just found this great article that was posted by the Pioneer Press local webpage a couple of weeks ago (02/21/2015). The title is “In Ramsey County court, mediators can save money – and anguish” – I say YES to that!
The author points out that divorce and family court disputes are messy and often involve a lack of trust between the parties. I agree. Not only do our clients have deep emotional ties to each other, if they have children, they will need to be involved – to varying extents – in each other’s lives for many years.
Then the article says “But with the help of a skilled mediator, walls can be torn down and new relationships built.” Again, YES to that! This is what we here at EMI often refer to as the business-type relationship. The mediator tries to help the two people get away from negative interactions and move towards a new relationship that has written rules and operates more like a business partnership. In an ideal business partnership, there is mutual respect, there is good communication and there are written rules for how the partners will conduct themselves in various situations and in the future in general. Doesn’t that just make perfect sense? Well it does to me too!
The whole purpose of the article is actually to introduce the new Ramsey County Volunteer Mediation Program. The article quotes one of the Steering Committee members and an attorney, both of whom were integral in the creation of the program – I’ll paraphrase what they said about mediation:
When a cooperative resolution is reached:
- Families are stabilized faster
- There’s a financial benefit
- There’s no need for a trial (“where the claws come out”)
- Both people have a chance to be heard
- Both sides remain cooperative co-parents
YES! Somehow I always feel validated when I read articles and blogs, etc. like this. Maybe it’s because I sometimes feel like an island at my desk, working with clients and getting involved in the practice day to day. Then, every once in a while, I find something out there – in the big world outside of my office – and I remember there are lots of other people (and even the Ramsey County Court!) who share our vision and philosophy. Indeed, a very nice article.
Thanks for reading!
As you may have read in our last newsletter, or if you’ve attended one of our seminars over the last two years, Marilyn and Steve have been working with a group of professionals to change the current divorce system.
The “Cooperative Private Divorce” bill is being presented in the MN legislature this session! It will offer divorcing couples a path to divorce that is outside the courts.
The exciting development today is that Bill Doherty, Ph.D., one of the members of the working group on this bill, was featured this morning on Keri Miller’s program on Minnesota Public Radio.
If you missed it, you can listen to the podcast: http://www.mprnews.org/podcasts/kerri-miller/.
Part of the program involved people commenting online, which, for me, was the most exciting part! It seems MANY people agree that it’s about time couples are able to divorce without getting involved in the adversarial system.
See some of the comments to questions like: “Would divorce work better if it was taken out of the courts? Could your divorce have been better?” and “Have you gone through a divorce? What advice do you have for couples that are considering a divorce?”
There was also a poll that asked Should Minnesota allow divorce proceedings to happen outside the court? As of 1:30pm today, 83% of respondents had answered Yes.
Now, I understand that (#1) many of the people who write comments online are highly motivated to do so and that (#2) we don’t know how many people actually took the poll (83% of 20 people is only like 16 people who said “yes”), but I think this is an exciting new development!
The first hearings on the bill will start tomorrow, March 4th at the legislature. You can read the bill by clicking here. It should be interesting to see what happens!
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Minneapolis, MN 55431
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