By Scott F. Levin, Founding Partner San Diego Divorce Mediation & Family Law:
Have you ever heard of a peacemaking family lawyer? That’s what I consider myself. A peacemaking San Diego family law attorney who just happens to choose mediation as the process by which I perform my service.
I think that any lawyer can be a peacemaker and not just those that serve through mediation. So it’s not that I am a peacemaker solely because I don’t represent client in adversarial court proceedings and instead choose to serve my clients through mediation and non-adversarial means. Lots of my divorce attorney friends perform peacemaking tasks daily, whether they recognize it or not. That’s because peacemaking in family law is the process of helping clients reduce conflict and act in their best interest.
Have you ever heard a friend or relative talk about their “BAD” divorce? How it went on for 2 years, their spouse went back to court afterwards to fight about support and custody, how they needed to start over financially and that their kids hated their spouse for all they put the family through? If this sounds familiar, it’s unlikely that your friend worked with a lawyer with peacemaking capabilities.
A skilled peacemaking attorney attempts to lower expectations by getting the parties to think about “what they can live with” rather than their legal entitlements or their moral justifications for wanting payback for past wrongs. As a peacemaking family lawyer in San Diego, we help clients think through their wants and needs (their interests) rather than simply focusing on and reiterating their demands (positions). When disagreement or conflict arises, our peacemaking family lawyer reads between the lines of stated positions to draw out each parties interests that lie underneath. Your position is something you have decided on, and your interests are what caused you to so decide.
Once our clients understand why the other has made a demand, you’re able to navigate solutions much more effectively. But to draw out these interests, it requires that both parties sit down with each other and our neutral mediation team, and listen and really hear what the other has to say. That’s impossible in the adversarial court room. But we see it every single day – when two people are given the opportunity to speak and are encouraged by a mediator to say what’s on their mind, solutions develop naturally. And when solutions are proposed and ideas are being offered, you can literally feel the tension bubble pop. It’s an amazing feeling and it actually just happened to me last night during a mediation. The two divorcing spouses were discussing living options in a way that they never would have been able to if represented by two lawyers in court hearings. Once the solution was offered in a back and forth discussion primarily between the parties but with our help, that tension bubble just burst and we all took note of it. It’s an awesome awesome feeling to experience.
My goal here is that people read this, look deeper at our website and other posts, and realize that they can adopt peacemaker roles in their community and professions just like so many of us do in family law, whether we know it or not. This is your friendly neighborhood spider…ur… family law peacemaker signing off. If I don’t write again before the end of the year, happy new year to all!
All the best,
Scott F. Levin
San Diego Divorce Mediation & Family Law