Category Archives: Divorce, Marriage, Family

Zero sum game show: celebrities decide who’s right or wrong in The Marriage Ref

Billy Collins, a former two-term Poet Laureate of the U.S., penned these lines on the end of marriage:

Once, two spoons in bed
now tined forks

across a granite table
and the knives they have hired

Alas for many divorcing couples, sharp metal objects make an apt metaphor.

It’s also an image in keeping with the popular depiction of marital discord, which often frames it as all-out take-no-prisoners combat between two feuding camps.

Now, stepping into the marital fray is comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who will be hosting “The Marriage Ref“, a game/reality TV show in which bickering couples will submit their disputes to nonbinding arbitration before celebrity guests who will “comment, judge and decide who’s right and who’s wrong in real-life disputes between real-life spouses.”

Of course if you’d rather resolve your dispute anonymously, try the web site Sidetaker (“Let The World Decide Who’s At Fault”) and let the hive be the judge.

Mediation house calls for divorcing couples

Although I hate to admit it, I’m actually old enough to remember the days when the family doctor made house calls.

Childhood ailments brought visits from our kindly, joke-cracking pediatrician who would arrive with his black bag, his stethoscope slung around his neck, as if he’d stepped straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. How I longed for those days when my own kids got sick, as has anyone else who has waited endless hours in a cramped waiting room with a screaming toddler with an ear infection and a raging fever.

Now a group of mediators stands ready to revive a dying tradition. A press release that made its way into the stack of Google alerts in my inbox this morning announces that a mediation practice in New Jersey is now providing at-home mediation services to divorcing couples.

More power to them for coming up with an innovative way to attract and serve clients.  Personally, though, I’m not sure that this is such a great idea. I think there’s a lot to be said for mediating on more neutral territory. The marital home is all too often both battlefield and asset in contention.

Perhaps these mediators have some ambivalence themselves about these new services. In its last paragraph, the press release declares that the mediation practice offers “a free consultation … in the martial home” (emphasis added).

Typo? Or Freudian slip?

Sidetaker lets bickering couples submit disputes to court of public opinion

Sidetaker lets couples submit lovers' quarrels to nonbinding arbitrationIf you seek proof of civilization’s decline, look no further than Sidetaker, a site that lets the public be the judge in spats between quarreling lovers.

Don’t bother to seek nuance or middle ground here; there’s plenty of blame and fingerpointing for couples bickering over everything from toilet flushing habits to illicit affairs.

Sidetaker (slogan: “let the world decide who’s at fault”) of course is in this for the greater good:

…far too many divorces, break ups, and separations happen over non-critical disputes. Over 50% of American marriages end in divorce. In a fight, each person has their side and are usually backed by their friends (on either side). When you can create a jury of anonymous peers to decide who is right or wrong in an argument, then the bias is gone and the person at fault will just have to suck it up.

A noble sentiment indeed. This site is of the same ilk as People’s Court Raw, which brings the added dimension of video to lovers’ quarrels.

(Thanks to Tammy Lenski for the link.)

One million reasons to mediate not litigate your divorce

A million reasons to mediate your divorce

…or, alternatively, one million reasons to be a divorce lawyer in British Columbia…

The Globe and Mail reports today that the B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld a $1 million legal bill for a complex divorce, the result of a rancorous legal battle between a couple married for 42 years over the division of some $12 million in assets.

(If you’re interested in the exchange rate, in U.S. dollars, that’s about 952,742 reasons.)

(Photo credit: Arjun Kartha.)

Settle paternity disputes with an at-home test

Paternity testing with at-home kit by INDENTIGENEThis may ultimately create more disputes than it resolves, but the DNA testing laboratory INDENTIGENE is selling at-home paternity tests.

For only $29.99 (and $119 for the lab fee), you can find out once and for all who’s your daddy.

(Hat tip to Boing Boing Gadgets.)

Myth busting: you don't have to be a lawyer to be a good mediator

A press release just crossed my desk for “Divorce Mediation: Myths & Facts,” an online radio show. Back in November, I explained how the show has managed to create some myths of its own — namely, that the best divorce mediators are lawyers.

An upcoming episode in March will cover “‘Certified’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Qualified’ – Choosing a Qualified Divorce Mediator”. I can’t wait to listen in, especially when the show mined a similar vein last November with “Choosing the Right Divorce Mediator” (in MP3 format), where you can tune in to hear aspersions heaped on the talents and expertise of mediators who are not attorneys. Look, I’m all for mediators doing everything they can to promote themselves and their work, but let’s not do it at the expense of fellow mediators, shall we?

So let’s clear some stuff up once and for all. Repeat after me:

Barack Obama is not a Muslim (and so what if he were?).

There were no weapons of mass destruction.

And you don’t have to be an attorney to be a competent divorce mediator.

Human-robot disputes the future frontier for family mediation?

Human-robot relationshipsDavid Levy, artificial intelligence expert and author of Love and Sex with Robots (no, I’m not making that up), in a recent interview with Scientific American predicts that humans one day will marry robots.

One observation about the need for disagreement in relationships caught my attention:

[Journalist:] Would people really want a robot that agreed with everything you wanted or were completely predictable?

[Levy:] I do think there is often a need for friction in relationships. You wouldn’t actually want a robot that does everything you want. Most people might want robots that sometimes say, “I don’t really want to do that,” that rejects certain requests from time to time. So you could program that in, the level of disagreement you want.

Which leaves me wondering how those disagreements will be handled. Do you simply reboot your partner? (Be honest now — how many of you have wished you could do that?)

Radio station holds Valentine's Day contest to give away free divorce

Radio station gives away free divorce on Valentine’s DayOn Valentine’s Day, romance is in the air.

But not for Charleston, West Virginia radio station WKLC. It’s holding a Valentine’s Day contest to give away a free divorce to one lucky couple.

There’s just a couple of problems. That free divorce — surprise, surprise — doesn’t include the services of a divorce mediator. And it may not be so free — the winner of the contest instead will only get 10 free hours of an attorney’s time.

Ten hours may only be enough to just get you started — especially if you consider the study the Boston Law Collaborative conducted of 199 divorce cases. It found that for divorcing couples, “[m]ediation was by far the least expensive option, with a median cost of $6,600, compared to $19,723 for a collaborative divorce, $26,830 for settlements negotiated by rival lawyers, and $77,746 for full-scale litigation.”

How to negotiate with your kids

negotiating with your childrenAnyone who has raised kids knows that there is no tougher negotiator than the average nine year old. Help has at last arrived for parents eager to negotiate more effectively with their own children.

The February issue of Negotiation offers tips to “Negotiate Better Relationships with Your Children” (PDF). Negotiation is a monthly newsletter produced by the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Learning to negotiate with your kids produces real benefits, including more cooperative children and more trust between parents and children:

Just as smart business negotiators avoid bullying tactics and undue concessions, relationship-centered parents engage in a problem-solving process that enhances cooperation and satisfaction for the entire family. Rather than pretending that conflict always can be avoided or behaving as though kids must be dominated, these parents teach their children to deal with conflict in productive ways.

Resolve conflict in your marriage, live longer

Conflict resolution skills in marriage are good for your healthA recent study shows that the upside of marital fighting is not just the makeup sex afterwards.

Researchers at the University of Michigan followed 192 couples over a 17-year period and discovered something interesting:

Couples in which both the husband and wife suppress their anger when one attacks the other die earlier than members of couples where one or both partners express their anger and resolve the conflict…

The study results suggest that good conflict resolution skills may be key, but the problem is that few people possess the proper training. According to the study’s lead author,

“When couples get together, one of their main jobs is reconciliation about conflict…Usually nobody is trained to do this. If they have good parents, they can imitate, that’s fine, but usually the couple is ignorant about the process of resolving conflict. The key matter is, when the conflict happens, how do you resolve it?”

The lesson? If you want to save your marriage and your health, learn conflict resolution skills.