As part of my (self appointed) role as a stay-out-of-court divorce planner, I've recently returned from New York City's first ever Divorce Expo, where I was making contact with like-minded professionals in one of the most adversarial cities in the USA.
The Start Over Smart Expo played host to a wide range of exhibitors but the strong presence of mediators and collaborative lawyers was noticeable, which I believe to be a powerful signal to us over here in the UK that 'things are a-changin'!"
The US suffers from the same drawbacks to increasing the prevalence of non-adversarial divorce that we experience in the UK - people thinking that mediation is about 'getting back together' instead of how to break up amicably; not having ever heard of Collaborative Law, and not being aware that Financial Planners can play a powerful role in sorting complex finances directly with the couple in ways that can keep them out of court. However, mediation in particular appears to be thriving in the city, with ongoing training of a high quality. I was intrigued by meeting one mediator who had just finished attending a training on 'Mindfulness', and I found myself engaging in almost esoteric conversations about 'forgiveness' that I have not yet experienced when chatting to mediators in the UK. Not that UK mediators are any less trained or widely-read - but I feel our culture pushes 'Alternative Dispute Resolution' into a 'legal' box that discourages dealing with the wrongly perceived 'fluffy' emotional and psychological aspects of divorce and family breakup.
It was refreshing for me to see that an holistic approach to divorce was being embraced through the Start Over Smart event, and how experienced divorce mediators like Ken Neumann of Team Mediation, also works with clients in a therapeutic role, and even practices Marriage Mediation - helping the couple to allow their marriage an opportunity to continue.
From a 'marketing perspective' this may seem a jumble. But what I became aware of, which resonated with my own work in creating Divorce in a Box which supports people in staying out of court whilst divorcing - is that when a more holistic set of resources and services are made available to couples facing divorce, they will access what is most relevant to them at that time. Often they have no real idea what they need or what services could be of value, which is why Divorce in a Box provides vouchers for free introductory sessions from everything from Mediation to Divorce Coaching. But once empowered by a little knowledge, even the most hurt and angry of couples can find their way back into a happy relationship, and even the most adversarial divorce can recalibrate and successfully use mediation to move forward in their lives - albeit living in separate houses.
Suzy Miller is a UK stay-out-of-court Divorce Planner whose mission is to make Divorce in a Box available at no cost to all divorcing couples in the UK and North America.
See more images of the Start Over Smart New York Expo here: http://uk.startingovershow.us/2012/04/25/new-york-divorce-expo/