The Divorce World Is Flat

I have been listening to the audio book of Thomas Friedman’s “The World Is Flat”. The book chronicles the technological and cultural changes that have occurred in the last twenty to thirty years. The end result being a flattening of the world, meaning the world is smaller, successful agencies are collaborating more, and this is all being done across oceans and not limited to across town.

This flattening effect is impacting divorce and family law in many ways as well, including the sharing of knowledge from all areas of the world and converting that knowledge into collaborative changes in procedure and philosophy. The flattening effect is also having a more practical impact on families caught in parenting issues.

The flattened world changes how we look at parenting time between parents and children. We have moved beyond personal visits and telephone calls. With the advent and minimal cost of email and texting, there are almost no obstacles to daily contact between parents and children, whether they live around the block or around the world.

In October 2007, Florida began a new law that recognizes and encourages electronic communication between parent and child (Florida Statute 61.13003). In fact, parents who wish to modify their existing parenting order to allow for electronic communication, do not have to prove there has been a “substantial change of circumstances” since the last order (which is the standard requirement). The statute is further evidence that technology has created realistic methods to supplement, not replace, face-to-face parenting time.

An area of growth is the use of webcams and the internet for parenting time. Families separated by distance are now a few clicks away. I have used Skype (an internet based video telephone service) on many occasions to communicate over great distances, and the technology is without a doubt reliable and impressive. Although there have been some bumps in the road, more times than not, I have held lengthy conversations with clear audio and video. It is truly now the next best thing to being there.

Litigation Is Dead

Litigation is dead; Long live litigation!

It has become universally accepted by those who work in the family courts that the litigation model is really not effective for families embroiled in divorce. The traditional model typically leads to unnecessary and protracted conflict. Just by being treated as “opposing sides”, families are torn apart, and a bad situation becomes increasingly worse.

Many years ago, mediation became the new, alternative way to resolve disputes. The traditional model was recognized for all its flaws, and judges and lawyers were taught to focus on resolution instead of litigation. It was believed that mediation was the all-purpose answer. Mediation has had a huge impact in family court, and a large number of cases are effectively settled through the use of a mediator. However, the litigation model would not quietly die, and regrettably, some families still choose to settle their disputes inside the courtroom.

Not very long ago, the Collaborative Divorce method began to make inroads, and it became the new, alternative way to resolve disputes. It has been celebrated for its anti-litigation mindset, and it is increasingly an effective way to resolve divorces. However, once again, the litigation model won’t quietly die, and some families choose to beat an angry and hostile path to the courtroom.

Unfortunately, there are some people who just want the judge to settle their dispute, and they will fight like gladiators until their day in court (and beyond). Although there are many effective and acceptable alternatives to fighting, some people just have to fight. They don’t know how, or don’t want, to break out of that mindset. It is the same reason we continue to hear about acts of domestic violence and about abusive, inappropriate parents at the peewee football games who think their children are competing for the Heisman Trophy.

Sadly, litigation won’t die because a segment of our population will always want to litigate. For the rest of us, we are effectively using alternatives to litigation, and we are reaping the long-term benefits.