Now there’s a word fraught with meaning: DIVORCE. For some it means liberation from an abusive or otherwise untenable situation. For some it means the destruction of their cherished hopes and dreams for the future. For some it means no hard feelings, sorry it didn’t work out. The variations on these feelings are virtually infinite, and frequently determined by whether the divorcing party is – to use technical legal terms – the “dumper” or the “dumpee”. They also are changeable as the matter proceeds. Even if you are absolutely firm in your resolve to see it through to the end, if you don’t feel ambivalent at some point in the divorce process your heart must be made out of wood.

Having been divorced myself before going to law school, I have always been acutely aware of the pain caused by the process, and have worked actively in my practice since Day One to alleviate it to the extent possible. Way back in the day, there was no such thing as alternate dispute resolution in family law practice: no mediation, little to no arbitration, and certainly no collaboration, a process in which the parties and counsel pledge at the outset to resolve their issues without Court intervention. Before these modalities became readily available, and in the case of mediation part of the process itself, it was always a pleasure to have counsel on the other side willing to work cooperatively. That remains true to this day. Many’s the time I have told prospective clients that I will work diligently to represent their interests, and to get them the best deal possible, but I won’t use the legal system to bash the other party. There are plenty of attorneys willing to be “gladiators”, and I refer folks to them if that’s how they wish to proceed.

In fact, unless there are very unusual circumstances, there is no need to go rushing into Court. Once there, you’re stuck in the system and dance to their tune: certain things need to be done by certain dates, and woe befalls those who don’t adhere to the schedule. My strong preference in most situations is to see how far we can get to settlement first, because once that’s accomplished, it’s just a matter of paperwork to finalize the divorce. Not all of my colleagues agree with this approach. One whom I’ve known for many years said when I called to let him know I was on the other side, “Oh no! You’re going to yell at me, because I filed a Complaint for Divorce. You talk first, file later. I file first, talk later.” We managed to get through it nevertheless because he was more than willing to work cooperatively, and even more importantly, our clients insisted that it be done that way.

No matter where you may fall on the feelings spectrum, we stand ready to assist our clients in negotiating this difficult time in their lives with compassionate understanding and legal know how.

Pamela M. Copeland

Pamela M. Copeland is a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Attorney, Mediator, and Collaborative Professional committed to providing you with the highest quality family law legal services at a reasonable cost.
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