Divorce wars continue to ruin families and cause serious harm to children.
Child custody battles rage on in our court system. Spouses often spend more on attorney fees than their total net worth. At a time when our court-driven culture still leads many divorcing parents to aggressive attorneys for the purpose of "protecting their children, and assets," two of the biggest movie stars in the world, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, have announced that they will be divorcing with the assistance of a neutral divorce mediator to help settle all issues amicably, without attorneys involved in the process.
Celebrities commonly use divorce mediation to settle out of court, mindful of the privacy advantage of "mediation confidentiality," which also exists under Arizona law. But few have so intentionally chosen to mediate in order to protect their children's well being and peacefully resolve their divorce. Families everywhere should adopt this celebrity trend: peaceful separation through divorce mediation.
In a joint statement, Affleck and Garner, parents to three young children, recently declared:
We go forward with love and friendship for one another and a commitment to co-parenting our children whose privacy we ask to be respected during this difficult time... This will be our only comment on this private, family matter.
They may not have succeeded in their marriage, but they should be enthusiastically commended for how they are approaching their divorce, and behaving as committed, united co-parents. Their words and actions demonstrate a simple, but epic acknowledgment of their united commitment to reorganize their family in the healthiest way possible, rather than cause a destructive family break-up.
Custody battles in court often become a useless clash to prove who is the better parent -- an exercise that fails to consider what is actually in any child's best interest. Contentious litigation causes ongoing high conflict between parents, which is the root cause of long-term psychological issues in children of divorce. Mediation de-escalates conflict and lays a foundation for healthy post-divorce co-parenting and communication.
Responsible parents cooperate as co-parents during and after divorce regardless of their own personal feelings of pain or anger. But, parents need a divorce process that encourages reasonableness and problem solving, rather than a system that escalates conflict and turns spouses into permanent enemies. The courtroom experience will virtually never result in healthy co-parenting after divorce. Divorce mediation provides exactly that opportunity.
As a result, we see children of mediated divorces maintaining closer and healthier relationships with parents, compared to children of litigated divorces.
Divorce is indeed a "family matter" and divorce without court helps keep it just that a matter of the family. It is an emotional event, more so than a legal and financial occurrence. Family matters, can and should, be resolved with the thoughtfulness and care that families deserve, even in difficult and strained times.
Backlogged courts, bloated legal fees, and scores of unsatisfied litigants should inspire spouses considering divorce to remember the Ben and Jen approach: Pass on aggressive legal representation in court, and instead, enter divorce mediation, where you can still receive legal advice, but have a healthier divorce, protect your children from emotional harm, and ensure that you never step foot in a courtroom.
Ben and Jen are passing on court, even with parenting time, custody, and potentially over a hundred million dollars of assets at stake. They understand, what you now do too: the most far-reaching and consequential decision divorcing spouses will make for their children's -- and their own -- future is to prevent an unnecessary divorce war.