Sorry, America, you're not sharp enough to safely have affairs, or computers -- @JenniferWeiner

Jennifer Weiner is a first-rate writer, bestselling novelist, old-style newspaper journalist and Princeton grad who gets dismissed as "chick lit" because she chooses to write about something that was long one of the main subjects of Literature but is now considered "Romance" or "Young Adult" -- the mating and marriage habits of young-to-middle-aged people who are fairly normal, at least compared to most characters in Literature. For those of us who aren't up for one of her novels right now, she shows off what she can do in:

The Ashley Madison Hack Shows We’re Too Dumb to Cheat

 By Jennifer Weiner, New York Times, AUG. 20, 2015

This top divorce litigator highly recommends mediation, but for reasons most of us won't talk about:

It's really refreshing to hear Atlanta divorce lawyer Randy Kessler say why he thinks mediation is "wonderful" and needed in almost every family law case that is in contested litigation or heading for it. ("High-Conflict Cases: Q&A with Randall Kessler" on, 9/1/15)

For me, just like for Randy, actually working as a neutral Mediator is just the tip of the iceberg. I act as a mediator in family law cases, but almost as often, I represent one person as their lawyer in a mediation that involves lawyers as well as clients and the neutral mediator. Even more often, I counsel clients who are in mediation on their own. I help them review their written agreements and their personal and legal situations before they finally sign a contract settling all the issues between them and their ex. But far more often than that, I help people through divorce and other family disputes as a negotiator and drafter, as a litigator, or in Collaborative Law, which combines the conflict-resolving  techniques of mediation with the things that mediators cannot provide but lawyers must: complete, frank legal advice; loyalty and fidelity to the client's goals and interests; and advocacy which makes sure that clients' views are heard, that their interests and concerns are carefully and adequately considered in the process, and that before making any final decision, they have enough time, information, advice, and are in a mental and emotional state to understand and make such life-changing decisions safely. 

I'm not a touchy-feely "new age" or "granola" mediator or lawyer, so I have always really liked Randy's style. He mentions one virtue of mediation that I always thought was necessary and should be recognized and developed, but which went against the purist therapeutic, facilitative, non-directive ideal of mediation which I was trained in over 20 years ago. Many people in disputes want, and need, to make their case for justice, as they see it, to someone who represents their community (however they define it), and/or an authority figure,  or at least to someone who will understand their situation, and whom the other party will have to respect and listen to. I always thought of this aspect as "A Mediator is a Person in Your Neighborhood."

Here's the mediation part of Randy's interview: 

Let’s be clear that I'm a litigator who also mediates. I did get trained 20 years ago as a mediator and I do serve a few times a year as a mediator, but I'm an advocate and often hired because people think they need to litigate.

Sooner or later, people will understand that mediation is almost inevitable in any divorce case. It's a wonderful process and it's almost necessary in every case, except when there’s domestic violence or it's clear mediation won't work. It is worth trying for so many reasons and that's why I recently wrote a book on mediation and how I feel about it. If done properly, mediation gives you a chance to settle the case, save the aggravation of litigation, and prevents you from hearing the unkind words of your spouse on the witness stand that will ring in your mind forever. It’s invaluable if you can solve the case without litigation.

There are additional secondary and tertiary benefits to mediation. You may learn something about your opponent's case that makes you re-evaluate your case, or you may learn something about your own client and realize they can't stand up to the other side. For example, if your client falls apart when the other side is present, you cannot go to trial. You may learn that the other lawyer is brilliant or not so brilliant. Maybe the most important point is that mediation allows your client to have a brief catharsis and say the things that many people feel they need to go to court to be able to say. While it might not matter to the judge what your client’s ex-spouse did to them, it matters to the client and they may not be able or willing to settle the case until they've said it to somebody besides their attorney – somebody neutral like a mediator.

Mediation and litigation are not mutually exclusive. They’re part of the process. Most judges require or urge mediation if for no other reason than they know it will reduce their calendar. If half of the cases that go to mediation can settle, there are 50% fewer cases that the judge has to handle. More than 50% of cases that go to mediation in domestic cases do settle.

Mediation is a wonderful tool. When I first started, I remember lawyers saying that they didn’t need a mediator to help settle their cases; however, fewer clients felt like they'd had their chance to speak. I could talk about mediation for hours, which is why I wrote a book on it. ...

From: "High-Conflict Cases: Q&A with Randall Kessler" on, 9/1/15.

Randy's book is How to Mediate a Divorce.

How the Real "Mad Men" and Women Lived and Raised Kids -- And We Should, Too

The best-written version of something many of us have known for years. More proof that “humorists” are the most serious, effective social critics and practical philosophers.

Dave Barry: The Greatest (Party) Generation

Raising children wasn’t always an all-consuming job. Humorist Dave Barry on his parents’ wild parties and the grown-up escapades of the ‘Mad Men’ era


Looking back, I think my parents had more fun than I did. ... [Read More]


*Article originally appeared in Wall Street Journal, 2/26/15, adapted from Barry's new book, 

Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster): Life Lessons and Other Ravings from Dave Barry

Healing Separations, Controlled Separations: Can they save marriages?

I was a toddler when the no-fault divorce revolution really got going, but I heard a lot about divorce and separation from a very early age. People used to separate for a time, to work on their marriage or just to find out what it would be like to be apart, and then get back together. Of course, many separations would start out with that idea, and then become permanent, and sometimes it looked like one spouse intended that all along. Nowadays, a marriage-saving separation is a pretty old-fashioned idea and separation generally means eventual divorce. With divorce laws now being "unilateral", an agreement to a temporary or conditional separation isn't legally binding, and the further apart people get, the more everything around them conspires to pull them further apart.


But some experts have been designing a more durable, productive form of the old model of "trial separation". I have seen an agreement about a "Healing Separation", and I've heard considerably more about "Controlled Separation". From reading the book by its inventor, Lee Raffel, and hearing her talk about it at a Smart Marriages conference, it sounds like a very promising model. I asked Smart Marriages founder Diane Sollee about it, and she said, "It has helped so many couples, and many therapists said they loved using it." Jen Abbas deJong has collected the stories of five couples who separated and reunited in stronger marriages.


The Great Divorce: It's About Deep Choices

In an ordination sermon at my church today, Bishop James Magness, Bishop for the Armed Services, talked about C.S. Lewis's little book, The Great Divorce. He shared some amazing insights, some of which I couldn't discern through his accent. But it reminded me what an important book this is. Even if you're like me and you tend to avoid theological or philosphical authors even when they're very popular, perhaps especially when their real popularity is in some other area, you won't choke on this one: it's extremely short, and it's fiction, though full of truth. 

What does this have to do with the kind of divorce I work with? Sorry, some divorces are not as bad as others, but I don't know of any that have been "great." And yet, on reflection, the most important thing about this book is also the most important thing about the path of divorce. The Great Divorce is about human beings making choices, choices that are bigger than life and death. And about even more people not making, and refusing even to recognize, choices.

In the greatest divorces, people learn, usually with difficulty, that they are responsible for making their own choices; they take counsel and time to see, as clearly as they are able, what the consequences would be for them and for others, and they take responsibility for their choices and the consequences. They do so in a way that respects their own needs and inherent value, and also those of the other family members and the professionals and institutions they work with. When they stand for their choices rather than avoiding them or pretending that someone else made them, they more often make choices that integrate with other people's choices and needs.

Some of my clients' best actions and decisions have been in Collaborative Divorce, but not all of them: in marital reconciliations, in conventional settlement negotiation, in mediation, and in litigation, both in victory and defeat, in resolving issues, and even sometimes in deciding to leave them unresolved and unpursued, clients can give a divorce lawyer glimpses of greatness.

Legal divorce should come after BOTH spouses' "emotional divorce"

Divorce really sucks (a view from the trenches) Part III : "Psychological Impact Of Marital Dissolution On The Nuclear Family - or

Divorce Wars/Legal Strategies and Myths", by Dallas-FW-area divorce lawyer Mark Nackol

This article has a very good point, although it's bound up in a lot of legalese, not in a way that makes it hard to understand. It explains why a divorce goes a lot better once both parties have reached emotional acceptance of the divorce and taken responsibility for their own partial fault. For even more on this see Aftermarriage — The Myth of Divorce by Boston divorce lawyer Anita Robboy.

This is one more argument for waiting periods of about two years for divorce, whether fault or no-fault, although the author does not get into that.