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Doctors Considering Divorce Have Options


A mission-oriented career like physician can put a strain on marriages. However, there are ways to minimize the stress and acrimony when marriages fail.

“Divorce is a game played by lawyers.”

—Cary Grant

My parents had what one could call a “good medical marriage.” As the daughter and sister of physicians, my mom knew the calling and respected my father’s doctor career. She recognized that his practice and patients took priority. Not all spouses are as understanding.

Although a recent BMJ report shows that physicians are less likely than other healthcare professionals to be divorced, the pressures of a medical career can be daunting. My physician-dad was married three times; two were happy and one wasn’t. During the one split-up he was smacked around pretty good (emotionally, that is) and got a big legal bill for the experience.

An author friend of mine on the Jersey Shore, Michael J. Heath, is out with a new book and website on the trying matter of divorce. He says couples seeking to end their marriages should “work things out, don’t fight things out.”

He recently wrote about the benefits of collaborative law and mediation, and gave us permission to republish his insights:

“Anyone contemplating a divorce is likely thinking of hiring legal counsel. Some people may do like I did and simply use the recommendation of a friend while others might search the internet to gather information before choosing representation. Both are good ways and any due diligence has a significant advantage over dialing a phone number found on a legal ad. But there is another option that most people should consider and that is not retaining a lawyer at all, at least not initially.

I am not talking about do-it-yourself divorce. DYI divorces should be rare and even when one is performed an attorney should review the documents before submitting it to the court. What I am proposing is that if someone’s marriage is ending, they hold off obtaining legal counsel until mediation and collaborative law is considered. Let me emphasize the word ‘before’ because once one spouse pays a legal retainer and papers are served, it gets real difficult to halt the litigation train steaming out of the station. However, if the couple finds mediation or collaborative law right for them then it’s almost certain that they will save a lot of money and emotional grief.

Divorce litigation is an adversarial system (win-lose) where both sides fight for their positions in an ugly arena of dueling attorneys and court battles. Too often finances become exhausted or emotions end up so strained that the couple surrenders and accepts a settlement neither one wants (lose-lose). On the other hand, mediation and collaborative law is based on the concept of recognizing people’s interests and finding ways to achieve solutions in a spirit of respect and mutual problem-solving. Mediators and collaborative lawyers conduct meetings where the interests of both the husband and wife are recognized and brainstorming is used to find ways of satisfying those interests (win-win).

There are additional benefits to using an alternative to divorce litigation. In mediation or collaborative law, a free exchange of information cuts the cost of discovery. In the case where a specialist is required to provide an opinion (e.g. real estate, child custody) the expert is shared rather than each spouse hiring his/her own. Three and four-way meetings are less formal than court and are conducted out of the public eye. And since there is a spirit of cooperation, the process is normally shorter which also helps it to be less expensive.

Mediation and collaborative law aren’t for everyone. Those experiencing serious domestic violence, dissipation of complex assets or threats to abscond with the children should seek traditional counsel in addition to contacting the proper authorities. However, if a couple is in a position to work it out instead of fighting it out, they will be in greater control of their future. And that will be better for both their pocketbooks and emotional well-being.”

Makes sense. For more information, contact Mike at website.

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