Would it be an adversarial model? Would it be based on a legal model designed for contract disputes? I am willing to wager that the answer is no. I had this conversation with a judge once, and since then I have always thought about this issue through the lens of starting over.
Each day, I find new reasons to question the effectiveness of the adversarial model for family law, and over time, this has sparked me to write this blog.
I currently have the luxury of being in New Zealand on a Fulbright Scholarship. I am an LLM Candidate at the University of Otago, and Fulbright will not allow me to do any paid work. This means that I have one task this year – write a thesis about the role of lawyers for children in custody cases. The research, of course, takes me deep into the heart of what it means to practice family law, and instead of ignoring the issues that arise because they do not relate specifically to my thesis, I am going to discuss them here. I promise I will not cite the blog in my thesis.
So what would the model look like to help our unit up above? I would argue that it needs to begin by not being based on a zero-sum model. The adversarial system breeds a belief that if you win, I lose, and if I win, you lose. There is no grey area. There is no possibility for both sides to win. But that is not how the world operates. It is possible for both sides to win.
There is no question that this is difficult. There is no question that family law is messy. It involves emotions that run deeper than any others and laws that do not fit the rapidly changing definitions of families. It is infused with budget cuts undermining already overburdened courts and professionals. Yes, it would be easy to say that family law is a lost cause. It would be easy to stick to the status quo because that change is always harder. But staying here hurts families. It hurts children.
This blog will focus on changes going on around the world in family law. It will pull together the freshest ideas that are working, or have failed to work, aimed at involving children in the process, making it less adversarial, quicker, and cheaper for families, and overall helping families navigate the world that is pulling their unit apart. Please join the discussion. Please share your thoughts and ideas and inspiration.
I know that with the right inspiration we can do right by children and families. We just need to have the information in front of us. This blog will be the place to find that information. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to study these issues in depth, and this blog will put all ideas on the table that I can find.
Thanks for reading.
© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved