January 12, 2010 Couples overburdened with emotion choose litigation as the best way to protect their interests. "By letting the court determine far more than just their future financial, and custody decisions, the divorcing parties abdicates the power they have over their own life and choices," the judge says. "Without fail, both parties end up regretting the decision to litigate almost immediately and for years to come. Nobody starts a marriage hoping it will end in divorce, but that doesn't mean that divorce needs to be the defining moment of their life."
Judge Lowrance has learned that there's a better way to handle divorce. So she came up with a plan to turn the negatives of divorce into positives. She explains the program in her new book, The Good Karma Divorce: Avoid Litigation, Turn Negative Emotions into Positive Actions, and Get On with the Rest of Your Life.
This practical guide will help those at any point in the divorce process. Over the last four years 100% of divorcing couples who followed these principles have avoided trial, the judge adds.
Offering concrete advice from the bench, real-life stories, no-nonsense tools, and checklists, this revolutionary guide helps readers avoid the black hole of litigation and learn how to:
Create a game plan: Judge Lowrance shows readers how to craft a roadmap that will serve as a moral compass throughout the ever-twisting divorce journey.
Harness negative emotions: Divorce often brings out some of the strongest emotions ever felt in one's lifetime. Judge Lowrance helps transform these raw feelings into positive power, showing readers that they don't have to be victims.
Prevent collateral damage: Divorce is so personal that it is easy to lose focus on the big picture. Judge Lowrance's impassioned advice will help guide readers through the minefield, delivering a clear course of action to protect what we all value most—including our children
Master constructive confrontation: It might start ugly but it doesn't have to stay that way. Judge Lowrance teaches how to avoid carnage in the courtroom, reinvigorate stale negotiations, and create a civility agreement.
Words of Advice from Judge Lowrance
This is the most popular time of year for divorce filings, Judge Lowrance points out. More couples file for divorce in early January than at any other time throughout the year. She offers some advice to divorcing couples.
The Court Process:
Divorce is expensive-the average divorce for middle-income families is $30,000. For high income families, it can go into the millions.
Despite this, the majority of cases that go to trial are not really about the financial bottom line, but about an emotional attachment to a perceived righteous position.
The Court system will not rescue you. Emotional justice is not and was never intended to be included in the process. Putting all of your trust in the belief that the systems will protect you or give back your power is an enfeebling and costly fantasy. Using the court system to dismantle a family is the wrong medicine for healing.
Be open to all possibilities of settlement. Judges appreciate even small compromises and acts of reconciliation—even in the middle of battle—and will notice your attempts to make them. We keep a watchful eye on who is enjoying the fight and who is keeping the hostilities alive when they could be ended.
Even the tiniest lie can ruin credibility. The five hundred dollars you have in your underwear drawer and didn't disclose could destroy your case. Plus, lies travel in packs, and for each one you need five to support it.
A Civility Contract is key. The agreements in my courtroom usually include the Creation of a Civility Contract—it can be used before, during, or after the divorce for conflict, communication and negotiation.
In the beginning, you won't be ready to forgive. At this stage it is fine to let your emotions steep and give them room to breathe. Treat them like a flu that has to run its course. There is a necessary gestation period between anger and forgiveness.
But, remember that forgiveness is one of the greatest tools for well-being—it gives you back your power.
In my courtroom, I ask the parties if they would consider forgiving their spouse for even a small infraction. To hold onto an old thought and resentment is like dragging around a corpse. Some say time heals all wounds, but I say, without effort, time congeals all wounds.
In my courtroom, I encourage apologizing. At first, people believe they are giving up power when they apologize. Actually, they are getting it.
Apologies are so powerful that they are almost Machiavellian, as the recipient knows you are unhooking from the event. Once the apologizer accepts some responsibility, then the injured party no longer feels the need to hold the resentment.
The old phrase "children are resilient" is very handy for parents who don't want to take responsibility for their actions. It's a damaging myth, resulting in inadequate preparations to protect children.
Ordinary parenting is not enough; in my courtroom, the parents adopt wisdom building skills for heroic parenting. The question I always ask is, "What is more important – for you to be right, or for your children to be happy?"
Divorce scars children, and sometimes the effects do not appear until much later. The statistics are epidemic, as many as 50% of the children from divorce don't want to get married or have children.
The main complaint I get when I interview children is that no one has explained the divorce to them, or when someone did, the reasons did not sound authentic. The divorce explanation you give your children may be the most important conversation you ever have with them.
The most common emotion I see in children of divorce is anger: being left by one or more parents, not being protected during the process, court fights over visitation or custody, and anger with themselves because they could not save their parents' marriage.
About the Author:
Judge Michele F. Lowrance has spent 20 years as a domestic-relations lawyer and has been a domestic-relations judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois since 1995. She has made numerous TV appearances including "American Justice" with Bill Kurtis. She is a regular guest lecturer at the Chicago Bar Association and Northwestern University. A child of divorce who was raised by her grandparents, Judge Lowrance has also been through divorce herself. She has devoted her professional life to helping those similarly situated.
THE GOOD KARMA DIVORCE
Forgiveness and compromise
MEET JUDGE LOWRANCE
7pm on Wednesday, Jan. 13
Borders Books and Music
830 N Michigan Ave.