Marcy Jones, (JD), attorney, divorce coach, lecturer and first-time author has written a superbly informative and emotionally supportive book entitled Graceful Divorce Solutions: A Comprehensive and Pro-active Guide to Saving You Time, Money and Your Sanity. Jones understands firsthand that facing divorce can feel equal to experiencing one of the greatest losses of your life: the loss of your hopes and dreams as a couple. Jones’s stated mission for her book is not small, she wants to see the transformation of a faulty legal system which she says is “broken.” She goes on to claim, “Right now, we don’t do divorce, it does us. Simply stated, the whole system is illogical and out of control.”
The good news, there is an answer in the 21st century called being informed about the current legal system and its alternative called “Collaborative Divorce.” Throughout this work, Jones encourages us to trust that “by using our common sense and a bit of emotional intelligence, we can begin to apply some practical solutions that are needed in order to protect the many families and children who are affected by this life transition.”
Like an empathic divorce coach, Marcy Jones conveys authentic care for her readers, after all, she knows intimately of their suffering.
Coming to accept the fact that “this marriage is over” can be excruciating. Whether you’re the one asking for divorce or the one being asked for one, your life and everything you knew prior to this date will be forever changed.
Emotionally, dealing with divorce is much like dealing with a death of a loved one. One will most likely have to go through what author of On Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, calls “the five states of grief” which include: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Jones reminds her readers that the person who files for divorce may already be experiencing “acceptance” of the marriage’s end whereas the one asking for a divorce may be in stage one, “denial” or two, “anger.” Either way, for her or him, acceptance can seem to take an eternity. But filing for a divorce affects each person differently.
Graceful Divorce Solutions offers multiple vehicles for learning “how to” get a divorce that works well for all people involved, including children. Jones educates her reader to know that the emotional process of divorce is just one piece of the bitter pie. She claims couples will have four divorces to work through to experience a satisfying or, at least, workable ending to their marriage (which applies to both gay and straight couples alike). These four stages include: The Legal Divorce, The Financial Divorce, The Social Divorce and The Emotional Divorce.
Because this time in a distressed couple’s life can be vexed, like riding a never-ending roller-coaster, guidance and correct information are vital if you’re to skillfully negotiate the labyrinth called our legal system. And yet, when your life feels upside down, the last thing you feel like doing is learning how to work with the ins and outs of a truly upside down legal system.
Throughout the book and in uniquely-helpful ways, Jones makes her convictions known, “I object to the conventional way we do divorce, and so should you! The system is not just flawed. There’s not just a little crack there. It’s totally busted. It is so senseless and out of control, it’s hard for me even to find strong enough words to express this truth.” Like the civil-rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Marcy Jones is dedicated to transforming this unjust system into one that values collaboration and workable outcomes for children of couples that decide to end their marriage.
Jones will have little reader resistance regarding her disappointment with the training and behavior of most lawyers. Yet, most of us don’t know that the U.S. legal system was largely founded on the premise that civilized people need protection from violence, political tyranny and threats to their personal property. Most of us go to court only to serve as jurors or to fight a speeding ticket in traffic court. For some, filing for a divorce may be our very first encounter with the legal system. Understandably, the prospect of dealing with lawyers, courts, and legal mumbo jumbo can be overwhelming.
One of the best ways to steel yourself for what’s to come and boost your self-confidence is to find out about the laws that apply to divorce and the legal processes involved in getting a divorce. Marcy Jones’s book, Graceful Divorce Solutions, serves as free legal counsel and offers you room to explore your own questions, needs and fears in this wholly accessible guide.
The reader can’t help but see that the legal system, in its current incarnation, is not friendly to families, kids or to couples seeking to be non-combative. A peaceful resolution is a rare outcome when one goes to divorce court, in part, because lawyers have been trained in Zealous Advocacy – to argue for the best result they can get for their client regardless of how it affects or damages others. But, such an aggressive framework can be infinitely destructive not only to the parties involved, but to the children that the couple may need to co-parent for the rest of their lives. Jones reminds us, from first-hand experience, that to co-parent in a skillful way, adults need to do their best to get along. Children need stability to thrive and watching unhappy and bitter parents resent each other, perhaps vocally assault the other parent’s character, is always destructive.
Prior to becoming a collaborative attorney, Jones, herself, survived working with our archaic legal system in going through her own divorce. Both her husband and past bosses were practicing attorneys who frequently used an adversarial approach to “solve” disagreements. The word “collaborative” was rarely used or thought of positively and would certainly prove less profitable for the firm. There seemed to always be a “winner” and a “loser” in the court of law, according to Jones. For most, that’s just the way the system rolls.
Who wouldn’t be discouraged with this current state of affairs? Yet, after reading this book it is clear that Marcy Jones has not lost hope. She believes change and empowering ourselves can come through a commitment to learning alternatives. She testifies: “The truth is, more and more lawyers who specialize in family law are also feeling the destructiveness of the conventional divorce process and looking for a better way.” She goes on to announce the solution: “Collaborative divorce was the answer.”
Perhaps a little background on this method is in order. In the late 20th-century, around 1990, attorney Stu Webb began using his own “collaborative divorce” model in a way that swept rapidly across the legal world. Some disgruntled family lawyers began to work with mediators (non-legal professionals trained to be impartial coaches in service of both parties finding non-violent ways to find common ground). Others thought, “This process could benefit with a matrix of support for each person involved (whether the frustrated couple lives with or without young children).” Hence, they gave birth of the collaborative divorce method.
Pauline Tesler, author of Collaborative Divorce: The Revolutionary New Way to Restructure Your Family, Resolve Legal Issues and Move on with Your Life, was one of the earliest trainers traveling across North America to meet this demand. Like Tesler, Jones has become one of the most active collaborative lawyers in the field. She functions not only as persuasive leader but almost like an evangelist for life-altering change in the field of divorce law. She’s embraced an interdisciplinary team approach for creating a supportive process for all en route to a non-aggressive settlement. Now, more than ever, this team model has become available in most states and provinces in North America and, due to the rave reviews from content clients, word of mouth is spreading on how this collaborative method works and why it seems to be so successful.
All divorce is painful but a collaborative divorce, according to Jones, allows the greatest possible support to each person involved. A team of helpers from the fields of law, psychology, and finance can provide coordinated support and guidance to slow down, reflect, focus on the big picture, each person’s goals and values. All of this is done in service of making the best decisions together. When couples agree to work non-combatively-to find agreement in relation to division of property, debt, assets, and child custody-there becomes no need to go to court.
Settlement outside the legal system is what all parties involved must agree to in order for this collaborative arrangement to work. As a matter of fact, agreeing NOT to go to court is a requirement in order to begin the process of a collaborative divorce.
Until all people know this, Jones will not stop educating the rest of us, inevitably leading the way to a family law overhaul. Like ending racism, Jones believes that ignorance about alternatives to the current legal system is not only radically disempowering, putting many at the mercy of the courts, it is destroying lives. What’s even more frustrating for Jones is how many people don’t know the consequences of going through our current legal system in search of creating a viable settlement.
So many would-be clients of divorce attorneys do not have a clue about how divorce proceedings work in their state. Complex laws-including state property laws and federal tax laws, plus numerous interpretations of those laws-can make deciding who gets what an overwhelming undertaking, especially if you and your spouse have managed to amass a considerable amount of assets.
If you and your spouse can work together to resolve these issues, your divorce can be relatively quick and inexpensive. However, if you can’t resolve it between the two of you, or if your divorce has complicating factors (your marital property or debt is substantial, for example) ending your marriage can take time and money. In a worst-case scenario, you must look to the courts for guidance, something that’s as expensive as it is unavailable.
The “cost” of divorce is hard to measure even if one keeps their focus entirely on money. Certainly, the result of most settlements-unless you’re married to Donald Trump or Tiger Woods-has left more ex-wives than ex-husbands financially challenged. Too, the older your age, if it’s been a while since you’ve worked, can make earning a viable income unlikely. Therefore, getting an adequate amount of spousal support, (formerly called “alimony”), for a long enough period of time is essential to maintaining an acceptable post-divorce lifestyle. However, if your divorce is rancorous, your spouse may fight against paying you the amount you think you need or go after you via character assassination to avoid meeting what you consider to be their financial obligation.
Time management and mental health concerns are also important factors to attend to when filing for a divorce. Again, Jones sees the present legal system as monstrously inadequate. When we look to it for help, it’s more like playing Russian roulette with your (and, if relevant, your children’s) future. Among other factors, local norms and cultural values can enslave you to the will and whimsy of the courts. A judge in a socially-conservative part of any state may decide the same issue-alimony or which parent gets custody, for example-quite differently than a judge in a more progressive part of that same state. You can appeal a judge’s decision, of course, but appeals are rarely won. Moreover, appealing means spending more money, time and mental-health on an attorney and then, if you win your appeal, you’ll spend even more money on a new trial (the timing of which is as predictable as a wild monkey).
Wading through the swamp of the legal system on one’s own becomes less and less desirable. There’s no doubt that people need experienced guidance. Jones offers her readers exactly this kind of help. She shares not only useful information on collaborative divorce but also on the current practices inside family divorce law. As such, through writing exercises and useful summaries in each chapter, she helps readers decide which way they may want to go.
Jones lets the reader know that while one may resolve legal, property and financial issues via pursuing a divorce through the court system, she warns that the same law will not resolve the anger, guilt, fear, or sadness each person may feel. Jones says, “Don’t look to the legal system to do that for you. You’ll be left feeling disappointed and frustrated when your divorce is over.”
Marcy Jones, with great sincerity, broad experience and emotional intelligence, wants her readers to be informed and “at choice,” as they say in the life-coaching world (something for which Jones has also received certification). One of her favorite slogans Jones uses more than a few times in her book is “Knowledge is Power.” There is no doubt that Graceful Divorce Solutions is equal to several empowering consultations with a wise divorce coach, family counselor and one who knows the “ins and outs” of the current legal system. Jones gives divorcing couples, and those who care about creating a peaceful end to their marriage, practical support that they will not get anywhere else, certainly not for free.
Graceful Divorce Solutions will enable any spouse to bypass the truly awful, adversarial process of the courts and find a collaborative result that will surely leave each member part of a humane, compassionate and viable future.