Have you seen “Troy,” the movie starring Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom? In my opinion, it’s not a terribly good film, but it had a surprisingly powerful impact on me, and it was a driving force behind the creation of the Peaceful Divorce Model.
You probably know the story of the Trojan War: an epic struggle between the armies of ancient Greece and Troy over the fate of the fair Helen, the wife of Greek King Menelaus of Mycenae, who falls hopelessly in love with a prince of Troy. When Helen is swept away by Paris to the walled Trojan capital, the offense triggers the launching of a thousand ships and 10 year-long siege of Troy. Because Troy proved to be impenetrable by the revenge-filled Greeks, much of the epic tale is dedicated to the run up to the penultimate confrontation on the plains before the walled city.
In a darkened theater, I watched the preparations for battle unfold on the screen. There are men spending sleepless nights contemplating their mortality and legacies. There is the sharpening of spears and the testing of bows. We see the agony of a father as he watches his warrior sons prepare to meet their fates. Warriors bid farewell to their womenfolk and progeny.
And then the day of reckoning arrives. As the camera pans the field of battle occupied by armies of thousands strong, two chariots (one from each side) ride out from the lines and meet in the center of the wide-open plain. There, a rather ridiculous conversation ensues, somewhat reminiscent of that Grey Poupon commercial: “Is there anything that can be done now to stop us from annihilating each other?” I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout, “Excuse me, but why didn’t this conversation take place back before this whole odyssey began so that we could all be spared this dreadful movie?”
I realized at that moment that this scene alone was worth the price of my admission. For there, on the screen, was the artistic embodiment of “alternative” dispute resolution. The director clearly knew that, since the dawn of human history, efforts at conciliation usually occur only after the combatants have sufficiently bloodied each other and mutually-assured destruction appears to be the only alternative.
Later, I thought to myself: what if my clients were encouraged to explore the possibility of achieving less-adversarial, less-stressful, and less-expensive resolutions of their disputes early on in their cases, before bludgeoning each other and sacrificing their children, dignity, savings and sanity at the altar of “winning at all costs?” What if, from the outset of any family matter, divorce professionals worked together, cooperatively, and their collective energies were directed to achieving peaceful resolutions? Although my preference had always been to settle cases, I realized that I was still working too hard in the adversarial process and waiting too long to initiate and pursue settlement options, and so were my colleagues. Surely, there had to be a better way.
And the Peaceful Divorce Model was born.