If there was ever a calling to which I believe family lawyers are uniquely well-suited, it is to serve as peacemakers.
A few family attorneys have the luxury of only serving one kind of client: private placement adoption attorneys and so-called “Father’s Rights” lawyers are two groups that come to my mind most readily. Otherwise, family lawyers tend to represent family members regardless of age, gender, creed or social standing.
I can’t help but think to myself in every family matter I am involved in, “But for the Grace of God, I could be representing the other party.” One law firm candidly advertises “It’s not whether you will hire us, but whether you will hire us first.” Position in a family law case is a bit of a craps shoot.
So, while I could make a compelling case on behalf of a father seeking equal timesharing, I know that I could make an equally compelling case on behalf of his stay-at-home wife as to why regular but less than equal timesharing is in their young child’s best interest. I am not unique among family lawyers in being able to do so. Being well-versed in and able to see and understand both sides of an issue should give every family’s lawyers the ability to work together to bridge the divide. Why leave it up to more lawyers (namely, trial and appellate judges) to impose by edict what could be done by compromise?
Families yearn to be empowered to resolve their issues on their own. That’s why many people don’t seek out lawyers to help them to do so. They perceive us as being antithetical to the process of peacemaking. And yet, we are the best equipped persons to achieve peaceful resolutions that work, because we know what happens when family matters are not well-handled.
So, to my family law brethren, a word to the wise: The time has come for us to seriously question what we hope to accomplish for families when we charge ourselves with representing all clients “zealously” and use a default dispute resolution process governed by rules modeled on those governing adversarial litigation. The families we aspire to assist are seeking peace and stability in their lives. If we commit ourselves to serving not just as advisors or advocates, but as peacemakers as well, we will have something to offer that will have REAL AND LASTING VALUE for Florida’s families.
And remember, just because you’re peaceful doesn’t mean you’re weak.