‘Get Divorces Out of Court’

Here is an excellent piece on how to deal with family conflict (H/T: Debra Healey) written by Bruce Peterson, a self-described spiritual progressive and a judge in Minneapolis; he was the presiding judge of the Hennepin County Family Court from  2006 to 2008.

Now I realize spirituality isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; frankly, it wasn’t mine for many years.  But I think that that would be a mistaken reason to forgo this essay.  If you’re at all interested in a rational critique of the family law system and proposals to fix it, you owe it to yourself to read this piece.

Here are some key excerpts:

Based on the many families I have seen in court and some of the things we have been trying in Minnesota, I believe legal institutions can help people act from their highest selves, rather than bring out the worst in our egocentric natures. What’s needed is to do away with the adversary nature of family proceedings and instead offer opportunities for deeper communication.
Is it possible for a court system to promote healing as a way of resolving surface disputes? Some forms of mediation get close (see www.transformativemediation.org), and a growing movement called “collaborative practice” tries to factor out the coercive outsider by having both lawyers and the parties commit to never going to court (www.collaborativepractice.com). But some especially direct techniques warrant further exploration. For example, Marshall Rosenberg, the originator of what he calls “nonviolent communication” (sometimes called “compassionate communication”) [and] Dominic Barter, a talented English social worker who has been working in Brazil for many years, has married the concept of nonviolent communication with the age-old community circle processes used in traditional cultures throughout the world to develop a very structured process to heal conflicts.