November 24, 2014

Renewal in Divorce

168619593I began writing this entry on Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish new year, so it is fitting that my thoughts turn to one of the themes of this holiday: renewal. Much of what I do as a divorce attorney feels like the opposite of renewal. I bump up against parties’ old patterns of behavior, I hash through old accounts, and I am often at the mercy of precedent, which is to say old court cases. And yet, when my work is done, my clients face life as divorced people, which is, for most of them, a new reality that brings with it new demands, perhaps new schedules, and definitely new possibilities. So renewal, then, is inherent in the divorce process.

But renewal is neither painless nor divorced, so to speak, from the past. Following on the heels of Rosh Hashanah is the holy day of Yom Kippur, when Jews engage in introspection, retrospection, and confession of sins of the year past. This is not an easy or painless process, but it is one that is necessary for the work of renewal to take place. Because, despite the self-help rhetoric devoted to making a clean break with the past, leaving the past behind, et cetera, the truth is that outrunning one’s past is like trying to escape one’s own shadow: no matter how far or fast you go, You are still there. There is no moving beyond your past without facing it squarely and committing to doing things differently going forward.

So it is with divorce.

The problem is that the traditional litigation model of divorce doesn’t provide much opportunity for the self-reflection that is necessary for real change to take place. Instead, the parties are typically concerned with what their spouse has done, how their spouse should change, and what they themselves are entitled to as a matter of law. This is not a path that leads to renewal, but rather to the perpetuation of old ways of relating to one another. On the other hand, the Collaborative process, with its provisions for open and honest communication, coaches, and future-focused orientation, gives the participants the tools they need to confront the past without dwelling in it, and to forge a new way of relating to one another as former spouses still committed to both parties’ well-being (and that of their children).

True renewal is hard work, but with the proper tools and focus, it is possible, even in a situation as potentially fraught with recrimination as a divorce.


Joshua Gitelson comes to the practice of law via a first career in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, as a film editor and writer for motion pictures and television. The son of a lawyer on the one hand and a clinical psychologist on the other, Josh has gravitated toward family law as an amalgam of these two “family businesses.” His parents’ amicable divorce inspired him to help others through the divorce process with as little rancor and conflict as possible. As a result, Josh has embraced the collaborative divorce model as a technique to complement his work on divorce in the traditional litigation mode. Learn more at

Tagged with:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>