December 6, 2013

Work With Your Spouse: What We Can Learn From Nelson Mandela

Nelson MandelaIf you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy.  Then he becomes your partner.”-Nelson Mandela

If you are going through a divorce, it might feel like your spouse is the enemy and you really are at war. However, we can all learn much from Nelson Mandela, who passed away yesterday at the age of 95. Mr. Mandela was a lawyer, activist and peacemaker; and although he was a global figure, we can apply his lessons to divorce and conflict at home.

If one spouse files for a traditional divorce through the court, the couple (and their children) embark on a journey, some clients describe, to complete hell. If they are able to return to this world, so to speak, the family unit is forever transformed, and not for the better. Spouses, who once loved one another, often do become enemies. The court process, particularly if custody over the children is an issue, often vilifies one parent and an all-out war breaks out.

So, what’s the answer? Simple. Work with your spouse. Even if you DO see your spouse as the enemy, try to stay out of court. Judges don’t want to see you. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they don’t want to decide where YOUR children should live. They don’t want to decide how to divide YOUR property. Stop and think about that. Do you want a stranger to make life altering decisions for you?

You and your spouse should (and can) make those decisions. But you need a divorce process that will allow you to make the best choices, and you need attorneys and other professionals who can guide you to a better outcome. You will have to compromise. But if you work with your spouse, you can become partners in restructuring your family and arrive at a peaceful resolution. You will both “win” and make peace in the end.

Wouldn’t Mr. Mandela be happy to know that? Wouldn’t he be glad to hear that the Collaborative Process focuses on solutions everyone can live with? I would think so.

Audra Holbeck
Attorney, Holbeck Law Office

Audra’s office is in Woodbury, Minnesota and she limits her practice to Collaborative Family Law and Mediation. She received her degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and her law degree from William Mitchell College of Law. She has been actively involved in the Collaborative Law Institute since 2004 and is passionate about helping her clients create realistic and workable settlement options. She believes family disputes can (and should) be resolved outside the courtroom, in an environment that allows the family to reorganize, engage in healthy and effective communication, and move forward. Learn more at

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