By Esther Schonfeld and Rachel Marks
“Imagine all the people living life in peace.”–John Lennon
There is an old joke that we often tell that makes light of an attorney’s propensity to argue. When a lawyer has the law on her side she argues the law; when an attorney has the facts on his side, he argues the facts; and when an attorney has neither, he just argues. We have to ask ourselves, attorneys and non-attorneys alike, how often we argue just to argue. How often do we assert ourselves just because we want to be right or have the last word?
This time of year it is customary to wish our relatives and friends well and bid them good wishes for the New Year that include health, prosperity, and peace. But what do we really mean? How far are we willing to extend ourselves for peace?
Back in the day, the contestants at every beauty pageant would wish for “world peace.” When we wish someone “peace” in the upcoming year, is our wish just as canned? It is not that I doubt the contestants really wanted world peace, but rather that they had given any thought to what that entailed. Did they have a game plan, a course of action? I am going to go out on a limb and say that we are living in a time where a blessing for world peace is necessary and universally recognized. Given the state of world affairs from civil wars, ISIS, and the Iranian threat, to name just a few, we all need to dedicate much of our tefillot to world peace. Not as widely recognized and prayed for are the more personal matters of turmoil and strife affecting others among us. It is the peace in our homes and families that I wish to explore.
Though it sounds counterintuitive, one of the compelling reasons for a couple to sign a halachic prenuptial agreement is as a token of love and of mutual respect. You might wonder how signing a document discussing the possible disintegration of a marriage has anything to do with love and respect. The reality is that when a couple signs such an agreement, they are pledging to respect each other even when they are in the worst of times. They are proclaiming that even if their marriage is not successful, they will still respect each other enough to let go amicably.
Unfortunately, the most painful turmoil is often felt when a marriage disintegrates, when those who once pledged their love and commitment to one another find that they can no longer be married. This article does not address the precipitating reasons for a divorce but rather the course that is taken once the serious decision has been made to divorce. So, what becomes of our wishes for peace? When parties can no longer remain married, there are peaceful ways to navigate the difficult process of divorce.
An important lesson that we try to impart to our children is that you don’t have to bring someone else down in order to raise yourself up. The same concept is applicable here. If parties choose to mediate their divorce, mediation with a trained and experienced individual who has a good track record settling cases can help two people separate in a way that will build bridges to the future and not tear them down. We teach our children to be problem-solvers, to see solutions and not just problems. There is no one who knows your financial, psychological, religious, and emotional needs the way that you do. So ultimately, with the help of a skilled and trained professional to guide you through the process, you are able to problem-solve. What people fail to understand is that when a matter is put in the hands of the court, it is put in the court’s sole discretion. A judge who does not know you or your children will make important decisions regarding the rest of your life.
When two people have children together, they will always be a part of each other’s lives. It will be necessary for them to communicate regarding decisions large and small. They will need to discuss everything–whether a child’s homework has been completed prior to making a parenting switch, how to treat a major illness, and everything in between. The parents will see each other at birthday parties, Chumash plays, parent-teacher conferences, weddings, events for their grandchildren, etc. Given the inevitable involvement in each other’s lives, it is to everyone’s benefit that a parting of ways be as amicable as possible.
If people are willing to put peace above all else and begin to recognize that disdain and pettiness are just an expression of our hurt during a most challenging time, then families would weather a difficult time in their lives better and the outcome would be stronger with a more collaborative future.
In the coming year, we wish you and your loved ones health and prosperity. May your burdens be lessened and may HaKadosh Baruch Hu grant you the strength to choose peace over pettiness and respect over disdain.
Esther Schonfeld, Esq., and Rachel Marks, Esq., are associated with the law firm ofÂ Schonfeld & Goldring, LLP, with offices located at 112 Spruce Street, Suite A, Cedarhurst, NY 11516. Schonfeld & Goldring, LLP limits its practice to divorce law, family law, and matrimonial law in both secular court and rabbinical courts. The law firm represents clients located in the five boroughs, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, and Rockland Counties in all aspects of family and matrimonial law with resolution through litigation, mediation, and collaborative law. Ms. Schonfeld, also a trained mediator, is a member of the NY State Council on Divorce Mediation. The authors can be reached at 516-569-5001 or at www.SchonfeldandGoldring.com.