Because of our great medical facilities, people often say that Minnesota might be the best place in the world to get sick. What is less known is that Minnesota is rapidly becoming known as the best place for an ailing marriage too. Indeed, just as people travel all over the world to come to the Mayo Clinic to heal their bodies, people from around the world occasionally travel to Minnesota to observe the ways that we heal conflict. Last month, two family law attorneys from Cape Town, South Africa, spent most of the month of May at the Collaborative Alliance in Edina, observing many of our Collaborative divorce professionals so that they can improve the way family conflict is handled in their country. Two weeks earlier, a family law attorney from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, visited the Collaborative Alliance space and asked if she could also send an observer from her country in the upcoming months. Indeed, we have hosted family law professionals from five different countries and nearly every state during the past six years. I realize that, if you have a healthy marriage, finding that Minnesota is a great place for a divorce may not be reason to jump up for joy. No one wants to be in the position to need a divorce lawyer anymore than anyone wants to need a good oncologist. But, if you are facing serious problems, it’s nice to know you can reach out and find some of the very best in the world. So, why is Minnesota an international leader in handling conflict? Is it because of our superior laws, our better courts, better law schools are lawyers? Well, in fact, while all of those things are very good in our state, the thing that is causing people to travel to Minnesota from afar is our innovation. Divorce causes great pain around the world and nearly everyone is desperate to find a better way. Minnesota is, among other things, the birthplace of Collaborative Law, a method of handling divorce that has spared tens of thousands of families. To learn more about Collaborative Practice, go to www.collaborativelaw.org. As someone who has handled hundreds of Collaborative divorce (as well as hundreds of traditional divorces), I am not surprised that people from around the United States would want to learn about this better method. However, I admit that I was a bit surprised to learn that about the great interest all around the world. I have had the opportunity to conduct workshops and trainings on Collaborative law throughout the world and I have observed great differences in their laws and in their cultural norms. What has surprised me is that, when it comes to basic issues, protecting children, reducing conflict, reducing costs we are all facing the same issue. Collaborative Divorce is more effective, not because of something unique to Minnesotan or Americans, but because if makes divorce more human. And that is a language that is understood all around the world.
“It’s a little girl,” my friend Rick said, his voice shaking with excitement. “Everybody’s fine!” A little later he said, “You know what the best part of this is? I didn’t hear about it. I was there for it!” It was an especially poignant thing to say, because the new mother–his daughter–was just starting grade school when Rick and his wife divorced, and she and their little girl moved to the East Coast from the West Coast. “I read to her,” he told me not long after we met. “I read to her every Tuesday night at seven. I give her Mom a lot of credit for that. Every Tuesday night at seven o’clock, I’d call her and I’d read books to her over the phone for an hour so she wouldn’t forget the sound of my voice. I worked it out with my boss, and I’d come in an hour early on Tuesday.” “What did that do to your phone bill?” “Are you kidding?” he said. “It’s the best money I’ve ever spent. The Summer she got married, I walked down the aisle with her, and then I went and sat next to her mother. And we were both crying!” It made me wonder about some of the kids in the thousands of families that divorce each year in Minnesota who spend years waiting for the sound of a parent’s voice, or a card, or a hug. And I remember what Rick said when I asked him why he did it. “I wanted her to know who she was, where she came from. I didn’t want her to wonder who she is. I never put a price on that!” Apparently, it worked.