605383115-conceptual-spray-bottle-spraying-water-gettyimagesNew life is signaled by the coming of spring. Everything in spring, from the tiny buds on the trees to the bunnies in the garden, is related to new beginnings. Spring is also the season when many people get the urge to deep clean around the house. Donating still-useful things to charity and tossing the rest is a new beginning for our living space. It feels awesome! Housecleaning can also spur a deeper cleanout – taking on the less tangible things that clutter our psyches. This type of cleansing can be difficult, but is definitely worthwhile. Parts of our life that have stagnated no longer serve a life well lived, but nonetheless become habitual, and habits can be hard to break. Forgiving ourselves keeps any guilt we have from sapping the energy we need to make a change. Then, we can do some spring cleaning – either giving the stale part of life a good scrub and makeover, or mindfully tossing it altogether and beginning anew. No matter how harsh the (Minnesota) winter has been, nature starts fresh each year. It is expected and assumed, but miraculous at the same time. It is the perfect time of year to re-evaluate the state of your heart, your home, and your relationships. Say you’re sorry. Ask for forgiveness. Start anew. And then go outside and enjoy the warmer weather!
As a Collaborative Attorney, this sort of thing makes me proud to be a Member of the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota (CLI). I’m really excited to share that this May, CLI is hosting a four-day, international symposium to explore love and forgiveness in Collaborative Practice. The event is titled “Divorce: What’s Love Got to do With it?” This event, to my knowledge, isn’t for people experiencing divorce. It’s for professionals who help people that are going through a divorce. Now, why you may ask is this important? Well, I think it’s really cool that a group of dedicated professionals is really thinking about how to make things better for divorcing families and families experiencing other life-events that we include under the label Family Law. A grant from The Fetzer Institute is making it possible. You’ll want to check out their website; it’s really cool. Here is a sample of their take on love and forgiveness in the world:
We believe in the transformative power of love, love that protects us in our vulnerability while also impelling us to tend to the needs of others. We believe that forgiveness can also be transformative, a process that further extends the healing power of love. We accept that these forces have power: power to heal, and power to transform even the most difficult, troubled situation into something that is generative, affirming, and life-giving. In a world that seems dominated by aggression and separation, we are part of a broad and deep yearning for something different.
I recently submitted my application to be a part of the host committee and to help brainstorm after the symposium is all done as part of the implementation committee to figure out ways to incorporate love and forgiveness into Collaborative Practice on a local and practical level. To learn how love and forgiveness can play a part in your family, contact Arnold Law and Mediation or locate another Collaborative Professional.

We were deep in the holidays, a time of love, a time of sharing, a time for forgiveness.  Heading home from work last week, I was brought up short by a stunning story of forgiveness that originated in the Twin Cities, and that begs the question, “What is really important to me?”

Recently, I’ve had to deal with questions such as, “Am I going to have to pay the capital gains on the property I was awarded?” or, “I don’t think it’s fair that I should have to pay more maintenance than $______,” or, “I want to know what she’s spending the child support on!” Mary Johnson, a Minneapolis mother, lost her son 20 years ago in a party fight that escalated into a murder. The man responsible, Oshea Israel, was sent to prison. In her StoryCorps interview with Oshea Israel, Mary talks about the change that happened when she visited Oshea in prison, a change which eventually allowed her to forgive him. She founded From Death to Life, an organization that supports mothers who have lost children to homicide, and encourages forgiveness between families of murderers and victims. I can’t help but wonder, when people complain about everything they’ve “lost” in their divorce, what they would say to Mary Johnson. And I wonder whether they’ll ever be able to forgive each other for fighting about the “stuff” and take the time to cherish their children. I think I know what Mary would tell them.
Love Design 2009 - OpeningLove and Divorce?  You don’t hear those words together very often.  After all, divorce means the end of love, doesn’t it? Well, yes and no. Yes, divorce means that a certain type of romantic love has ended, at least for one spouse. But having watched thousands of divorces over thirty years,  I have been an eye witness to the fact that much of the love lives on.  Certainly, when there are children, the love between the parents and their children does not go away.  Indeed, sometimes it emerges with even more strength in the way that all crises have the potential to draw us closer. I have even also seen love, or at least loving behavior, sustained by husbands and wives who choose not to fully extinguish a flame that once burned so brightly.   Admittedly love is an awkward word to use in this context and I have not often heard my divorcing clients use the word love when talking about their soon-to-be ex-spouse.  But love is more than just a feeling.  One of the Webster definition’s of Love is “the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” People that divorce can choose to continue to have concern for their former spouse, for the sake of the children, for the sake of their own integrity, or simply because they choose to do so. Our divorce laws require couples to acknowledge an “irretrievable breakdown of a marriage relationship,” but it does not require people to forfeit their love and affection for each other and it actually encourages divorcing parents to behave in a way that shows concern for each other. One of the things I like about the Collaborative divorce process is that it allows and, where possible, even encourages, couples to behave in a loving manner. Indeed, next May, the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota, along with the Fetzer Institute is actually hosting a worldwide symposium to find ways to expand the ways that love, compassion and forgiveness can help divorcing families. So maybe, just maybe, for some courageous divorcing couples, love can have a lot to do with it.