My name is Barney Connaughton, Divorce Mediator and owner of A Healthy Divorce located in Chula Vista. I went to law school because I wanted to become a lawyer to help solve the problems of the world and make it a better place. I originally envisioned environmental law but my path took a detour into family law. I have now spent 30 years as a divorce professional either working as an attorney representing one spouse in their litigated divorce or working as a neutral mediator educating both spouses and guiding them to an out of court settlement of their divorce.
My personal goals in working in this field have been to support the financial needs of my family and to have a flexible schedule that allowed me to enjoy being an active participant in the life of my family. My practice allowed me to spend time as a coach for each of my three children, as well as to chaperone class trips and the like. My parents taught me the importance of family which has always been at the center of my life. With family being so important to me, my professional aspiration in becoming a divorce attorney was to help families get through their divorce in the best way possible, to help them address conflict in a healthy way, and limit the impact of divorce on the children involved. I wanted families to be okay after divorce.
Before I was introduced to divorce mediation in 2003, my success in doing good for the family as an attorney for one spouse was a mixed bag. Our job as an attorney is to zealously advocate for our client. Advocating for a solution that makes sure everyone is okay coming out the other side, is inconsistent with the notion of getting the best deal for your client. I found that there were many attorneys I had cases against who were easy to work with to come up with a reasonable, somewhat holistic, settlement allowing our clients to avoid the fight in Court.
While there were many great attorneys that were easy to work with in settling a reasonable, somewhat holistic case, there were too many other cases where we couldn’t sort things out. This would result in high stakes hearings/trials battling over the children, the money and the property. These fights did not focus on “how do we make sure this family is okay” at the conclusion of the divorce. Despite my best intentions, I witnessed way too much scarring of families that I helped to usher through the Court process, not because I was a good or bad attorney, but because the process of a litigated divorce is a naturally devastating one.
As mentioned, in 2003 I took my first divorce mediation training. For the first time I was introduced to this notion that I could act as a neutral divorce professional, guiding both spouses. I could educate them both on the law and issues, assure that they fully exchanged all information about their assets and income, and help them explore options to settle, either consistent with how a Judge might do it, or in a different, creative way that met the needs of the family I was working with. I could actually have the focus of my work be on the good of the family. I was no longer an attorney for one trying to tip the scales in the one spouse’s favor. Since I took that training I have worked with hundreds of couples who have successfully sorted out their divorces with my neutral assistance in this holistic way while not having to set foot in the Courthouse. I am better situated as a mediator to help the family move through the divorce process in a healthy, efficient, less expensive, and creative way. I am convinced that most couples are capable of mediating and should give it a try before lawyering up and taking their divorces to the Court.
Over the past five years I have put all my focus into shifting all my practice into mediation. I have made that shift. Having witnessed both approaches I cannot understand why litigation remains so prevalent. I know there are spouses out there who are incapable of being reasonable and need a Judge to make orders so that the other spouse is treated fairly. That is really the exception and not the rule. It has become my task and responsibility to make others aware of the mediation option. It is a really good option. No decisions are made until the couple has all the information they need. Creative options can be explored that a Judge does not even have the option to consider. Issues are addressed as they arise. Costs are dramatically less. Settlements get reached and couples begin moving on with life after divorce in a fraction of the time.
For those of us who have found mediation, it is our responsibility to get the word out. Each of those couples that we fail to educate, we have left to lawyer up and head down that drawn out, destructive, expensive, stressful, high stakes, adversarial process. As someone whose heart in this work has been to do good for families going through both processes, there is no comparison. Learn more about mediation and get your spouse to do the same. We offer a free 30 minute consultation to explain the process and answer any questions you may have. Click the Link Below: