Choosing To Have a Civil Divorce

Katie Young
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Wednesday - October 15, 2008

Bradley A. Coates

Divorce. It’s probably one of the ugliest words in the English language for many who have gone through it, been affected by it or fear it might happen to them.

Most likely, you know of someone with an awful divorce story - one in which the people involved were emotionally scarred for life. But does divorce have to be so messy, so hateful, so devastating?

Of course no one wants to divorce, but it is a sad reality of today’s society and Hawaii is no exception. According to Bradley A. Coates, there is a way to go through a divorce and emerge with the will to pick up the pieces and move on.

Coates, a Honolulu divorce lawyer, recently released the third edition of his award-winning book, Divorce with Decency, a comprehensive treatment of the legal, emotional, economic, psychological and social aspects of marital relationships and divorce.

The first edition of the book was published 10 years ago. The new edition has been revised and updated with the most current research, statistics and insights on the effects of divorce on spouses, their children and society overall.

Coats’ law firm, Coates & Frey, has handled more than 20,000 divorces over the last 30 years. He says that many people go through a divorce and emerge bitter, broke, hating the opposite sex and hating their divorce lawyers. Coats’ firm, the largest divorce and family law firm in Hawaii, has tried to take a more humanistic and sensitive stance on divorce.

In his book, Coates writes, “The very manner in which a divorce case is handled as it progresses through the legal system will be a major factor in determining how the parties will feel about themselves and one another afterward. If the parties can successfully handle their dissolution in an above-board and mature fashion, the stage will be set for them to maintain better communication between themselves and their children in the years following the divorce.”

Sadly, Coates maintains, divorce has become a totally normal and acceptable or even expected part of life, ranking right alongside birth, marriage, professional career and death as a milestone in life.

He says that Americans marry and divorce more often than almost anyone else in the world. About 2.5 million couples get married each year in America, and yet fewer people are marrying, choosing instead to just live together.

Hawaii, says Coates, has a major problem with divorce and may be on the cutting edge of the overall nationwide problem.

Although statistics say that there is one divorce for every two marriages, Coates believes in the long run the divorce rate will become even higher than that.

“My hope is embedded in the title of this book,” says Coates. “If people are going to get divorced, they can do it in some kind of decent and mature nature. At least have it handled in a way where you can stay civilized and preserve a relationship that goes on and also learn something about yourself along the way.”

Divorce with Decency details the dynamics of divorce, including causal factors, common “stages” of divorce and the complications surrounding each stage for both older and younger couples and children. He gives criteria for selecting an attorney and gives advice on directing and monitoring the course of a case efficiently and economically. He also talks about critical legal issues and key points of divorce law.

New to this edition of the book is a section you might not expect about how you might preserve, improve and possibly save your marriage. He talks about the basic biological differences between men and women, and notes psychologists who believe the biggest issue in a marriage is communication.

“I think a lack of communication can be fixed,” says Coates. “Some of these things can be tweaked to work better.”

Coates says he doesn’t expect to solve the world’s problems through his book, but what he does want to do is help people through the process by making the necessary information available to them in one comprehensive guide that everyone can understand. Divorce, he says, is much more complicated than just dividing everything by two.

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