We all live by them to some degree. We pay our bills, register for school, prepare for a meeting and even write blog postings based on deadlines. They provide structure to our businesses and our lives and help keep order from turning into chaos. There are a lot of industries that live by deadlines. The news media’s very essence is based on specific time deadlines. In academia, standardized tests have deadlines for registration, showing up and finishing the exams.
I recently read John Grisham’s The Confession. It was a compelling social commentary on the death penalty system in Texas. The presence of arbitrary deadlines and their enforcement by bureaucrats in this novel got me to thinking about how these types of deadlines can have a negative impact on even the less dramatic parts of our lives.
In Massachusetts, once a complaint for divorce is served on the other party, each side has 45 days to provide a financial statement to the other side. If a motion hearing is scheduled before that due date, the parties are required to provide those statements to each other two days prior to the scheduled hearing.
Both of these deadlines can put enormous pressure on a person who is struggling with strong emotions and sorting out the issues of child support, a parenting plan, and division of marital assets. It is important to have counsel advise you of your responsibilities and rights in a case where you are under the pressure of a mandatory deadline.
When parties decide to use mediation or Collaborative Law to resolve the issues surrounding their divorce, some of the pressure is reduced because the parties are participating in a process that doesn’t have to meet arbitrary deadlines. The focus is on finding the best options for the future for the parties. Often dedicating energy to the best resolution rather than complying with an arbitrary requirement assists that.
The newspaper business is full of stories of editors who have extended deadlines so a reporter could file a breaking story to the best of her ability. In many instances students with special needs are provided additional time to complete standardized tests. Providing the opportunity to get the best story or the right answer trumps the importance of having an arbitrary deadline.
Mediation and Collaborative Law follow a similar path. When parties are committed to the process, they have the opportunity to find the best answers for their future and write the best story of what it will look like.