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Garage Sale Litigation

In the July 2011 DMagazine there was an article entitled, “Highland Park’s Finest Garage Sale”. The article reads, “Our next door neighbor recently held a garage sale. At the edge of the driveway, she’d placed a cushion-less leather couch. “Where are the cushions?” I asked when I walked over. The answer came not from the owner herself but from a second neighbor after an awkward silence, “Her ex-husband took them.”, the second neighbor whispered. The owner moved behind a ladder, which wasn’t for sale. “So what’s a buyer supposed to do?” I asked. “Track him down and make a separate deal on the cushions?”’ The second neighbor nodded, “I guess if they want the cushions. ”

The article goes on to say in the last paragraph, “Garage Sales are our most intimate market places. Sellers show us their cushion-less lives, the people they used to be.”

For those of us that work in various roles in Family Law, litigation becomes the garage sale that reveals our client’s most intimate details.

Let’s take a drive to the local courthouse and see what’s for sale during the litigated divorces.

The first items seen are all the household furnishings; couches, beds, tables, dishes, desks, books, TV’s, exercise equipment…the material “stuff” that made home look like home. There is a literal garage sale price value placed on household belongings unless an item has substantial monetary value. Imagine having a household full of furniture that you and your spouse/significant other have worked hard to obtain and being told by the person in the black robe that it is all to be valued at garage sale prices.

Moving forward from the curb and going into the courthouse, just past the metal detectors- there are boxes of Broken hearts, Dreams Lost, Misunderstandings, Regrets, Grief, Lost Trust, Worries About What Everyone Will Say/Think, Alcohol, Drugs, Mental Breakdowns, Lies, Affairs and Failures. People are pilfering through them looking for things they can use when they get to the courtroom.

Once in the courtroom, I see two large boxes off to the side, near the jury boxes, with
‘Destroyed Finances’ in one box and the ‘Children’ in the other box. I see attorneys arguing over the prices with each other and with the Judge. The Judge, however is the one that determines the final cost of divorce at the courthouse because no one else could come to an agreement on the price.

I remember that I noticed signs along the way into the courthouse, in the elevator and into the court room saying, “Everything for Sale”, “Buy One Get One for Free”, “Make an Offer”. Many will make it through this garage sale, however the things that are always left over are the things that others don’t want and you can’t get rid of; Anger, bitterness and resentment.

Family Law litigation is the garage sale that reveals our client’s most intimate details BUT it isn’t the only way to end a marriage/relationship. Instead of going to the courthouse to get divorced, there are many other options to the garage sale of litigation. Alternative Dispute Resolution options do exist.

Alternatives to resolving disputes at the courthouse include Mediation, Arbitration, Parent Facilitation/Coordination and Collaborative Law. All of these other options provide opportunities that litigation does not and actually increases the value of you and your family. These Alternative Dispute Resolutions have the ability to offer healing, support, privacy, closure, peace and a spirit of collaboration. Collaborative Law offers a private and respectful way of ending the most intimate part of your life that you have lived. It allows a form of closure that has the potential to reduce, heal or get rid of the anger, resentment and bitterness that keeps us from moving forward.

When your marriage/relationship falls apart, what will you do with it? How will you give closure to the most intimate life that you have lived? Garage Sale it or end it with respect and compassion?

23 Responses to “Garage Sale Litigation”

  1. Kathey Brown says:

    OK, this was the most awesome and inspiring article I think I have had the pleasure of reading in some time. What a wonderful concept! Great job. Wish EVERYONE would look at the ending of a relationship in this respect. There would be less hardship and bitterness.

  2. Theda Page says:

    A very interesting perspective! I wonder what the cushion thief hoped to accomplish…hmmm…

  3. Paulo says:

    Nice article

  4. Erica says:

    interesting info definitely! thanks for sharing

  5. elvis says:

    I am glad to be one of many visitors on this outstanding site (:, thanks for putting up.

  6. You have written a wonderfully descriptive article about the true elements at play in most cases of divorce (list of emotions and behaviors). Civility is so hard to come by and very often it is fed by others around the parties as well our culture in forms of media. “What did you get?” “Don’t give in to that, take her/him to the cleaners.” A sport in a way. This is a great alternative to promote.

  7. Barbara Williamson says:

    I read your article on the collab law listserve and really enjoyed it. Great concept and style. I hope you can publish it in various places so it can find its’ way into the hands of folks that are going through some tough relationship issues with partners.

    Barbara Williamson Dallas Texas

  8. Anita Savage says:

    Holey moley, Brenda. That is an amazingly well put article. Thanks for sending that over.

  9. Brad Craig says:

    Great work Brenda!

  10. Julie Quaid says:

    Awesome blog Brenda.

  11. Norma Trusch says:

    Wonderful blog. Well done!

  12. A gorgeous and quite well-written website.

  13. This article is amazing! With your permission, I am going to print it and have it as to tool for “select” clients to read. This is the most heart-wrenching and realistic analogy I have ever seen. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  14. Morris Armstrong says:

    That is quite the powerful article and should cause everyone to re-examine their actions. It remind me of an old song by Reba called No Charge in which responds to a bill from a child for doing some errand by listing all the important things that she has done for her child and for which nothing was expected

  15. This is a very powerfully descriptive piece. Thank you for writing it and sharing it! I have a friend who started out in a Collaborative Divorce with a full team (although Wife’s attorney had limited Collaborative experience), and for some reason, Wife could not accept a settlement that was very responsive to her needs. So she withdrew. I have been watching my friend walk through the “garage sale” as you put it and they have entered the courthouse with a deposition scheduled for today. Talk about the boxes that are opened and gone through…. Her attorney is taking her for a ride that she thinks will leave her better off in the long run when all that is happening is the college funds for her and the two daughters are being spent at $10/minute today, she still won’t accept generous settlements and everything you say in the piece is happening. You have nailed it on the head in this piece! My friend is feeling broken by the process.

  16. What an amazing, insightful article! Thanks so much for sharing this.


  17. Darcy Shoop says:

    I love it too and would like to post it (obviously with credit to the author) on my website in my Articles section

  18. Excellent write-up.

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