In 2006, Marion T.D. Lewis Esq. LL.M created an online space that has become a hub of learning and community building. The tagline for Divorce Saloon is The World’s First Divorce Newspaper.
The digital newspaper focuses on International Family Law and features articles that are informative and entertaining for lawyers, attorneys, divorce experts and coaches around the world. The editors haven’t forgotten who we are all doing this work for. There are podcasts, advice columns, interviews and features on popular culture. You can check out Divorce Saloon if you really need a good laugh, but there are also stories that will bring a tear to even the most seasoned veteran of the divorce wars.
Divorce was previously waged like a war, but people like Marion are creating positive change in how we deal with the end of a marriage. She is an international lawyer admitted to practice law in New York and Georgia. Marion is also the founder of English Language Global, an initiative dedicated to helping professionals in the international community improve their English proficiency.
Marion is a powerhouse who also acts as creative director, international correspondent and media coordinator for Divorce Saloon. She is working towards a PhD in international Relations.
First Wives World had the pleasure of speaking with Marion about the inspiration for Divorce Saloon and her vision for creating a more positive approach to relationship challenges.
You are an accomplished woman. You’ve written three books, published many articles and you are also an excellent photographer. Why did you choose a career in law with a focus on International Family and Matrimonial Law?
Marion: Wow. You have really done your homework! Yes I am a frustrated writer at heart. I don't think I ever "chose" to be an international family lawyer. It certainly is one of the subjects I gravitate to in my professional life. But in a very real sense, I am a bit of a maverick. That is to say I am very independent minded and a bit unconventional in some ways - especially professionally; yet paradoxically, I let life choose for me a lot of times. That is, I can be a bit of a conformist when necessary even though it may appear that I am always up to something new and different and unconventional. So the takeaway is that I listen to life. I go with the flow and that is how I think I ended up in this field. It was not a conscious "choice" necessarily.
Divorce Saloon is an incredible resource for people all over the world going through divorce, and for professionals who have made it their life’s work to help clients through relationship problems. What inspired you to create this site, and what is the most interesting story, piece of advice or feedback that has come across the threshold of your Internet portal?
Marion: The site started as a purely local New York City attorney blog; then the recession happened in 2008 and people were not getting divorced as much as they used to. So I had a lot of down time at the office and I started blogging up a storm. The website just developed organically from that, to what it is today. I honestly could not identify a "most interesting story" because all of it has been interesting. Divorce is a global phenomenon and it is interesting. I have heard it referred to as a "contact sport" and I almost have to agree. Why is it so interesting? Because it is so basic, so integral to the human experience. We love and sometimes the gamble does not pay off; and then we hate a little bit and we fight, and then, we move on to the next situation, the next love affair and we start the process over again. Isn't that true of us? This is who we are as human beings and I think that this is why divorce intrigues us because we can become voyeurs (rather than active sufferers) in other people's experiences. We can identify with them, but, at least for that moment, we are glad it isn't us - because it quite easily could have been.
I listened to your podcast with Parisian divorce lawyer Noemie Houchet Tran. I’m not a lawyer, but it is fascinating to hear about the differences in the way divorce is handled in France compared to North America. What have you learned from international lawyers that could be of benefit to Americans? Is there something they are doing that we should heed?
Marion: It is incredibly humbling to realize how much lawyers outside of the United States look to lawyers and the legal systems within the US - both state and federal - for inspiration for their own legal systems and for their own work as legal professionals. They really take America and American courts very seriously! Not to say they shouldn't. But I think if more lawyers in the profession realized how seriously other lawyers and legal systems took our work, court décisions, and legal trends, it might affect the way at least some American lawyers approached their work. Because law - especially divorce and family law - is heavy with responsibility and repurcussions when you realize how much the entire world regards, watches and even emulates the United States and how much impact our work can have on the lives of others - even if tangentially. On the other hand, we can learn so much from our foreign counterparts. In France, for example, lawyers were not allowed to advertise for the longest time (now they are) so to build a practice, they really had to develop relationships. They really had to have a good reputation among their respective "groups." What you come to realize as a relatively young professional in the international arena is that relationships and reputation are still what it is all about. Anybody can spend $10,000 USD on advertising each month. But the client is going to patronize the lawyer(s) they know and trust. This is universal whether you are inside or outside the United States.
I live in Canada where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2005. Many couples came to Canada from foreign countries to get married. Since same-sex marriage wasn’t recognized in other countries, it was difficult for those couples to get a divorce when their union ended. It wasn’t until June 26, 2013, that Bill C-32 was passed to amend a legal loophole with regard to residency requirements for foreign couples married in Canada who want to get divorced. Now that same-sex marriage is legalized in many states and in other countries, do you see the same conflicts happening?
Marion: I have heard of it happening in the US - in the more conservative states like Texas for example. You know, like anything that is "new" it will take a minute to iron out all the creases. Same sex marriage is new in a lot of jurisdictions around the world -not just in the US and Canada. Eventually, in a decade or so, we won't even need to distinguish between same sex and "traditional" marriage and divorce. In the meantime, we will have some "hiccups" in at least some instances and as a legal community we will have to deal with it case by case, jurisdiction by jurisdiction until we all get on the same page; until we all get it right.
Do you see more progress towards a more amicable divorce process with mediation or collaborative divorce? How can we continue to aid the process so that families suffer less trauma?
Marion: In speaking with other lawyers in the field, I have to say whether or not there is more progress in collaborative divorces depends on who you talk to. Some lawyers think it is working great and they advocate it; others think it is a huge waste of time. Should divorce be an adversarial proceeding? Or should all divorcing parties be required to use the collaborative model? I don't know. I am not sure the problem is the type of model. I think it is the personality and inclination of the people getting divorced. That is the bigger issue; the underlying issue. Some people prefer war rather than to reach a settlement amicably - period. No amount of "collaboration" is going to change that. But does the legal process sometimes act as a catalyst for "trauma"? Maybe. But I think that a lot of trauma can be avoided if parties in the divorce action took more responsibility for their own actions. And this begins at the beginning. So for example, before you even marry someone who would "traumatize" you in divorce, from the start, do not marry this person. This might sound simplistic but I honestly believe that a lot of divorce drama and trauma could be avoided if people made better choices in who they got married to in the first place. That said, for those couples who are amendable to the collaborative process, then I think it is a great option and that it can work great.
Thank you, Marion! You are truly an inspiration.