Last night, Alec Baldwin spoke to a packed room of legal professionals in downtown Denver. The topic of discussion wasn’t the usual press engagement concerning his job at NBC’s 30 Rock, hosting Saturday Night Live, or his political aspirations. Instead, Mr. Baldwin delved into a personal and sensitive topic that has a profound effect on a great many in our society: divorce.
Mr. Baldwin’s journey through fatherhood and divorce is chronicled in his book, A Promise to Ourselves. But his discussion last night was not simply a retelling of his own, highly publicized experience (which at one point led him to consider suicide). Mr. Baldwin brought the audience deeper, pointing to some of the root problems he saw and continues to see in the family law system itself. He spoke about the need for judicial accountability, sanctions against non-compliant parties, and selecting an appropriate attorney for your family law dispute. Mr. Baldwin was also an advocate for parental rights, including rights of the father, speeding up the long and drawn-out process of finalizing a divorce, and for ultimately reshaping the practice of family law into a less destructive force for families.
Mr. Baldwin acknowledged that divorce itself is something inherently destructive, whether it is accomplished through the courts or mediation. But, much of the alienation and pain that grips the parties during a divorce, and lingers long after, can be alleviated if we change the way we engage in the process and with each other. He suggests that we treat the situation as we would a funeral – a showing of respect for something special and sacred that has died: the family unit. But through the struggle, it can be a time to come together, setting aside differences out of respect for what once was, and moving forward with a new life and outlook. It may not be perfect, but the faster families can get to that point, the better off all involved will be.
Mr. Baldwin’s speech was engaging and insightful, humorous and sobering. He told it like it is, from his own experience – exactly what he was asked to do. Whether those in attendance agreed with all he had to say or not, he provided a legal-outsider’s perspective on the process, of which many judges and attorneys may not always be cognizant.
For myself, I found it quite enjoyable. Thanks to Brenda Storey, Chair of the Family Law Institute, for arranging this unique evening and to Mr. Baldwin for taking the time from his busy schedule to make the evening such a success for everyone involved and for the Legal Aid Foundation (it was Mr. Baldwin’s idea to make the event a fundraiser). We’ll have more for you on the event and the Institute (which starts today in Breckenridge!) in the coming weeks.
What were your thoughts on Mr. Baldwin’s family law presentation?