Why I Wrote the Book


Divorce with Decency: Why I Wrote the Book

by Bradley Coates

After having handled over twenty thousand divorces (which, as close as we can figure it, is about how many divorce cases my law firm has processed during the last couple of gut-wrenching decades) I had just about had it.  It was enough to make you sick…or crazy…or both!

I just knew I had to try to figure out some way to do it better, to handle things less acrimoniously, to perhaps turn things around and find a more positive focus.  I had begun to question my own sanity.  Was I starting to fit the frequent (and so often accurate) description of a “sleazy divorce lawyer?”

Throughout my career, my approach has been to try to handle my divorce practice in a radically different, more sensitive and more positive way – one which endeavors to “make the best” of the bad situation which divorcing couples inevitably face. In the process I have successfully built the largest divorce and family law firm in Hawai`i.

Coates & Frey, the ten attorney firm which I founded, is now generally recognized as processing more divorce cases through Hawai`i’s Family Court system than any other.  Our firm has gotten some pretty positive “strokes” for our somewhat more sensitive and user friendly style of practice…including my having been selected as one of Hawaii’s SuperLawyers and as Best Divorce Lawyer by both the Honolulu Weekly and  Honolulu Magazine.  But I still felt vaguely uneasy.  I felt I had to try and do something more to assist average folks as they bounced along the rocky road of divorce.

My “Raison de Writing”: Although I feel we do the best job we possibly can for our firm’s clientele, it became apparent to me that the only way I could reach beyond my own paying clients to try and dispense whatever grains of wisdom I might have to share about my “positive approach” to the handling of the divorce experience was to write this book.  Only in this way could I more widely disseminate information to readers interested in trying to explore a more enlightened approach to the entire divorce process.  My intent is to package some of my entirely too-extensive experiences into a book format which could be available for fifteen bucks or so – thereby making it more accessible to people who are understandably put off by the $250.00+ dollar an hour fees which I and other prominent divorce attorneys customarily charge in the privacy of our paneled offices.

An “All Encompassing” Divorce Guide: My aim has been to write the definitive divorce text, providing maximum possible amount of information about every aspect of the divorce process.  I knew from the start that it would be a difficult and unwieldy task, but I felt strongly that I wanted to write a book which encompassed all the multifaceted emotional, psychological and sociological aspects surrounding divorce – as well as its strictly legalistic issues. This conviction mirrors the way I have come to view my own role as a divorce lawyer. When I first started practicing, divorce law was basically a “meat ax down the middle” process characterized by a narrow, and narrow-minded, focus on the single issue of property division.  I have now come to realize however, that if you want to do a proper job of divorce lawyering you have to treat divorces as a multilevel, interdisciplinary behavioral science, essentially peeling away the multiple levels of complexity of the modern American family structure like the layers of an onion.

I had yet to read any book, however, which combined all of the components of important divorce guidance into one single comprehensive, informative and above all, readable work. Writing such a book was the goal I set for myself when I embarked upon authoring this summary of insights gleaned during my two-decade career as divorce lawyer. I hope you find this book to be useful, thought provoking, anecdotal and–because divorce is often too tense for anyone’s good–at least occasionally amusing.

I strongly believe that since divorce is so common in our society, it is probably best if people can accept it as a frequent, and infrequently unavoidable, fact of life and then just deal with it as best they can. If divorcing clients can understand that they are part of a massive and overarching sociological phenomenon, there is a less of a tendency for each person to feel like a failure or to blame themsleves for being unable to maintain their marriage. Personally, I feel that maintaining a light and upbeat (maybe even offbeat) touch in divorce cases ultimately serves to improve the psychological health of my clients, not to mention my own.

So there you have it, my “raison de writing,” so to speak. My goal has been to write the first book that I know of which deals with the psychological, economic, and sociological issues, as well as the legal aspects of a divorce, yet is presented from the more utilitarian point of view of a divorce attorney.

I now know from personal experience that when a marriage unravels the one thing every divorcing person needs is a good friend. And that’s really what this book is all about. I sincerely hope it can serve as your friend when you need one. Aloha.