After more than 35 years handling divorces, I have learned there are certain truths in divorce. These apply regardless of how amicable or adversarial the couple thinks they are. They may seem obvious, yet every day, couples forget them and make choices that makes their divorce more painful and costly.
- Each spouse’s perspective is colored by his/her reactions to divorce. Was one spouse “surprised” by the divorce? Was there infidelity, mistreatment or dishonesty involved? Is one spouse financially dependent on the other? It is normal to experience feelings of grief, anger, fear, anxiety and other emotions when divorcing. However, this may be compounded if the divorce is not mutual, there was misconduct, an in-balance in power, or other circumstance that magnifies negative emotions. Everything that happens during and after the divorce is seen through that lens so that one side sees himself/herself as a victim and the other side is the perpetrator who must pay for his/her sins. This is why couples end up battling over everything, even small things that cost more to fight over than they are worth. They cannot see past their immediate feelings to a better life after divorce.
- If you have children, divorce does not end the family. Family relationships will have to be restructured, which often occurs after the legal process ends. However, the more adversarial the divorce process, the harder it will be for your children during and after the divorce and the more difficult it will be to deal with your ex on issues related to your children. Your kids must come first. Divorce becomes a core life experience for children. In order to help them through it, you must learn new ways to communicate and resolve disputes effectively with your ex-spouse in the best interests of your children.
- A good resolution of divorce must take into account each party’s emotional and financial concerns. The problem with traditional litigation is that it is based in legally framed arguments focused on individual rights and entitlements. Under this system, complex conflicts are reduced to black and white arguments that don’t respond to the individuality of human experience. Solutions are built on coercion and aggression. There is a “winner” and a “loser.” A collaborative divorce process is based on finding acceptable solutions incorporating each party’s interests and values which include emotional and financial concerns. As noted above, emotional experience is part of the divorce journey. In traditional litigation, no attention is given to this aspect of each party’s experience, and at times, the litigation process will even exacerbate negative emotions. In a collaborative divorce process, the couple’s emotional experiences are paramount. Mental health experts are involved to help the parties work through their issues in a positive way. Financial experts also participate to address each side’s concerns and prepare them for their new financial future. The collaborative team’s focus is on understanding each client’s perspectives. This collaborative approach is a multidisciplinary experience for the client and the attorney-client relationship is enriched by taking a comprehensive view to resolving disputes and helping the couple learn how to move forward.
If you are considering divorce, these truths are your reality. The question is what will you do with this knowledge. As a Divorce Sherpa, I strive to assist couples in taking the right path that gives them a positive divorce experience. Ultimately, I hope to make it easier for them and their children to heal and feel more confident in taking the next step in their lives.
If you are interested in learning more, contact me for a consultation today.