Does the thought of divorce make you anxious and fearful about your financial future? Are you worried about what divorce might mean for the well-being of your children? These feelings are a normal reaction when considering such a life-altering event. Many of these concerns stem from fear of the unknown. Fear strikes at our core. It can make us so sick with worry that it immobilizes us. The mental dialogue playing in our head tells us that we will never recover, and end up broke, alone, and miserable. Although I can tell you that this scenario is extremely unlikely to come to pass, it’s difficult not to surrender to these mind demons.
There is probably no such thing as a stress-free divorce. However, collaborative divorce or mediation may provide a healthier and less stressful way to make decisions about your future. In a traditional courtroom setting, each party, along with their respective attorneys, makes their individual case. Final decisions belong to the judge. There is no discussion of goals and mutually beneficial resolutions. It’s a contentious winner-take-all approach that does not allow for creative problem-solving.
Collaborative divorce and mediation provide the parties with the opportunity to make their own decisions.
Both processes leave the ultimate outcome to the parties themselves instead of having a cookie cutter division of property or custody arrangement imposed upon them, as sometimes happens in litigation. In court, you typically have a half day or a day to make your case to the judge, which is not much time for the judge to become informed about what is best for your family, now and into the future. Mediation and collaborative law allow you and your partner to have grown-up discussions that are much more involved than a court-dictated settlement.
What kinds of topics are appropriate for discussion?
The purpose of a mediated or collaborative divorce is not to resolve conflict in a romantic relationship or assign blame on a past area of disagreement. However, many other subjects that wouldn’t necessarily be heard in court are open for discussion in the private setting of collaboration or mediation. Here are some examples:
- Is it financially feasible for one of the parties be able to stay in the house with the children?
- How are the attorney’s fees of both parties going to be paid?
- How will a person’s ability to retire be affected if the pension must be split?
- What does it mean to share in supporting minor children so that they have an appropriate and stable environment in each household?
- How can the parents provide for children to go to college?
- How can joint debt be divided?
- What are some different options in sharing time with the children and which options are best for them considering their ages and level of maturity?
- What happens if one of the parents is in a new relationship and the other parent is not comfortable with the children being around the new person?
- How can you make sure the children are able to continue relationships with grandparents and other extended family members of each parent?
- How will events such as religious and school holidays and family reunions be addressed?
- Who will provide transportation for the children when exchanging parenting time or getting them to practice?
- What happens if the parent who is supposed to have custody of the children has other obligations and can’t be with them?
These topics are just examples of concerns that often lack clarity, but which are rarely addressed in court in a comprehensive manner. However, when you use the mediation or the collaborative law process, you and your partner are free to determine your own agenda and reach your own resolutions. Being in control of the process doesn’t make it stress-free, but having ownership in the outcome often helps with managing the emotional undercurrents that are inevitable.