The process of getting divorced is emotionally draining, life altering and, quite simply, often frustrating and scary.
No divorce is ever as simple as going on a first date, deciding that the other person is not compatible for you and never calling that person for a second date. Almost all divorces, whether resulting from a short-term or longer-term marriage, involve having lived life together with a person that you once loved, respected, cared about, shared life’s experiences and memories, and sometimes raised children together. Ending such a relationship has emotional and financial consequences.
Here are some useful tips on preparing for a “Peaceful Split” so that your divorce can be as stress-free as possible.
Tip #1: think deeply and honestly about why the marriage did not work.
Often times during a mediation session, each side is quick to tell the Mediator: “well, John’s actions is why the marriage didn’t work” or “Susie had an affair – it’s all her fault” or “If only Pedro did or didn’t do ____, then everything would have been great.” Blame and being defensive are the two most common emotional reactions that cause mediations to fail. Instead of coming into the process ready to attack your spouse for “causing” the divorce, focus instead on the present situation and how best to put yourself in the position to have a “Peaceful Split.
Tip #2: communicate, communicate and communicate
Its common sense that couples divorcing generally have issues with effective and honest communications. However, if there was ever a time to use your best-efforts to communicate more effectively, it is when you both have decided to terminate the marriage. Telling your spouse “you’re a terrible father and I want our daughter with me all the time” is very different then telling your spouse “I disagree with how you handle our daughter when she misbehaves, but I know you love her. Let’s find a way to discipline her in a more cohesive way.” Remember the old saying: “you get more bees with honey than vinegar.”
Tip #3: think, think and then react.
When emotions are running at all time highs, and your life is changing in a permanent way, its easy to react first and then think afterwards. But what generally happens from this pattern is that the result is not what we expected nor desired. When you hear your spouse say something that your disagree with, or that angers or upsets you, stop and ask yourself: (i) why am I getting angry or upset? (ii) will my reaction help or hurt my chances of getting what I want? and (iii) would taking a break help me to “cool off?”
Tip #4: what do I really want?
When we are under stress, especially when dealing with someone who we may still love, but who doesn’t love us, it’s easy to get hung-up with wanting certain things just because we want them. Part of the process towards obtaining a “Peaceful Split” involves truly thinking about what is best for us versus what we just want. Don’t say you want the car or the vacation house “just because.” Having a reason why your want those things that can be articulated in a respectful manner to your spouse will enhance your bargaining position and the chances that you will end the mediation process feeling satisfied.
Tip #5: your divorce can be handled through the mediation or collaborative divorce processes even if the two of you are not friendly or do not trust each other.
As a Mediator and lawyer who is committed to helping couples divorce without litigation (I do not litigate divorce cases), my goal is to bring down the level of stress, anxiety and apprehension that you and your spouse will undoubtedly feel throughout the process of getting divorced. Practically speaking, Mediators Mediate and Litigators Litigate. If you goal is to obtain a “Peaceful Split,” then it is important to work with a professional whose focus and commitment is to a peaceful process – and not focused on battling with your spouse in court. Who do you think really will win if you decide to fight your spouse in court?
Tip #6: speak respectfully and honestly.
As hard as it may be, try to remember that the person sitting across the table from you during the mediation process was once someone you loved. As painful as it may be to now look at that person who you feel is trying to “take you for everything you own,” Mediation is not the time and place to deal with the emotional pain and anger as it will only exacerbate the negative feelings and minimize the chances of ending your marriage peacefully.
You don’t have to be your spouses best friend anymore, nor worry about their well-being or what’s best for them. However, if you focus on keeping your emotions and speech in check, then you will most likely cause your spouse to feel and act similarly. Just picture your children or parents watching a video of your mediation session. Will they be proud of your speech and actions? Will there be things you said that you will look back on and regret? If you remain true to yourself and to the process, you put yourself in the best possible position to successfully resolve all issues facing you and your spouse.
Tip #7. friends are friends; professionals are professionals.
It’s very tempting to searching Google for advise and suggestions about your divorce. As you undoubtedly found out, there are millions of pages of data on the Internet about divorce. Often times I hear from spouses: “my friend said….” or “when my cousin got divorced, she got …” or “I heard that…”
Listening to friends and family is helpful to cope and process your feelings and emotions. They, along with trained Mental Health Professionals are best suited to help guide you emotionally through this difficult process. However, trained professionals, such as lawyers and mediators, have undergone extensive and official training and certifications in order to provide men and women, like yourselves, with professional and informed advise.
If you begin the mediation process from the perspective that you want something or feel you are entitled to something in the divorce because a friend or family member told you so, then you are doing a disservice to you, your spouse and the process. It’s fine, and I even suggest, that you think about what it is you want from the divorce, but do so from a perspective of accuracy and objectively, not from hearsay or for subjective reasons. Coming into the divorce process with reasonable, thought out expectations will put you in a powerful position for a successful resolution. Conversely, if you come into the process with unreasonable goals, all that will most certainly happen is for you to feel disappointed and reject the process.
Tip #8. stay focused on the goal.
The end goal of the divorce process to to terminate a marriage, divide up assets and liabilities, determine if alimony is appropriate (and the amount thereof) and provide for the time-sharing of children and their support. It is not about “getting even”, “settling a score” or “hurting” the other spouse. If these are your desires, then please do not contact me about Mediation or Collaborative Divorce.
Focus on where you see yourself in 1-year, 5-years, and 10-years. Taking a longer-term view of your future life will help keep the present in perspective. Prior to each mediation session, step out to the restroom, look in the mirror, and ask yourself “how do I want to be perceived today? What do I really want and desire today and in my future?”
Tip #9: you will experience uncomfortability and uncertainty.
When you begin the Mediation session, it is natural to think to yourself: “is this it – our whole life together is just numbers on a piece of paper?” Unfortunately, while we all like to think of marriage from the fairytale perspective of Romeo and Juliet, in reality, when divorce happens, the process involves dissolving a partnership. It is ok to question the process and ask “what will be?” You are not expected to feel certainty at this time as you life is truly being split from sharing it with another person. Once you accept that uncertainty and allow yourself to be vulnerable to the process, the process will go smoother and, ironically, you will likely begin to feel more and more certainty and comfortability.
Tip #10: never speak ill or your spouse to your children, or force them to take sides.
Respect, respect and even more respect. That should become your mantra when talking with your child about your spouse/ex-spouse. Never forget that for you, the person is not part of your daily life. But for your child, that person is their mother/father, and someone they will love unconditionally.
If you speak ill about your ex to your child, you are not only showing a lack of respect to your ex-spouse, but you child will often see you as being a disrespectful person. This is the time to teach your child about respecting others – even if we do not like that other person or think good things of them.
Never forget that you can choose to divorce one another, but your kids do not want to divorce their mother or father. In the end, you chose to get married and now to get a divorce; your children had no say in either decision. They just want to love their mom and dad. If you truly can’t be respectful to your spouse, at least be respectful to your children and allow them to simply love their parents without fear or guilt of upsetting either one of you.