Going through a divorce is one of the most difficult things you can go through in your life. It literally can define the rest of your life in either a good or bad way. It all depends on your approach. At least, that’s what I would tell a friend about how to go through a divorce.
Make no mistake, going through a divorce can be an incredibly emotional, stressful, agonizing, grueling…name the adjective and it probably could apply. The key to rising above all these things really depends on your outlook, your objective. To a friend, I would ask, “what are you trying to accomplish?”
Knowing what you want to accomplish plays a big part in achieving something close to that objective. Maybe you’re looking for a fair division of assets, a reasonable parenting schedule for your children, adequate child support and/or alimony. By having a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, you can attempt to overcome the emotional part of the process that interferes with achieving the objective.
Another thing I would tell a friend is to select a type of divorce—divorce mediation or collaborative divorce—that’s not so formulaic, like litigation. Things like child support and alimony typically do follow a formula and in litigation you give/get what the formula states. In mediation and collaborative, you have some flexibility. Within that flexibility, you have the power to achieve your objective.
For example, you might think a division of assets is a 50-50 split is reasonable. Yet in collaborative divorce and mediation, you have an opportunity for compromise on a small issue that can pave the road for an overall smoother settlement negotiation.
For instance, let’s say among the assets is a gift from your spouse’s parents to the two of you. The item not only has sentimental meaning but some monetary value as well. Rather than haggle, you offer to let your spouse keep the item.
This kind of gesture shows good faith and that you are willing to compromise and “do the right thing.” What I’ve seen in three decades of being a divorce attorney is that these types of concessions buy you currency in other areas of the negotiation that might be more important to you than to your spouse.
Of course, the most practical thing I could tell a friend has to do with trying to manage his/her emotions throughout the process. A key component to achieving that objective is to minimize or compartmentalize the advice received from well-meaning friends and family.
This is much easier said than done, particularly in some cases where family members—often parents—are contributing to legal fees. You must always remember that you and your children are the ones who will be most affected by the terms of your settlement. Your parents or other family members or close friends probably want the best for you. Yet I’ve seen it time and again where people have been led down a path they didn’t really want to go by a well meaning family member or friend.
If I had a friend in that situation, I would tell him or her to accept the emotional support from their family or friends. Just don’t’ make any decisions based solely on the advice they give you without running it by your attorney.
Does that mean your attorney is always right and the final judge as to what to do? No, but your attorney is far more objective than a friend or family member will be and, hopefully, has been involved in many more divorce cases. What happened during your friend or family member’s divorce may not be relevant in your case. It could be. But you’re paying your attorney good money for his/her expertise. Use it.
Finally, I would tell a friend to choose divorce mediation or collaborative divorce over litigation for the very same reason I chose it as a specialty. You can control so much more of the outcome through those forms of divorce than litigation, which tends to rely on formulas and precedents.
I would also tell a friend to choose those types of divorce, specifically collaborative divorce, for a better reason: a better life after divorce. By working with a team of neutral experts, prioritizing a communicating in a civil manner, and including a divorce coach/facilitator to help you with the rough patches, you have a better chance to work past the pain and bitterness and develop a relationship with your ex that gives you the emotional freedom to move on with your life in a productive way.