Recently, in an initial consultation with a couple, the husband lamented that his divorce had “happened” to him. When I asked him what he meant by that statement, he said that he felt powerless … that his wife had made the decision to leave and he could not change her mind. He expressed that he was fearful of being disenfranchised by his children and that, through the process of divorce, he would lose control over the issues of importance to him, namely, decisions regarding the parenting of this children and important economic decisions. His wife voiced the same concerns. Their question to me was how would the mediation process differ from litigation?
I told him that the feeling of losing control of one’s life is a common complaint by divorcing individuals and that using mediation would allow he and his wife to be in complete control of all decisions and, as a result, the parties could “divorce well.” Now both of their interests were piqued, as the concept of “divorcing well” certainly sounded strange to them.
“Divorcing well”, I explained means that Mom and Dad, and not judges, will be fashioning the parenting plan for the children. After all, the people most qualified to make parenting decisions are not judges, but the parents themselves. With my help, both Mom and Dad can create a parenting plan that best suits the unique needs of their kids. Mediation provides a safe haven where parents can safely and objectively explore options, be creative, and ultimately decide what is in the best interests of their children and their family as a whole.
“Divorcing well” also means that couples will be in complete control of all decisions regarding their financial settlement. With the help of the mediator, all assets and liabilities will be identified and the parties will thereafter decide how they will be apportioned. The parties can be creative in structuring their settlements to meet each person’s individual needs and in minimizing any adverse tax consequences.
Other topics addressed by the parties include planning for the children’s future educational costs, whether there is a need for support between the spouses, and how these arrangements would be structured.
An added benefit of mediation, and another reason why “divorcing well” is possible, is that this process promotes cooperation and better communication between divorcing spouses. Mediation promotes healthy, proactive communication, whereas litigation can cause parties to become polarized. When facilitated by a professional mediator, the negotiation between individuals is more cooperative, and thus less contentious and much less time-consuming.
When contrasted with a conventional, often combative path to divorce, the mediation process is measured in hours, not in months or years. Lest I forget to mention it, the process is not only less time-consuming, but it is also substantially less expensive than any other divorce process, and it is one that results in more nuanced outcomes tailored to each family.
While going through a divorce is certainly a life-changing development that can be stressful, choosing mediation is a practical solution in the vast majority of cases. In contrast to the conventional approach that includes an adversarial, competitive process and allows the court to make the decisions, all decision making in mediation is in the hands of the couple, promotes cooperation between the parties, yields livable outcomes that are sustainable solutions for all family members, and all at a much lower cost – both financial and emotional.
Rather than risk uncertain resolutions imposed by the courts, couples who “divorce well” can feel safe knowing that they, themselves, with the assistance of a professional mediator, fashioned their future.
If divorce is what you are facing, choose to “divorce well.”