What is a “Healthy Divorce Process?”
Posted in Divorce on January 15, 2016
When you’ve come to realize that your marriage is ending, the idea of having a “healthy divorce” may seem like a cruel joke. If you couldn’t have a healthy marriage, how can you have a so-called healthy divorce? And what does that even mean?
At its most basic, a healthy divorce involves accepting that your marriage is ending (which doesn’t mean you have to like it), and making choices that will create the best possible life for you, and your children if you have them, during and after your divorce. In essence, a healthy divorce process means looking forward, instead of letting yourself get mired in the problems of the past, and reliving them over and over in your interactions with your ex.
How Can I Have a Healthy Divorce?
A healthy divorce process is not only for people who are cordial with their soon-to-be ex-spouses, or for whom the decision to divorce is mutual. One reason divorce is difficult is that it creates changes that make life seem out of control. A healthy divorce is about identifying what you can control and what you can’t, as well as devoting your energy to those things within your power.
One such thing is your choice of attorney. Divorce is painful and exhausting, and it’s tempting to find an attorney who claims he or she will “fight for you” and “take care of everything.” The unpleasant truth is that the less involved you are in your divorce process, the more out-of-control you will feel, and the less likely you are to be satisfied with the outcome. In addition, the more hostility there is in your divorce, the more “fighting” there is for your lawyer to do. This increases your costs and your stress without improving your outcome. There is, unfortunately, a financial incentive for attorneys to stir up anger and fighting in a divorce.
A better way to go: choose an attorney who will listen and talk with you about what you want your life to be like after divorce. When you know what you want, you can make a plan to achieve it. Rarely, if ever, does anyone envision an ideal life post-divorce that includes decades of ongoing hostility with their ex. If you don’t want that, don’t choose a divorce process that sets you up for that.
If you have children, remember that a divorce that is more stressful for you is more stressful for them, too. When kids see their parents fighting, it is very hard on them; they want to love both parents, and it is painful for them to feel that loving one parent means being disloyal to the other. Choosing a healthier divorce process for you is one way to help your kids through divorce.
Choosing to Divorce with Dignity
Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives to fighting to the death (or to the bankruptcy) in divorce court, and a good attorney will help you explore your options. Mediation allows you and your spouse to work out the terms of your divorce with the assistance of a neutral mediator who facilitates negotiations, but doesn’t try to impose her ideas of what should happen on either of you. In a collaborative divorce, both you and your spouse are represented by attorneys who help you identify your needs and interests and negotiate respectfully and openly, with the help of financial and other professionals if needed.
Both of these alternative dispute resolution methods give you more control over the divorce process and its outcome than litigation. What’s more, they promote productive communication between you and your ex, so that you will be in a healthier position to co-parent in the years following your divorce. As an added bonus, these processes often cost less than litigation, leaving you in a healthier financial position, too.