As a divorce attorney and mediator, I see many couples in my office who are at the beginning of the process and who are trying to gather information to determine the best way to move forward with their divorce. In choosing a way to proceed, it is valuable for each person to acknowledge where they are and where they want to be so we can chart the best path to get them to the finish line.
Where are you now?
At the beginning of a divorce there are a wide array of emotions you may be feeling. Depending on the circumstances you may be angry, shocked and surprised. You may be resentful, bitter or heartbroken. You may be anxious and stressed out. You may feel like your world has just been turned upside down. You may be grieving, feel ashamed or guilty. Some couples are simply ready to move on and get business handled. Sometimes couples are devastated with the breakup and not ready to begin dealing with the divorce. You may want the other spouse to be held accountable for their actions. As you proceed you will likely find that some of these desires get in the way of moving your matter efficiently to the end. Seeking to punish your spouse through the process may result in more strain placed on you and the children, and a longer and more expensive divorce process.
All of these feelings are normal. It is expected that there will be fallout from the breakdown in the marriage with communication challenges, loss of trust, guardedness, suspicions and skepticism. It is what we do with all these normal feelings at the beginning of a divorce that impact how successfully we get to the end of the divorce where the necessary business of the divorce has been completed and you are moving on with your new life.
Where do you want to be?
So, what do you want life to look like after your divorce is complete? Mostly you want the turmoil to end. You want your fears of the unknown to be resolved. You want your questions answered. You want to be treated fairly. You don’t want your children to suffer. You want to be comfortable financially. You want the stress to end. You want some sense of relief if things have been difficult for a long time. You want a professional with a plan who will hold your hand through the process and manage the detailed paperwork. You want to be happy.
So how do you get there?
A lot of the emotions you are dealing with will just take time to resolve. When trust is violated it does not get fixed overnight. Choosing a healthy process to proceed with your divorce can help you more quickly deal with many of the fears, stresses and uncertainties. The sooner you and your spouse are able to sit down and chart a path toward a fair solution the better. The path from where you are, to where you want to be, involves four steps; getting educated on the issues and the law, exchanging full disclosure of assets, debts and incomes, exploring possible solutions and reaching resolution, and formalizing everything legally.
The Mediator handles these four steps with you as they first assist in educating you on the law and the divorce issues. The Mediator also assists you with exchange of full disclosure. You will work together to agree on the values of assets and will provide any necessary documents to verify balances, incomes, expenses, and obligations. You will then work with the Mediator to explore solutions that are best for your family and get creative to come up with solutions that work for both spouses. The Mediator will then help prepare all necessary paperwork to formalize the divorce and avoid you setting foot in the Courthouse. The stresses, uncertainties and fears can be alleviated as quickly as you are ready to proceed.
Because mediation allows you to sit right down to explore solutions, the emotions are moving toward resolution rather than negatively escalating. Working with your spouse with a professional Mediator will provide the most direct and healthy path from where you are now to where you want to end up.