Divorce: not a “one size fits all”
So, here you find yourself….the decision to divorce has been made either by you or for you. You have heard all the horrendous war stories of family, friends and neighbors and fear has firmly taken root in the pit of your stomach. BREATHE… you have options. Not all roads lead to war.
CHOICE #1 – COLLABORATIVE LAW
You and your spouse and each of your attorneys enter into a participation agreement where you agree NOT TO LITIGATE. From the outset your interests are aligned; you both desire to maintain your dignity, privacy and autonomy in the process of crafting your future. You are divorcing, so presumably the mode of communication employed by you during your marriage was not a huge success. Emotions are highly charged and you are both in pain and mourning. Collaboratively trained mental health professionals are hired and invited to the table to guide and support you both in the process of working through the thorny emotional issues and hotspots that generally permeate issues of money and children. Often times the financial picture is murky and the guidance of a financial expert is required. In these instances a collaboratively trained financial expert comes to the table to clarify and navigate towards financially sound and responsible solutions which meet everyone’s
needs. Your team works with you and your spouse, as well as each other, towards the common goal of restructuring your family in the least emotionally destructive and most cost efficient manner possible. You emerge from the process empowered and possessed of a clear vision of a new life path.
CHOICE #2 – MEDIATION
A mediator may or may not be an attorney who serves as a neutral facilitator of communication between you and your spouse for the purpose of reaching an agreement. Neither of you are represented by the mediator. Each of you should hire reviewing attorneys to advise you on the pros and cons of the deal you have struck with the assistance of the mediator. This is a highly effective option if the issues in your case are non- complex, the balance of power is fairly equal and you and your spouse have already made substantial progress in the process of moving beyond your anger and pain. Sometimes there is a breakdown in the mediated agreement when reviewing attorneys become involved. It is their job to educate you on the law and your rights and to offer their opinion of the likely outcome had you gone the route of litigation. This often illuminates the existence of inequities in the deal, an imbalance of power and hidden complexities that have gone unaddressed. Doubt and insecurity take root, consensus dissipates and litigation typically ensues.
CHOICE #3 LITIGATION –
“Kindly place your dignity, privacy and control over your future in the bin and proceed through the metal detector. Thank you and have a
nice day. “
Of course this placard does not actually hang over the entrance to the Courthouse but once you are “in the system” you will quickly realize that it most definitely should. Litigation ends one of two ways: by settlement or after trial. Participants in this process are typically you, your spouse and your respective attorneys. Quite often the roster will include an attorney for your children and/or a forensic psychologist if issues of custody/visitation exist. Additionally, there may be forensic accountants and appraisers of various sorts who will endeavor to determine
the value of the assets and/or business which constitute your married life’s work.
All of these experts will be paid from funds that would either wise be used to educate your children and plan for your future financial needs. Within the litigation model no one’s interests are aligned; everyone has a job to do, an ego to appease and an agenda to satisfy. Your needs, goals and desires quickly become lost in translation and are substituted with those of what the “experts” tell you they should be. As your life savings drains from your pockets faster than the color from your face, you will find yourself in an abyss of seemingly endless delays and countless wasted hours spent in the courthouse hallway. You will inevitably feel victimized by a system that is overburdened and ill equipped to effectively deal with the complex psychological issues involved in virtually every divorce. Several months and quite possibly years into the process you will either settle or go to trial. Quite typically settlements are borne of utter frustration and shear exhaustion rather than a measured accommodation of each parties’ needs and desires. If you do not settle you will eventually go to trial and a Judge will dictate your fate and that of your children. Either way, you will walk away from the process feeling depleted, exploited and angry.
This is your journey and your choice to make. Interview experts in each of the three models and decide which one best suits the needs of you and your family. DIVORCE DOES NOT HAVE TO EQUATE WITH DESTRUCTION.