Many couples that are considering divorce wonder whether there is a way to have a better divorce. While that sounds an awful lot like an oxymoron, it may be possible to have a better divorce. Divorce does not have to be devastating.
You can have a better divorce with a little planning, and taking advantage of the resources that are available to you. A better divorce comes with a wide range of benefits that both you and your family can enjoy.
The Myths About Divorce
A lot of the ideas that swirl around about divorce are based on the myth that in every divorcing couple there is a victim and a protagonist. This is simply not true. If you ask a divorce attorney about the majority of the divorce cases they handle they will likely tell you that a large majority is between couples that both agree that the relationship has come to an end.
Over 827,000 divorces occur each year, many of those divorces are not made up of two very angry people, many of those divorce cases are made up of people that are looking for a better divorce scenario than having to fight out in court every detail of their relationship.
Many times it is not the couples themselves that propagate the hate during a divorce but the system instead. They get bad advice from their child support lawyer or another legal advisor and they follow the advice thinking that it will push the outcome that they want. The fact is, it does not have to get ugly to get fair.
Couples that are interested in ending their relationship amicably so that they can go on and co-parent their children together, don’t have to fall into the blame game, there is another way. You do not have to drag the process out for years. It can be a quick, relatively painless process if each party is willing to do just a little bit of work.
Doing the Work
A better divorce takes work. You cannot just hand it all over to the divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers. Before you call the attorneys, start by hammering some of the details out between you.
For example, before you file the legal separation papers a few things will have to be decided and it is best if you decide those things together.
Here are some things to talk about before filing separation papers because these things should be incorporated into the separation papers:
- How will the children divide their time? In most typical households both parents work full-time jobs. Who will get the kids from daycare during the week? Who will pay for daycare? Will responsibilities be split down the middle?
- What about your joint debt? Who will be responsible for what payments? This can be a difficult conversation to have but it is a very necessary conversation to have.
- When will you talk to the kids about the situation? When will you tell family and friends? It is a good idea to agree on what will be told to everyone and do it together.
Childcare is a very important conversation to have. You want to ensure that your children’s lives are disrupted as little as possible, but you also do not want to stick one parent with all the responsibilities for getting the child from daycare every day, and making the payments.
Having these tough discussions before you file your separation paperwork is important so that the agreement can be put in writing. Your separation paperwork will be used as a foundation for your final divorce decree. The closer you get to come to an agreement that everyone can live with, the easier the divorce process will be.
To Mediate or Not to Mediate
Many states require divorce mediation before the court will hear the case. Mediation helps to keep the courts from being bogged down with bickering soon to be ex-spouses. If you use mediation the right way it can help you to work out all the issues that need to be worked out.
Whether you are required by law to go to mediation or it is something that you and your spouse are choosing voluntarily, there are a few things you should know about mediation:
- It is not the mediators job to pick sides. No matter how badly you paint your spouse or vice versa, the mediator cannot choose one side over the other. Their job is to remain neutral and move talks along to reach an agreement.
- Mediators do not provide legal help. They cannot give you information about court processes, filing paperwork, or any other legal help. They are there to mediate the conversation and come up with an agreement.
- Your lawyer can be there but you cannot bring anyone else in the room with you. Some mediation session is done one on one before the couple meets together.
Mediation can help you to work out your differences before walking into the courtroom. A lot of times couples cannot come to terms because of a breakdown in communication. In some cases, one party feels slighted or that they are not being heard. In other cases, emotions get in the way and a clear path to resolution is hard to find. A mediator is trained to keep everyone on topic and help to foster a resolution.
Break Up Counseling
A better divorce can mean learning how to let go and break up in a healthy way. Marriage counseling or couples counseling is not just about figuring out how to stay together, it can help you to learn how to break up without causing irreparable damage in your relationship.
Whether you have children together or not, it is important to end your relationship in a healthy way. Unresolved feelings will be like luggage that you carry into every future relationship Seeing a marriage counselor together while going through a divorce may sound counterintuitive but it can be one of the best decisions you make. It can be the way to a better divorce.
Of course if you have children together it is even more important that you break up in a healthy way. You will be attached to your ex-spouse for the rest of your life through the kids. You will have to deal with them forever. It is better to get rid of the negative feelings, redefine your relationship as co-parents, and leave the relationship in an emotionally healthy state.
Divorce is not easy. There is a period of mourning, typically followed by a period of anger, and sometimes there is a period of complete and utter shock. Having a professional help you get through these periods will ensure that you can remain a good parent and that you can start your next chapter in a good headspace.
Counseling is not the only work you have to do to get through to have a better divorce. You will have to decide things that are really hard to decide. Like who is getting what property. The division of property, after child custody issues, is one of the most chaotic parts of a divorce. The person you thought you knew so well suddenly has a very strange connection to the fondue pot your Aunt Sue bought as a wedding gift that sat in the closet for the last 10 years, and they are willing to fight for it.
How do you avoid these property fights? Selling a property and dividing the proceeds can be the fairest option, but it is not always possible. For example, if you own a home together and it is where the kids are being raised, selling the house that was bought with two incomes so that the kids have to move into a smaller space based on less income, is not fair to the kids.
A good rule of thumb is whomever the custodial parent is going to get to keep the family home, and if need be assumes responsibility for the entire mortgage. If the bigger earner of the couple is moving out, than part of the maintenance agreement can include a partial mortgage payment each month.
What about other property that is valuable? What if your family invested in art? What about the diamond jewelry that was gifted throughout the relationship? Art is easy, you can sell it, divide the proceeds or you can split the collection fairly. Diamond jewelry or anything else that was gifted belongs to the individual. There have been some cases where a spouse fought to get back the mother’s diamond engagement ring that was given to the spouse, they did not win. A gift is a gift unless otherwise stated. For example, a gift that was given with this caveat that others heard and witnessed like “ I am giving you my mother’s ring, in the event the marriage goes south, you give it back” might hold up in court but otherwise, a gift is not considered marital property.
Hire These Professionals
If property division becomes a sticking point to have a better divorce keep things on the up and up and hire professional appraisers to calculate the value of all the marital property. Some innovative couples have gone as far as selling each other things out of the family home. For example, you hire an appraiser and he puts a price tag on everything that is in the family collection of goods. If you want the big screen in the theater room, you pay the value, if your spouse wants to keep the kitchen aid they pay the value.
The money can be placed in an escrow account and be divided equally after the divorce. Sounds like a lot of work to buy your own things back, well it is not the easiest way to do things but it is a way to stop the squabbling and have a better divorce.
Whether your actual finances were co-mingled or not during your marriage, you did share a home, and each of you likely gave that home their all. It is only fair that all the contents in the home be looked at as joint property.
Of course, each partner should be able to keep what they came into the marriage already owning. Hopefully, you and your future ex will not have to go to the extreme of hiring an appraiser to put a price tag on everything that is owned jointly, but if you find yourself stuck in an endless circle of no that’s mine, it can be a huge help.
Communication Is Key for a Better Divorce
Communication is how people have a better divorce. Sounds so simple, but it can be hard to get past the feelings of anger and hurt to talk to your future ex, but it is necessary. Talking only through your lawyers leaves a lot of possibility of information getting lost in translation.
If you have children, it is imperative that you keep the communication channels open. You are divorcing each other, you are not divorcing your children. Children need two level headed parents that can put their best interests first. Staying on speaking terms if vital for everyone involved.
Speaking of communication, do not “drag” your ex to friends and family. While you may have some negative things you would like to say, it will not make the situation any better. Communicating how terrible your ex is, does not make the situation any better. If you want to have a better divorce you have to remember to communicate your feelings to either a professional or your future ex before you communicate to everyone else.
Pointing blame or demanding that your spouse take the heat for the entire deterioration of the relationship is not only unfair, it is also unrealistic. Sometimes marriages fall apart and there is just no one to blame.
If you want a better divorce you can have one, you just really have to put in the work. It is not easy, and it can be very emotionally draining at times, but if you are willing to do the work, it will be less stressful and proceed quicker.
Don’t believe the hype: not every divorce has to be rife with drama. You can have a better divorce and start your new chapter off on the right foot.