Breaking Apart While Pulling in the Same Direction
When most people think of divorce, what come to mind are words like “divisive,” “conflict,” “adversarial,” “battle,” and other terms describing anger, unhappiness, and disappointment. So how can a divorce be “collaborative,” and why is that a good thing?
A couple going through divorce started their marriage walking down the aisle together, planning a life together, and raising children together. Even when problems arose, the couple may, together, have sought the assistance of a marriage counselor or spiritual advisor.
Yet, if the couple decides the marriage has no future and they need to separate, the usual path is to hire attorneys and take what was a joint venture onto the battlefield where they will begin lobbing grenades at each other trying to achieve an all-out victory or, at best, a truce.
What’s wrong with this picture?
For starters, if the divorce war rages on, the children are inevitably caught in the crossfire, making everyone in the family miserable. Parents have an obligation to work together for the kids’ benefit in a partnership that doesn’t end when the children graduate college but, rather, that lasts a lifetime. Beyond that, each spouse’s life will be weighed down by continued sniping, which can lead to bitterness and endless resentment.
The Collaborative Divorce Process offers a radically different approach to divorce. It lets a divorcing couple focus on their future rather than on the sins of the past. It invites a couple to work together towards common goals, such as financial independence, a sound co-parenting relationship, and mutual respect in their post-divorce lives. It recognizes that divorce litigation rarely produces a clear winner and a clear loser but, rather, ends in a Pyrrhic victory, draining financial and emotional resources that take years to replenish.
In a collaborative divorce, spouses are supported by their own lawyers as well as by unaligned mental health and financial professionals, each of whom brings a different set of skills to the table. The lawyers, rather than focusing on strategic maneuvering, collaborating to help their clients work together to benefit the entire family.
Couples who choose the collaborative divorce process recognize that preserving their family’s well-being will require being attentive to the needs of all members of the family, including their soon-to-be ex-spouse. That doesn’t mean giving in; it does mean being willing to listen, and, in turn, being heard.
Judges have limited tools and limited time as they deal with an endless flow of divorce matters. Couples using the collaborative divorce process avoid the standardized approach of the courthouse. By rejecting a war and, instead, embracing a cooperative approach, they are much more likely to emerge well-prepared for their post-divorce lives.
Divorce represents both an end and a beginning. The collaborative divorce process invites couples to keep their eyes on the road ahead to create a better future for themselves and for their children.
There’s something to be said for the “drama-free” divorce. Well, maybe not drama-free, since getting a divorce tends to be a very emotional chapter in the lives of most couples. But in my opinion, a divorce with minimal drama ought to be a goal.
The Cost of Drama in Divorce
It’s not that I don’t like drama. Drama has its place. A lot of my favorite TV shows, films and books are drama-filled and can be quite engaging. I just don’t see a benefit to bringing all that drama to the table in a divorce. Drama-filled divorces are the stuff dreams are made of. Unfortunately for you, these are not your dreams; they are the dreams of litigation attorneys who are more than willing to turn your contention into billable hours. While you’re burning through your children’s college funds to pay for your bitter divorce, the litigation attorneys are now able to afford to send their kids to college without taking out student loans. So, unless you’re expecting your divorce story to get picked up by a Hollywood producer as the remake of War of the Roses, and you’re getting big bucks for the movie rights, it may be in your best interest to keep the drama to a minimum.
Emotions and Divorce
I understand that when things go South in our lives, marriage-inclusive, our tendency is to look around for someone to blame. It’s the American way. The first response of most human beings facing the break-up of a relationship is anger- at our partner, at the way things have turned out, maybe even anger at ourselves for making a bad choice of a mate. When you walk into a divorce attorney’s office loaded for bear and wanting to get even for the pain and disappointment your spouse has caused you, some attorneys will take you at your word and get your case filed in court before the ink is dry on your contract. A client motivated by anger may be oblivious to the high cost of litigating a divorce. At the onset, you may think it’s worth it, just to punish your spouse for hurting you. But most people come to their senses relatively soon, and many realize that they are now stuck in a process that moves rather slowly and inefficiently but costs a lot of money. For the most part, clients in litigation feel like they have very little control over what happens in that process. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, and clients seldom understand why all those things are necessary. The court system takes a rather “one size fits all” approach to cases, by necessity, based on the sheer volume of cases that are filed, so once you are in that system, you are forced to move along with the herd.
Good News: You Have Divorce Process Options
The good news is, there are other processes, like mediation or collaborative divorce, that can offer you a more personalized approach to getting a divorce. Even though you are dealing with the same issues, in the same situation, these processes are designed to help you let go of your anger and to take a more reasonable, problem-solving approach to untangling the finances and the child-related issues and to craft a future for you and your spouse that allows both of you to survive, and even thrive in your future as co-parents.
If you are facing a divorce or legal separation, you owe it to yourself to explore divorce process options, such as mediation, collaborative divorce, or kitchen table negotiation, to find the process that best suits your needs.
About the author:
Marjorie Carter is a collaboratively-trained family law attorney, mediator and former member of CFLA. Marjorie is committed to guiding her clients through the legal process by taking a reasonable, peacemaking approach, helping them to find creative solutions that respect their own values and integrity.
Understanding Grief in Divorce
When two people get married they emotionally attach to dreams, hopes, fantasies and plans of what their life will be like. For some, getting and being married is a central part of their religion or spirituality. Getting divorced forces people to let go of deeply held hopes and dreams and re-negotiate their world view. The name for this process is grief.
The Grieving Process in Divorce
Grief is an inevitable and essential part of any divorce. We don’t learn how to grieve, we do it automatically, whether we know it or not. Many people associate grief narrowly with death, and while it is true that we grieve for those who have died, we also grieve many other losses throughout our life as well.
Getting a divorce involves a legal, financial and emotional separation. Each of these separations comes with it’s own unique type of grief. Some people fight the experience of grief, they get hung up on being right or get lost in the minutia of one particular issue. Despite our best efforts, the deep and painful feeling states associated with grief must be felt in order for us to transition to the next chapter of our lives.
Regardless of the degree of certainty you have about needing to get divorced, you will still have to grieve. You may normally solve problems by “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” or finding ways to be grateful and yet, if you are getting a divorce, you will have to grieve.
There are several different states of grief. Many people start grieving by being in a state of denial, which serves as a protective shield against the initial impact of the shattered dream. Fear, anxiety, guilt, sadness and anger are other emotional states that are part of the grieving process, each allowing you to complete a different task so that you can acknowledge and accept the loss and successfully move forward.
Engage a Professional
It is common for people to reach out to a trained mental health provider during times of loss and transition. Sharing your story with a therapist can be a powerful way to make sense of and eventually be free from grief and pain.
The emotions in divorce can be difficult to navigate. Certain divorce processes are better suited to help with these emotions in divorce. Collaborative divorce is a supportive divorce process that traditionally includes a mental health professional, financial specialist, and two family law attorneys.
Dena Tranen, LCSW is a trained collaborative law professional, licensed clinical social worker and former member of CFLA. She works as a mental health coach, therapist, and co-parenting specialist. To learn more about your Missouri divorce process options give her a call today.
Money has emotion attached to it. Money represents security and safety. Lack of money means insecurity and fear. Divorce means money will be split up. Splitting one pot of money into two pots of money creates emotion, and rarely are these emotions positive.
For many in divorce, it’s a surprise that their 401k is a marital asset. This happened to me. I had worked hard to save the money in my work retirement plan and I was proud of what I had managed to put aside. With an ex who was a small business owner, that retirement nest-egg was critical. When it came time to split up, however, I wanted to hold on to what I felt was my retirement. In my mind, it was mine! In reality, it was not mine, it was a marital asset and subject to being split in the divorce. This misunderstanding on my part caused me to have angst and to feel anger, which complicated the negotiations and created more acrimony.
This is, sadly, an unfortunate and common scenario. For many, the money they have saved in their work retirement account is the bedrock of their retirement plan. Losing any of it causes insecurity and fear, which in turn causes anger, resentment and the possibility of a protracted fight in divorce court, aggravating the process and costing even more money with professionals.
The bottom line is this: be aware that any savings accumulated in the course of a marriage is a marital asset and subject to be split in divorce.
Work to put your emotions aside as you make decisions that will impact your future, your soon-to-be-exes future and possibly your children’s futures.
Money represents security. In the process of divorce, look for the ways to create and rebuild two new foundations for security where there once was just one. Remember, your family is still a family, even when there are two houses.
To learn more about your divorce process options reach out to one of our experienced St. Louis Collaborative Law Association professionals today.
About the Author : Laura Boedges
Laura is a financial professional and former member of CFLA.
5 Ways to Cope with Your Feelings During Divorce
When people think of springtime, they think of flowers, sunshine, warm weather, and fun times. School will let out in the next few months. Perhaps your neighbors are planning a summer getaway and a part of you is wishing you were enjoying life as much as they appear to be enjoying it. While it may appear that people are preparing for some R & R, you may be going through tougher times whether it’s by divorce, separation, or seeing your ex bringing a new romantic partner into his or her life.
When it seems like everyone around you is carefree, here are 5 ways to cope with your feelings during a divorce.
1. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.
Anger is a natural emotion. Many people have the misconception that anger is a bad thing when it’s not. In fact, there are basic universal emotions all human beings experience: anger, sadness, gladness, and fear. Sometimes, talking with friends or family members can have its limitations. It’s time to seek the guidance and support from a mental health professional. Counselors and therapists provide guidance and emotional support for people at all levels of need. Therapy is a great tool to explore your emotions.
2. It’s ok to have a pity-party…temporarily.
There’s no timeline on how long you must feel, however, there are warning signs for when feeling sorry for yourself is more harmful than helpful. When life feels unenjoyable and you notice yourself becoming more irritable, have thoughts of self-harm, show disinterest in doing things you used to love doing, feel fatigued, feel worthless, and have trouble sleeping and eating. Consult with your medical provider to assess if you may be going through depression.
This is a great topic to discuss if you decide to see a therapist or to contemplate on your own. You may be going through a new experience where you are figuring out who is genuinely seeking to be emotionally supportive and who is not. Take into consideration who you let into your inner circle of family and friends who are emotionally supportive and objective. Keep in mind as well that you want to maintain boundaries in the workplace. Who wants to be the topic of discussion around the water cooler at work?
4. It’s ok to have fun and be happy.
Sure, sometimes you see people moving on and moving forward without you. You may even feel that you are obligated to feel sad. You may also have feelings of guilt depending on how you’ve transitioned into a new stage of life as a divorced person or finding love again with someone new. There may be challenges ahead but happiness takes time.
5. Create a routine.
By having a daily routine you learn healthy habits such as taking a stroll in your local park, walking your dog, maintaining good health, taking your medication as prescribed, exercising, eating nourishing meals, and going to work. Some people take building a daily routine to another level and include fun activities such as spending time with loved ones on a Saturday afternoon for a date night. Creating a daily routine helps decrease feelings of anhedonia (no motivation) and increase feelings of happiness.
About The Author: Tiffany Sidney
Tiffany is a mental health professional and former member of CFLA.
Divorce and Disappointment
Unfortunately, we all face disappointment at some point. It is a part of life. How you choose to deal with disappointment is what often matters most. You will face many feelings during a divorce and disappointment is a common feeling that many people face.
When you focus on the negative parts of a disappointing situation, you cannot see the opportunities you have. Being angry may cause you to take your feelings out on someone who does not deserve it. Feeling sorry for yourself causes you to be too busy thinking about yourself. It is tempting to strike out at the person or persons you identify as the cause of your disappointment. Anger, self-pity, and revenge will only make matters worse.
Focusing on the Future
While life is full of disappointments, it is good to remember that life is also filled with opportunities. To move past the disappointment in a positive way, first express your feelings appropriately. Talk to a friend. Write down, for yourself, what happened, perhaps in a letter. Then, destroy the writing. The writing is meant for you, and no one else. Put your upset in perspective. Few disappointments continue indefinitely. Stop and think about all the things that are good in your life.
Implement Helpful Tactics
You might need to change your plans. You might need to adjust your thinking. You do not have to allow someone, or something, to control your future. Remember, each of us is in charge of our own future, not someone or something else. Recognizing the disappointment, focusing on the future and implementing helpful tactics will allow you to move forward in a positive way.
The collaborative divorce process often engages a divorce coach. A divorce coach is trained in the emotions of divorce. To learn more about the collaborative divorce process or the skills of a divorce coach visit the St. Louis Collaborative Law Association's website for helpful resources and information.
About the Author : Gary Soule
Gary is an attorney and former member of CFLA.