Divorce is one of the most contentious life events anyone will go through.
There are hard feelings, feelings of loss, perhaps betrayal and anger. As a result, many soon-to-be ex-spouses seem to go out of their way to make the process as difficult as possible.
Some clients will fight tooth and nail to get every last dime in an alimony settlement; others will use the children as bargaining chips. In the end, no one, except perhaps the attorneys collecting legal fees from drawn-out battles, wins.
But it does n’t have to be a Kramer vs. Kramer divorce scenario. The first step toward a more amicable separation is to engage a third party who is skilled at helping clients work at coming up with solutions upon which both can agree. This can be a mediator or even a therapist. These people can help to lay the ground rules for further negotiation.
If you want your relationship to end civilly, don’t hire someone who takes a scorched earth approach to represent you in your divorce. The need for revenge will only lead to a lengthy and costly court battle. Some clients will spend thousands of dollars in legal fees arguing over items worth far less, simply on principle.
One of the first steps toward an amicable settlement is to get the two of you to agree to terms and conditions relating to the division of property, child support, visitation, alimony, etc. This is a good time to check your anger and bitterness at the front door. Collaboration is key. You will need to establish common ground with your ex, which will serve as the foundation on which to build a more peaceful resolution.
If you are committed to a peaceful resolution, showing your ex you are willing to negotiate can go a long way toward breaking down their resistance and you may be surprised to find they are more willing to compromise. If children are involved and you are able to come to an agreement regarding shared parenting before you go to court, a judge is more likely to adopt your recommendations than to come up with something on his/her own.
Make an effort at listening to what your ex has to say and if they make a suggestion don’t shoot it down immediately. Instead, take the time to think about it, ask questions, and offer alternative solutions. If you want your ex to give serious consideration to your wants and needs, it’s important that you do the same.
Ending a marriage amicably and civilly may not be easy, but it can happen. It requires that you put aside past hurts and take the high road, one that will lead to a happier and less stressful future.
Lori Barkus is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator and guardian ad litem. She handles matters relating to divorce, custody, child support, paternity, collaborative divorce, adoption, parental rights, and family law and civil mediation.
Ms. Barkus is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.
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