Part 4 & 5 of our 10 part series
Imagine this. You and your spouse are knee-deep in divorce litigation. It’s Tuesday morning (or any morning) and you are in Family Court for a hearing concerning the support and custody of your minor children. You and your spouse, along with your attorneys, have been preparing for this hearing for weeks; you have both drafted and filed declarations in an effort to sway the Court to rule in your favor, casting your spouse as the “bad parent,” the “irresponsible one,” or the “untrustworthy one” (take your pick). You and your spouse have attended the Court-ordered meeting with the Family Court Services counselor, who has listened to both of you extol the virtues of your custody plan as you condemn the other’s.
Today, in front of the judge and a courtroom full of strangers, you may be asked to testify under oath about why you believe the Court should grant your request and deny that of your spouse. Since this is an adversarial proceeding, you are each hoping to win the judge’s favor, which carries with it the likelihood you will be making unflattering, sometimes devastating statements about your spouse in a public forum. After you both testify and your attorneys argue the law, the judge issues an order, and chances are neither of you will feel like the “winner.” You leave the courtroom, probably without speaking to each other, and go your separate ways. It has been an emotionally exhausting day. And, to add insult to injury, this hearing alone has probably set each of you back $3,000 - $10,000 in attorney fees.
Oh, but wait. It’s Tuesday (or any day), and your daughter has that soccer match or dance recital or Science Fair or parent-teacher conference (take your pick), which you and your spouse plan to attend. Or perhaps you are meeting with your Realtor to finalize the details of selling your home. After spending the morning in court tearing each other apart, how do you put on a happy face at your daughter’s soccer match or remain businesslike for your real estate meeting in the afternoon?
The inherent conflict of litigation is insidious; it seeps into every part of your life: your peace of mind, your job performance, your relationships with friends and family, and your financial security. It is not easy to turn off.
But let’s rewind to Tuesday morning. This time, instead of appearing in court, asking the judge to make important decisions about your children, imagine you are attending a mediation session at Divorce Mediation Group. You are crafting your own agreements regarding your parenting plan, support calculations, and the best way for your kids to remain in the family home. Maybe the session is wildly successful; maybe not. Regardless of the outcome of this particular mediation session, you HAVE spent the morning working together toward something that is inherently difficult: the restructuring of your family and its finances in the wake of divorce. What you HAVE NOT done is attempt to destroy the other in a courtroom, where it is often impossible to take back what has been said there.
Divorce Mediation is not always easy; tempers may flare, resentments may surface, you may not reach all of your agreements in one session. But it encourages and requires cooperation between two individuals in the face of the breakdown of their marriage. Though mediation may be difficult at times, that spirit of cooperation, no matter how deeply it is buried, fosters a mutual respect between the parties. And when your children sense that Mom and Dad are not engaged in the bloodletting common in a litigated divorce but instead remain civil and respectful of each other, they benefit from the trickle-down effect of parents who are approaching an otherwise traumatic situation in a sane, thoughtful manner.
After the dust settles and the divorce is final, ideally both parties move on with their lives. The less time spent licking the wounds of divorce, the more time families have to adjust to life after. And really, isn’t that what you want after all – to live a healthy, productive life with your children and friends, free to move on, feeling you did the best you could do under adverse circumstances? There is no need to bear the weight of the old hurts if they were disposed of during the mediation process. It is time to begin your new life.