Finding Peace in Divorce
By David Dowling, JD, MDR
Is it possible to find peace in the divorce process? There is so much happening, from the initial conversation to filing and separating, and it seems impossible to find peace during such a painful and difficult time. Couples often start this process because one or both of them want to change with the hope that they can find peace and clarity. To some, it might seem easy to walk away from a marriage, but it’s never as simple as packing a bag and filing some papers with the court. Modern media often depicts a smooth transition from the yelling and shouting to a new clam life. With a cheesy soundtrack playing in the background, we get to see how easy it is to move into a cute new apartment, make new friends and even start dating again. However, as anyone who has been through a divorce will tell you, it’s never easy and rarely so simple to move forward.
Compared to other countries, where couples must be legally separated for years before they can file for a divorce, our legal system does make the process of getting a divorce rather simple and easy. But our personal facts and circumstances complicate things and can result in a challenging, expensive and emotionally draining process that can take years to resolve. Why? Well, our legal system encourages an adversarial approach to divorce. If you have property, it becomes a little more complicated. If children are involved, the process becomes a battlefield. Suddenly you find yourself living out the storyline from Kramer v. Kramer. Everything you’ve ever done in your life becomes a weapon that can be used against you in court. Families divide, and friends are encouraged to take sides. It’s easy to think it will never/could never happen to you, but when it comes to protecting our children, even the most reasonable person is willing to fight.
So how can you ever find peace in this battle? That depends on the approach you choose to take from the beginning. Most couples will first find a therapist and try to work on their marriage healthily and productively. If that fails, for some reason someone goes to an attorney. Once that process starts, it’s often difficult to reverse. With one attorney retained, the other spouse soon gets their own attorney, and the battle begins. It’s easy to justify the back and forth, but as time passes, the bills spiral out of control. Nothing seems to get resolved. Control over the outcome is taken out of the hands of the parties and given to a judge.
An alternative to the traditional divorce process is mediation. It provides both sides with an opportunity to sit together with a neutral mediator to work things out. Removing the contentious and adversarial back and forth associated with divorce, mediation puts control over the outcome into the hands of the parties. Working with a skilled mediator, you have an opportunity to hear and be heard. Rather than focusing on differences, mediation seeks to address the goals and interests of both sides. Building on shared goals of moving forward and finding peace, mediation aims to help both parties find a healthy resolution to a difficult situation.