April 11th, 2022
It serves everyone’s best interests to keep a divorce case as amicable as possible. Divorce can bring out profoundly negative feelings and maintaining a sense of civility between parties can become a strain. Divorcing spouses often feel more contentious, less constructive emotions. The spouses have to work hard to minimize conflicts and remain civil. Once the divorce is finalized and everyone is moving forward with a new family dynamic, all that work at maintaining civility will have been worth it. Louise Livesay uses the collaborative divorce process to help families transition to life after divorce with respect and dignity. If you are considering filing for divorce, or if you are already going through the process, the following tips can help you minimize conflict.
The more you and your spouse can communicate with one another during the divorce process, the better your chances of keeping things civil. A remarkable amount of unnecessary conflict arises from miscommunicating, or not communicating at all and making assumptions rather than getting the facts.
One of the best ways to maintain communication during a divorce is to stay focused on important issues and stay away from anger or other emotions. The more often you communicate with one another, the easier each individual communication is likely to be until it simply becomes part of the routine of your new lives. Communicating includes clarifying questions before you make assumptions. Making assumptions is where a lot of conflict resides.
Be Open and Honest
Secrets and surprises are one of the fastest ways to spark conflict. Divorce brings out strong negative emotions, which can lead spouses to be suspicious of one another even when nothing seems particularly unusual. Something that might seem simple to one spouse could look like an ambush to the other.
As with regular communication, as discussed above, maintaining honesty and openness with one another can help you keep your interactions productive. Do not hide necessary information, and try to avoid springing important news on your spouse at the last minute. Trust is your most precious commodity during divorce so making unilateral decisions about children and finances undermines trust and makes people reactive, which leads to conflict.
Cooperate and Focus on the Kids
Your marriage might be ending, but you must still get to the point at which it actually ends. Cooperation is the best way to get there with as little friction as possible.
If you have children, cooperation and flexibility will make the transition easier for them. You and your spouse will need to work together to help the kids adjust to the many changes going on around them. Whatever feelings the divorce might be bringing up for you towards your spouse, your children’s needs are more important. You gain nothing by interfering with the other parent’s plans with the kids, such as by withholding visitation or keeping them from scheduled events. You only hurt them and your relationship with them.
Keeping your children and their needs at the front of your mind can help keep you focused on what matters most. You both want what is best for the kids. Work together towards that goal. Do not talk about the divorce or negatively about the other parent within range of the kids. Find a place separate from the kids when you need to talk about a difficult issue. It is amazing how much children do actually hear.
Look to the Future, Not the Past
Whatever happened that led to you and your spouse getting a divorce, it happened. It is in the past, and neither of you can go back and change it. All you can do is prepare for your life after divorce. If that life involves children, then your relationship with your spouse is not ending. It is transitioning from marriage to co-parenting. You and your soon-to-be former spouse will most likely continue to be in contact with one another long after your youngest child has become an adult. It benefits everyone if you can keep your focus on what lies ahead.
Mediate or Collaborate
Remaining civil during your divorce will not be easy. At times, it might feel like one of the hardest things you have ever had to do. You could feel emotions like anger and sadness tugging at you, wanting you to lash out or withdraw. The good news is that you do not have to deal with these feelings alone.
Several options are available to you for dispute resolution that do not involve fighting in court. Our court system often tries to pick a “winner” and a “loser” in every case, but divorce is rarely, if ever, that simple. The goal of a divorce should not be to “win,” but to allow everyone involved to move on from the marriage into new phases of their lives. A mediator or collaborative attorney can help you stay focused on the important issues and arrive at agreements you can both have peace with
Divorce mediation allows spouses to resolve their differences without the need for a court’s involvement. A neutral mediator works with both of you to help you find common ground and reach a settlement agreement.
In a Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse work with a team of professionals, based on your needs, not only to resolve the issues of your divorce, but also to plan for your lives going forward. The team often includes a financial professional to help with cash flow and division of assets and liabilities and a mental health professional to help you deal with the emotions and stresses that inevitably come with divorce as well as creating a child centered parenting plan. Your attorneys help you identify your needs and interests, understand the law, create and weigh options for settlement, and draft legal documents. They are your partner through the process. The Collaborative process is tailored to your needs.
For over twenty years, family attorney Louise Livesay has helped families in the Twin Cities area resolve disputes. She is committed to using Minnesota’s family laws to assist her clients in transforming their relationships. If you have questions about collaborative law or divorce mediation, please contact us today online or at (651) 294-2338.