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The Appropriate Divorce Model

Experience and research has helped us identify some of the basic elements of a successful and healthy divorce. The term "successful and healthy" as used here, means completing the divorce process of emotional separation, achieving a new center of balance as a single person and single parent, maintaining the best interest and welfare of your children, and establishing positive and healthy new attitudes toward yourself, your ex-spouse, and your prior marriage.

The complete absence of conflict is not at all a component of the ideal divorce. A degree of anger and conflict is natural, expected, useful and even constructive. It helps to dissolve the bonds of attachment and old patterns of the relationship; it allows you the opportunity to think and reflect; it enables you to make alterations in your life and change.

Apart from gaining peace of mind, growth and other human values, there are very practical advantages to struggling and working as diligently as you can to making your divorce better. The closer you can get to the specifics discussed below, the better it will be for you and your family.

  • You will alleviate and ease tensions and conflict.
  • You will possess a far greater opportunity regarding compliance with the terms of your agreement.
  • You will save thousands of dollars in legal expenses.
  • If children are involved, you will vastly improve co-parenting and cooperation.

Elements of a Successful Divorce

Mutuality: The lack or absence of mutual and respectful sharing in the decision to divorce is a primary cause of conflict in the divorce and post- divorce periods. In an ideal divorce, the decision is arrived at together. This does not mean that one spouse may not be sadder or more distressed than the other, but that both come to accept divorce as the best alternative under the current circumstances. Both spouses should be mutually active and involved in negotiating terms and in the process of co-parenting. The most stable and centered settlements happen when both spouses take an active role in the negotiations, not simply leaving all the decisions to their attorney. A healthy and positive divorce is an actively mutual endeavor.

Attitude: Each spouse needs to conclude the divorce with a balanced view of the other partner and of the marriage experience. There needs to be a sense of emotional and spiritual closure. It is best to let go of and be free of any lingering feelings of blame, guilt or failure. Keep in mind this process may take months, yet the goal is to create increased self-understanding, the ability to form healthy new intimate relationships, and a sense of self- confidence.

Children: In a healthy and positive divorce, injury to the children is minimized, being accomplished primarily through maintaining good co-parenting relations. Children can literally be devastated and destroyed by fighting between their parents, so it is imperative that the parents be able to work together for the sake and well being of their son's and daughter's. When not resolved, anger and conflict can endure for years, long after the legal divorce has ended. Children must be free of the feeling that loving one parent is a betrayal of the other. They must be free of the thought that they are the cause of the divorce.

Attempting to create the ideal divorce is like any other ideal that you may attempt to achieve, like ideal health or achievement in some sport. The goals are something concrete that you work towards and work for, but you do not want to beat yourself up every time you fall a little short of that ideal or that goal. You do your best, you seek counsel, you ask questions and you heal. The closer you can get to the goal, the better and smoother your divorce will proceed, and the better life will be for you and your children and your family.

The best predictor of a healthy and positive divorce is the degree of client control over the negotiations, everything works much better if you are in control. This does not mean that you should not get help and advice from an attorney if you want it, rather it means that you are far better off if you and your spouse plan and follow through with all or most of the negotiating yourself. By doing this, you end up achieving a higher degree of compliance with the terms of the agreement, a much lower chance for future courtroom conflict, co-parenting is smoother, support payments are more likely to be made on time, and you both get on with your life more quickly.

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In Texas most cases, alimony is limited to three years because it is supposed to be temporary. Alimony is only awarded if a spouse who has been married for at least 10 years cannot support herself or himself, or if there is domestic violence and the violent spouse is convicted during the divorce case. This being said, marital fault can be considered when the court determines an alimony award and this is not limited to just the spouse who may or may not be the obligor (payor).
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