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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.
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.
Before the divorce is final, the court may issue temporary orders to deal with immediate problems, such as conservatorship, possession, child support, and spousal support/alimony. Temporary orders can say who will live in the home, who will be able to write checks on the bank accounts, and who will have control of the children up until the divorce is final and permanent orders are put in place. In most cases, depending on the court, the spouses will be ordered to mediation prior to any hearing on temporary orders. Mandatory mediation helps lessen the case load at the court and helps the parties resolve issues without a court ruling.
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