Getting Divorced Without Ruining Your Life
A Reasoned, Practical Guide to the Legal, Emotional and Financial Ins and Outs of Negotiating a Divorce Settlement
The title of this book is really what it is about. You are getting a divorce because your marriage does not work and cannot be fixed. The purpose of the divorce is to ultimately improve your life. Yet for too many people, divorce makes their lives more difficult and less satisfying because the process of getting divorced leaves them emotionally and financially exhausted. With each passing year as a divorce mediator, I become more convinced that most bad and exhausting divorces could be good divorces, if only the couple could better understand what divorce is really about and how the divorce system in this country really works. GETTING DIVORCED WITHOUT RUINING YOUR LIFE is a manual for how to get divorced and improve your life. Its premise is that most of the fighting you associate with divorce is unnecessary. Much of the pain you associate with divorce is unnecessary. And most of the legal fees you associate with divorce are unnecessary. Rather, all these unnecessary costs are the product of an outmoded way of getting divorced.
The conventional adversary divorce induces you to spend your money preparing for a trial that is not going to happen. It seduces you to spend years on a process that, at most, should take a few months. And it leaves you and your spouse unable to cooperate in raising your kids because you have become so angry during the litigation that you cannot talk to each other. Hiring two lawyers to fight in court is the worst thing you can do. The more time you spend with lawyers and courts, the worse your life will be. Perhaps it made sense back when divorce was about fault. The adversary legal process was designed to determine fault: guilt in criminal cases and liability in civil cases. But as “no-fault” divorce became almost universal, the adversary system became a bad fit that suited the economic needs of lawyers, but poorly served their clients.
Divorce mediation evolved as the appropriate way for couples to negotiate their “no-fault” divorces, but conventional divorce lawyers bitterly resisted mediation. The divorce settlement I can mediate for $2,000 would typically generate five and six figure legal fees. So, divorce mediation does not make divorce lawyers happy. The middle-class couple who chooses to mediate are saving many thousands of dollars that would otherwise go to lawyers. Better that you spend it on your kids than on your lawyer’s kids. As I will tell you in this book, most couples are appropriate for mediation, but to get there you will have to let go of some pervasive myths about divorce. If you learn how the system really works, it can make the difference between a good divorce and an awful divorce.