Myth #3: Divorce Usually Requires a Fight
Consider how many movies, television programs, magazine articles and books depict divorce as a big battle. Divorce presented as a soap opera with celebrities battling through expensive lawyers and public relations firms is a staple of the magazines in the supermarket checkout line. There is so much of this noise that it is not surprising that many people believe that real divorce is like those presented for our entertainment.
The Reality: Mediation is Divorce for Grown Ups.
When I began my career as a lawyer thirty nine years ago, I was a litigator handling divorces in the traditional manner. But within a short time I became disillusioned by the unnecessary pain caused to my clients by the adversary system itself. By 1980 I was transitioning my practice to mediation rather than litigation, and within a few years I only mediated. Since then I have mediated successfully for thousands of couples.
In the early years, most lawyers opposed mediation and dismissed the results as what you get when you cherry pick the easy cases. Over time I learned that their perspective was wrong. Compared with the cases I litigated, the cases I mediated were just as difficult and complicated. Betrayal, indignation, and fear were all felt equally as intensely among mediation clients as among litigation clients. These were not just the easy cases.
The principal difference was that someone had directed the attention of the couples to the possibility of a better way to divorce. Typically a therapist or counselor, but occasionally an accountant, a physician, or an enlightened friend had suggested that the couple consider mediation before beginning a fight.
And once the couple understood that they could negotiate a successful settlement agreement without enduring years of struggle they would commit to trying mediation. A good experienced mediator can help manage the intense feelings that often derail amicable divorce.
A respected family therapist once said that divorce is not the death of a family but rather is the reorganization of the family. When approached from that perspective divorce is not a fight. Rather, it is a collaboration in search of solutions to manageable problems. If you are considering divorce, I hope someone explains this to you before you get into an angry, costly, and very avoidable struggle.