Divorce or separation is one of the most traumatic events in a person's life. Whether you are the one initiating the process or the one receiving the news, the emotions are overwhelming. You may not even know what the next step is or should be. Do you call a friend, your therapist, a lawyer? What determines if you should pursue mediation, collaborative divorce or traditional litigation? How do you know which process is going to work for your situation?
During my divorce in 2004-2005, I was terrified of making a mistake. I had no idea who to call or what to do first. I had never heard of mediation or collaborative divorce, so I chose the traditional route. It took a year to get through it and more money than I want to admit in attorneys fees. Since then, I have devoted my professional life to helping couples divorce with respect as a Certified Mediator and Certified Financial Divorce Practitioner.
My ex-husband and I were not out for revenge, though we did have our moments, but I found that the litigation process fed into what little vengeful desire we did have. We came out of the process with a document stating who paid what bill and got what asset, but emotionally we were still estranged, maybe even more so, because of our words and actions during the divorce. Now, I don't blame the attorneys in the least…they're just doing their job. But I do blame the system. The system is set up to be adversarial. The two parties are supposed to fight for what is rightfully theirs. The attorneys are there to communicate those demands. But no one has the job of taking a step back to re-focus and gain perspective on the situation. No one is there to make sure the parties stay focused on what is truly important-coming out on the other end intact, not just legally, but financially and emotionally, as well.
Litigation does not only exacerbate the feelings of grief, anger and confusion that come with divorce, it can ruin any prospect of future financial security due to its high cost. Despite the cost, the outcome is still typically a disappointment to the parties because they have had little to no control over the outcome and are expected to follow directives they had no part in creating.
Mediation allows adults to act like adults. By that, I mean they are able to set their own priorities and create their own solutions that fit their situation. They are accountable for their behavior and control the outcome of the divorce or separation process. Because of this, the participants are empowered to restructure their relationship going forward.