How to prepare for a non-confrontational divorce process

This article looks at what divorcing spouses can do to prepare for a mediated or collaborative divorce.

Divorce tends to be difficult and that difficulty is sometimes exacerbated by a confrontational litigation process. Many couples nowadays are trying to avoid the contentiousness that a litigated divorce often invokes by pursuing more non-confrontational options, such as collaboration and mediation. As US News & World Reports says, negotiating a divorce settlement in a respectful and amicable manner is becoming increasingly popular, especially among younger couples. In order for a collaborative or mediated divorce to work, however, spouses must prepare for what is ahead of them.

Preparing beforehand

As the Wall Street Journal points out, just because alternative divorce methods are non-confrontational does not mean that they are going to be easy. In fact, because spouses will have to negotiate with one another directly just as they are going through the end of their marriage, respectful communication may prove difficult. Learning how to talk with a soon-to-be ex-spouse in a respectful manner can lead to large dividends during divorce. Allowing insults or hurt feelings to get in the way of negotiations is not only unhelpful, it can also lead the other party taking a more hardline stance on important issues. Talking with a therapist before and during the process can help divorcing spouses learn how to frame their questions and concerns in a respectful and productive way.

Collaboration vs. mediation

It's important to differentiate between collaborative and mediated divorces. Although both divorce processes are similar in that they both occur outside the courtroom, they have important structural and procedural differences. In mediation, the mediator communicates between the two spouses, who may or may not have their own attorneys. During collaboration, in contrast, the parties communicate directly with one another via their respective attorneys.

Taking responsibility

One of the great selling points of mediation and collaboration is that they both give divorcing spouses greater responsibility over how their final divorce settlement will look. By contrast, a litigated divorce means that a judge will often impose a settlement on a divorcing couple. Increased responsibility, however, means that couples need to be prepared. Being prepared means not only learning how to talk constructively with a former spouse, but also knowing what issues are on the table. For example, a spouse who has relatively little experience with financial matters should prepare by gathering relevant financial documents to learn both what is at stake in the marital estate and what he or she should expect financially from a divorce settlement.

Taking the next step

Anybody who is interested in pursuing a non-confrontational divorce process should contact an attorney who is experienced in both mediated and collaborative divorce. Such an attorney will be in the best position to help clients protect their best interests while at the same time helping to avoid an adversarial divorce.