Considering a Divorce? The First Four Things You Should Do by Ellene Lammers
Divorce is one of the most challenging and difficult times in an individual’s life. It is a process that takes time and patience, as it is a loss that must be coped with and adapted to. These are the four first steps to take if you are considering a divorce—
1. The first step is to ensure that both you and your spouse are in agreement that a divorce is the best alternative in your circumstances. This may seem to be too obvious, however it is not obvious to everyone. Some individuals arrive at a mediator or attorney’s office thinking that the mediator or attorney will help them make a decision with regard to remaining in their marriage or not. If there is any doubt about obtaining a divorce, the first step would be to seek out a reputable therapist. There is a lesser known specialty that has been becoming more popular recently called Discernment Counseling. This is a very structured and guided process that will allow each person to determine if divorce is the best alternative. If in doubt, especially if there are children, please look at all of the options that are available to improve your relationship before deciding that divorce is your best bet. Of course, both spouses must be invested in the marriage for this to occur. Many times one spouse has emotionally left the marriage years before and is only now ready to pursue a divorce. If one spouse firmly feels the marriage is over, then the marriage is over. This can be overwhelming for the other spouse, however time and a good therapist can help enormously.
2. The second step, in ideal circumstances, would be to find out what the divorce process alternatives are from a reputable professional. The alternatives are pro se—which is basically a do-it-yourself approach—mediation, collaborative divorce, and lastly litigation. Many people are not aware that there are choices to be made with regard to which process is chosen and resort to litigation immediately. Litigation has a win/lose approach. Everyone wants to be the winner, and of course, no one want to be the loser. Some people are thinking only about the short term and have no concern about the long term consequences. Think about how the process that is chosen will influence any future relationship, especially if there are children. All professionals are not equal in terms of presenting each process in a neutral way with the hope of each individual couple deciding what will work best for them. If the couple seek out a professional to discuss their options and do this together, this would be ideal. That way both people are hearing the same thing at the same time. A peaceful, cooperative, and respectful co-parenting relationship is what all children deserve. Conflict and acrimony are very detrimental to children. They love both of their parents and should never be put in the position of choosing one over the other. Children thrive with structure, and parents that can communicate effectively and peacefully with one another.
3. The third step is to decide which process is best for you. If one spouse is insistent on the divorce and the other is not, litigation is the only alternative. However if both agree that a divorce is going to be pursued, there are choices to be made. Alternative Dispute Resolution processes, such as mediation and collaborative divorce, are voluntary and can go a long way in terms of helping people have a peaceful and cooperative future relationship. Both processes teach communication skills to the divorcing couple as the divorce process continues. It is crucial for people to understand the differences between the different processes so that an informed decision can be made.
4. The fourth step and last step in this very beginning phase of considering a divorce is choosing which professional(s) you feel comfortable working with. It is very important to select an individual mediator, attorney, collaborative divorce coach, etc. that you can freely speak with and feel that you are not being judged but are truly being listened to.
Ellene Lammers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with many years of experience dealing with individuals and families experiencing many different challenges in their lives. This would include dealing with psychiatric illness, physical illness, substance use, and relationship issues. Ellene practices divorce mediation and is also a collaborative divorce coach because she feels strongly that both of these processes are much more effective than litigation for divorcing couples and their children. Ellene’s office is located in Vernon Hills, IL, and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Ellene is also a member of Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois.