Once you decide to divorce, the biggest factor that will determine your fate is how much conflict you and your former spouse engage in going forward. Especially when you have children, keeping things civil can literally mean the difference between your kids eventually recovering from this unfortunate event versus being scarred for life because of it.
What does it mean to have a nonadversarial divorce? A nonadversarial divorce simply means that each person is willing to put their differences aside and work together in a civil manner in order to dissolve the marriage. The goal is to be fair to each other and avoid going to battle in ways that will injure your former spouse.
When a couple is in the midst of breaking up, emotions are raw. Acting with civility may therefore seem like a difficult (even impossible) thing to do. But before you dig in and decide to stick it to your spouse, you should understand the benefits of a more cooperative approach.
Ten benefits you'll receive from a nonadversarial divorce process.
1. Cooperation provides more flexibility when it comes to the way you divorce. It allows you to stay out of court and divide things through mediation.
2. Through mediation your fights will be kept private. If you continue feuding and go to court, your hostility becomes public. Every single word your wife says about you being a bad father, or your husband claims about you're being an unfaithful slut - all this becomes public record. Anyone can access it . . . employers, children, nosy neighbors, your business competition, and so on.
3. It is far cheaper. A cooperative divorce can be done for as little as several thousand dollars. Dueling it out in court can cost $20,000, $50,000, $100,000 or more. Many parents spent what could have been their child's college fund on the most expensive argument they've ever had.
4. All of this drama has a high cost in terms of stress and anxiety, which is avoided by mediation.
5. You will not be degraded on the witness stand or called upon to defend your behavior in court. You get to keep your self-respect.
6. You'll have more time and energy to devote towards rebuilding you life and getting things back on track, rather than wasting that time immersed in litigation.
7. With a cooperative divorce you stay in control. When each of you bickers your way to the courtroom, your fate is left in the hands of a judge, who may or may not rule in your favor. Usually what happens is that you win some and you lose some, and each person walks away being forced to comply with things they don't like. They lose on some issues that were important. When you work out your differences together, you can usually reach a settlement that is far easier for each party to live with.
8. You avoid building up a reservoir of anger that will hinder your relationship and create more conflict going forward. Remember: divorce is seldom the end of the relationship, especially if you have children.
9. Having your day in court is rarely what people envision it to be. Many people go to court wanting to have every problem pinned on their ex and expect to come away having "won," both in principle and on paper. This rarely happens.
Even if your ex is primarily at fault, and believe the day in court will go your way, judges are rarely interested in hashing out family dramas or focusing on the past. So even if an ex was grossly negligent, or had affairs right and left, this doesn't mean everything will go in your favor. The judge is interested only in a fair and equitable settlement.
10. Researchers have found that couples who go through a nonadversarial divorce are far more likely to abide by the agreements of the divorce, whereas those who duke it out through litigation often find themselves back in court after having to sue to enforce the terms of the settlement. It's not unheard of for litigation to drag on for years, even decades after the initial divorce.
Of course, there may be times when a former spouse makes litigation unavoidable, but you should do everything in your power to avoid this outcome. Don't continue to feed your anger. Whatever happens, doing your part to keep conflict to a minimum will help you and your children going forward.
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