The saying “there is more than one road leading to Rome” petty well sums up the situation for sorting out the legal, financial and emotional issues that occur when faced with a separation, divorce or other family dispute. There is more than one pathway to resolution and achieving an amicable separation and future co-parenting relationship!
Families now have more choices than ever for how they work through the process of transitioning and redefining themselves after a separation or working through a dispute. No longer are we limited to having a Judge decide for us what is to happen or lawyers ‘sorting it out’ for us. There are different processes that empower and enable you and your former spouse to decide for yourselves such things as: the parenting arrangements for your children; what will happen with your home; how you will manage the finances; what the division of your property will be; and what your future relationships will look like - with each other and with any children and wider family.
Many family lawyers can now offer their clients a multitude of options for sorting through their separation. The pathways all differ in:
how much responsibility and control you have for decision making;
the extent and way that professionals are involved (if at all);
the costs to you, both financially and emotionally;
how much time the process takes and whether you have any control over this;
the amount of control you have over how the process functions;
whether the process inflames conflict (albeit not deliberately) or supports amicable, respectful relationships moving forward.
Of course, with a whole lot more choice can come a whole lot more uncertainty, confusion and overwhelm. A little like standing in the supermarket hungry and faced with aisles of food! Yet, it is so important to choose wisely. Choosing the wrong resolution process can lead to unnecessary damage to future relationships, risk, stress, acrimony, cost and delays.
That said, what can you do to make deciding on the right resolution process for your separation or divorce clearer?
What’s Important to You? – take the time to dig into what’s important to you moving forward and why that is important to you. This becomes a valuable checklist as you look to identify a resolution process that can best help you achieve what is important to you.
Get Informed – take the time to do some reading or research in order to be familiar with all your options but particularly those that promote amicable divorce such as mediation and collaborative law. If you know someone who has divorced amicably, talk to them and find out about what they did. If you see a lawyer who suggests only one or two processes, then see another who has other options in their toolkit. You may end up deciding one of those initial options is best for you, but you will have done so with all the information you needed and having weighed up the pros and cons of each process for you and your family.
Can you Agree? – Is it possible for you both to get on the same page about a process to use? With information about the available ways to work through your separation or divorce, can you both land on one option that you can both live with using or exploring further?
Relax, Your Choices aren’t Cast in Stone – most resolution processes are voluntary. This means that if you have try an option out, you can end the process if it is not working well for you and move to another option.
Ask yourself – “What process can I safely work within that…
…supports me to make decisions about my future and the issues that we need to sort out?
...I can most effectively participate in, with whatever professional support I may need?
…can be timed to best enable everyone to participate effectively?
…can be as cost effective and value-rich as possible? Rather than looking for the cheapest option (although that may be the right option for you), think "bang for your buck" here. Consider which options offer the most value in terms of helping you to achieve what is important to you about how you go about sorting out the various problems and what happens to everyone's relationships during and after that process.
…will best support, rather than inflame, the ongoing relationships that may need to continue into the future? If you have children together, your relationship with those children and with each other as parents is an important consideration as is everyone’s relationships with wider family.
…provide me with opportunities for advice and information so that I am able to make realistic, fully informed decisions along the way?”
Want to further explore your options for achieving resolution without Court? Then drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org