Eileen Coen Mediation
The road you take makes all the difference.

3 Tips for an Amicable Divorce

Amicable Divorce

Each year, in the first week of January, the office phone in my family and divorce mediation practice begins to ring more often. This is the time of year when I hear from people who have made a resolution to bring a peaceful end to their marriage. Often, by the time they call me, they’ve been thinking about it for a long time, wondering how to begin the process or what the impact will be on their children and finances. The voice on the other end of the phone may be halting and unsure or boom with resolve when they ask, “Can you help me get a divorce from my spouse?”

If your goal is to have an amicable divorce, here are three tips I regularly share:

1. Agree to try mediation at the outset. A capable mediator will help you organize the information you need and facilitate the difficult conversations it takes to reach agreements on what to do with your house, retirement and other assets, as well as manage post-divorce finances and parenting issues. If you want your separation agreement to be workable and lasting, it needs to address the concerns and interests of both spouses. If mediation isn’t working for you, you’ll know it fast. You can always switch to a more adversarial process for your divorce. But the opposite is not always true. It can be very hard to repair trust damaged by litigation and reroute your divorce to a more amicable path.

2.┬áConsult an attorney to advise you, rather than retaining an attorney to represent you. When you retain an attorney, you are kicking off the adversarial process. Commonly, you’ll be advised to stop talking to your spouse. The silence between spouses at this vulnerable time fuels suspicion and resentment. It also makes you dependent on your attorney for the outcome. By contrast, by engaging in problem-solving conversations with your spouse and consulting with a legal advisor as needed, you will have access to the legal information you need while staying in control and managing what happens in your divorce.

3. Find strategies to deal with the loss and pain of divorce. Even an amicable divorce creates feelings of loss and sadness. Often, the one who doesn’t want the divorce feels a sense of abandonment, anger or denial. Even the one who initiates the divorce experiences grief, sometimes guilt and, perhaps, shame. Our best decisions are not made in anger, desperation or defensiveness. Are you willing to tend to your emotional well-being with a professional therapist? What is your go-to place for inner peace and self-reflection? Do you journal or meditate? What is the thing you will commit to do to manage this difficult and personal emotional journey? Taking time to process your emotions will have a substantial impact on your ability to keep the divorce amicable.

4 Comments

  1. Stuart Baker says:

    Good wisdom and heart here, Eileen.

    I have my own unusual story of divorce and mediation. I got divorced after a long marriage. Being a mediator, I pressed for mediation. We went to a highly recommended divorce mediator, who did nothing! She just gave both of us names of attorneys. She really did absolutely nothing. After that my wife refused to try another mediator.

    My wife chose an adversarial attorney, who rattled even my kind, compassionate attorney. He was simply a pain in the butt and tried to create issues that were not even there. I pointed this out to my wife and told her that she had chosen this adversarial guy to represent her, while I had chosen someone collaborative.

    During it all I took some advanced mediation training at Harvard Law School which focused on a spiritual approach to mediation and negotiation. One of the presenters taught us how to send love to someone’s heart. He told us he had done this after behaving very badly in a relationship. His former girlfriend was in an ongoing ballistic state with him. He silently sent love to her heart for a month, and there was an utter transformation when they ran into each other after the month.

    I decided to try this with my wife. Well, there was a remarkable opening that took place. She remarried and invited me to the next two Christmas dinners. I went, and she said it was the best Christmas she ever had. We have done each other various favors since, and I know we genuinely want the other to be happy.

    A little magic.

  2. Maji says:

    Thanks for sharing Eileen.

    I realize that the process is always more emotionally tasking than both parties have asked or anticipated. Then comes the reflection of feeling cheated and sacrifices made. As part of our ground rules i advice lets start tilting our mind to forgive even before we discover we are hurting. Lets explore together the best interest of self and Kids (If Children are involved).

  3. Eileen says:

    Thanks for sharing your personal story. It’s generous and powerful. And it sounds like you continue to spread a little magic.

  4. Shrapnel says:

    Superficially avery practical and accurate commentary. Let us remember, however that if the husband and wife have really united as one flesh, that our current legal culture takes no account of the tearing apart, the drawing and quartering as it were, of what the law sees as if it were a business contract, a recognized “friends with benefits” transaction. There is not much incentive for law firms to heal broken families.

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