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by Michael Heath

If someone walked down a busy sidewalk surveying people on whether they would rather have $50,000 in the bank or be flat broke, a hundred  percent of respondents would take the money. Ask the same question to a couple immersed in a high-conflict divorce and the answer could be surprisingly different.

Emotions Fog Decision Making

Anger is often responsible for people making irrational choices. The above suggestion that some spouses in a turbulent breakup would choose poverty over financial security is not uncommon. Some divorces are so fraught with hostility that one side illogically elects to suffer—provided their spouse suffers. A common tactic is to file motion after costly motion just to impose financial hardship. Another way to inflict pain is to reject every proposal for the sole purpose of prolonging the suit. Unfortunately, too many lawyers are willing to ride the wave of a heated divorce since it increases billable hours. Judges have the power to force the marriage into dissolution but before that, revenge and opportunity can cause both sides to suffer.

Getting a Handle on How We Feel

It goes without saying that divorce is an emotional process. Experiencing betrayal, deceit, cheating, substance abuse, or fighting, etc., can all cause someone to harbor deep resentment. Years of psychological abuse are potentially debilitating. Shattered dreams are devastating. Animosity may well be justified. This does not mean the divorce should turn into a war. Discussing with both an attorney and spouse the desire to avoid a financially draining or prolonged procedure is encouraged. Often, a good first step is to seek out therapy. Setting emotions aside while letting important players understand an eagerness to avoid a costly, protracted divorce may set the stage for a process that is more productive then ruinous.

Courtless Mediation

One way to steer clear of an out-of-control divorce is for spouses to take charge through courtless mediation. Also called private or voluntary mediation, it is a negotiation process utilizing a neutral third party prior to filing paperwork with the court. This puts the spouses in charge of deciding on the issues rather than surrendering command to lawyers whom they hardly know. The process is structured to engage couples in seeking creative solutions that fit their unique circumstances. The results are usually lower costs, less time, increased privacy, and a more favorable agreement.

Less Animus Favors Everyone  

Time-consuming, expensive, anger-fueled divorce proceedings can have long-ranging effects. Cutting into or wiping out marital assets have crippling effects like disrupting college plans or affecting family housing. Regrettably, divorce litigation often causes disagreements to eventually morph into bitterness. Such a consequence can derail any normalcy in forthcoming family events. Hurt feelings—or worse, outright hatred—are not easy to live with. When rational thinking overcomes emotional impulses, divorcing couples can employ a mediation model that sets the marriage on a path toward a more civil conclusion.







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