Is Collaborative Divorce the Right Choice?

Collaborative Divorce Mediation: Is it the Right Choice for You?

A collaborative divorce, or collaborative divorce meditation, is an excellent way to work through dissolving your marriage in a way that allows you to focus on working together privately. With collaborative divorce, dissolving your marriage doesn’t have to be contentious or drawn out in litigation.

Instead, a collaborative approach can help you get through divorce without the court’s interference for the bulk of the process. Here we will discuss the benefits of taking a unified approach to divorce, who collaborative divorce is suitable for, and what a collaborative divorce entails in the state of Arizona.

Who Should Consider a Collaborative Divorce?

A collaborative divorce is an excellent option for people who do not wish to engage in lengthy divorce proceedings through the court. Using a collaborative approach to your divorce will help you avoid hashing out your issues in court, which costs time, effort and money. With a collaborative divorce meditation, you can stay on top of the process and have your attorney assist you with the various legal aspects of ending your marriage.

If you want a divorce that focuses on team effort and leaves out the drawn-out legalities, a collaborative divorce is the way to go. You and your soon to be ex-spouse can work through mediation with the shared goal of parting ways in an amicable manner.

What Makes Collaborative Divorce a Good Option?

Collaborative divorce mediation is a good option for several key reasons. We’ve listed the most common reasons people choose collaborative divorce.

You Can Avoid Lengthy Litigation

This benefit has been discussed above, but it is important to stress that collaborative divorce mediation keeps your divorce proceedings in your hands. In traditional divorce proceedings, a judge presides over your divorce and steps in to make decisions if you and your former spouse are at a point of disagreement. While this process works in situations where the involved parties are experiencing difficulties settling issues, it is not necessarily applicable to couples who want to divide assets and settle custody issues on their own.

You’ll Experience Flexibility in Scheduling Negotiations

With mediation, you can schedule divorce negotiations around other important day-to-day needs like work and the children’s school hours. You and your team can decide on a timeline for the divorce and work to resolve issues in a manner that helps everyone involved save precious time. Traditional litigation considers availability of the courts first and foremost, which can lead to a divorce that takes significantly longer to finalize.

You’ll Save Money on Court Fees

SSave Money on Court Fees

If you have a complex case where you need to divide businesses, split valuable assets, and sort out child custody, divorce litigation can become very expensive. Through mediation, the process of settling issues pertaining to children and finances can be much more affordable. Saving money in a time where you’re going through such a drastic life change can have a significant impact on your financial standing and should not be overlooked. Collaborative divorce mediation can achieve the same results while preventing you from spending thousands of dollars.

Collaborative Divorce Can Be Less Stressful For Children

Collaborative divorce mediation can prove much less stressful for children, especially if they would have been required to appear in a courtroom in front of a judge. In court proceedings where divorcing parents aren’t communicating with each other to make important decisions regarding the well-being of the children, children may need to meet with court officials. In mediation, both parents work together with their attorneys and can request the assistance of child specialists, communication liaisons and other professionals to maintain a healthy and productive dialogue about childcare needs.

When couples are divorcing, the idea of their child sitting in a courtroom often isn’t considered until discussion has devolved to the point of litigation. Fortunately if you are filing for divorce in Arizona and looking to do so via collaborative mediation, you can avoid this possibility. Settling your divorce and child custody arrangement through mediation can be a more gentle experience for the entire family.

Collaborative Divorce Helps Keep Your Divorce a Private Matter

In collaborative mediation, you can consult with legal representatives the same as you would in traditional proceedings. You have the added benefit of being able to ask questions, challenge decisions and work through points of disagreement yourself instead of relying on a judge. While your efforts are collaborative, your attorney will still serve to protect your rights and work in your best interest. Having legal counsel in your corner ensures you cover your needs in the process of dissolving your marriage.

What Issues Are Covered in a Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce

In a collaborative divorce, mediation allows for negotiation between parties to reach satisfactory resolutions. Unlike traditional litigation, divorcing spouses rely on their attorney team and the mediator to help them come to agreements on all the issues usually covered in courtroom divorces. The most common issues you can expect your attorney and mediation team to focus on are as follows.

Division of Assets & Property

The division of assets and other property is a highly contested and complex divorce matter. Many couples, even those who are not interested in fighting in court, struggle to comb through the details of asset division effectively. With collaborative divorce mediation, this process is made smoother with the help of your attorney and a financial professional who has the expertise to settle property division issues. Your team will need the full cooperation of you and your spouse to accurately divide your assets, property, and finances.

Spousal Maintenance

With the help of your collaborative divorce attorney and your financial professional, you and your spouse will decide whether spousal support is warranted and determine the details of the arrangement. To successfully negotiate spousal support, you and your spouse must provide accurate financial information so the professionals can make a determination regarding financial support. Once an agreement is reached, a support document is created and both parties must honor the agreement. The spouse who is responsible for providing spousal support will then be required to assist the other with essential financial needs for the time specified.

Child Custody

Child custody (now referred to as legal decision-making) is often the most difficult part of a divorce to settle. When children are involved, emotions run high. As a result, power struggles over legal and physical custody can drag divorces on for extended periods of time. In a collaborative divorce process, divorcing spouses and their team openly communicate to negotiate the needs and desires of each party regarding childcare and important decisions. Like all other aspects of the divorce, spouses are encouraged to talk out issues so they can come to an agreement that works for both parties and serves the best interest of the child.

With the help of a collaborative team of professionals, divorcing spouses can develop a parenting plan that helps them decide how to communicate about childcare, how to schedule physical custody, and what they will do when critical issues regarding the child’s education, shelter, medical care and socialization arise. The parenting plan can then be approved and finalized by a family court judge.

Pets and Pet Care

A beloved pet is also an important member of the family that must be taken into consideration when spouses are divorcing. Decisions often revolve around which spouse has a stronger attachment to the pet or which spouse does most of the daily pet care. Still, it can be difficult to decide who will keep the pet moving forward. If an agreement over pet care and costs cannot be easily reached, a collaborative team can help decide how to share pet care and costs.

What Is the Cost of Filing For Collaborative Divorce in AZ?

The costs of divorce litigation can be very expensive. Attorney fees alone can range from tens of thousands of dollars to even a hundred thousand in more complex cases. While each divorce case differs in complexity, divorcing spouses who opt for a collaborative divorce process find themselves spending a fraction of the costs associated with traditional litigation.

Collaborative divorce can cost as little as a few thousand dollars. You will typically pay an attorney an hourly rate for the time they spend working on your case, but you are only billed for the time your mediator spends in mediation. Furthermore with the time saved in mediation the entire divorce process is less taxing on spouses, children, and even pets.

We Can Help You During Your Divorce

Help During Your Divorce

Divorce is a common but serious process that entails a great deal of decision-making and compromise. If you are filing for divorce in Arizona via collaborative divorce mediation, it is essential to prepare for the steps required to settle matters in a way that benefits the entire family.

Our legal experts are available to help you stay in control of the divorce process and effectively work through important issues to reach solutions that preserve communication and foster harmony. Count on us to assist with the creation of documents that will outline the essential aspects of your divorce. Together, we can ensure all your most important needs are thoroughly addressed and settled.

*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published Mar 30, 2018 and has been updated September 14, 2022.

How Financially Prepare for AZ Divorce

How to Prepare Finances for a Divorce in AZ

A handful of important considerations beckon your attention throughout the divorce process. And, being prepared can help ensure your assets stay protected.

How to Make Financial Moves Before a Divorce

If you or your partner have recently filed for divorce in Arizona, there are a few things that you should try to do as quickly as possible.

Choose a Lawyer that’s Right for You

One of the most important steps you can take before beginning a divorce is hiring an attorney you can trust. Divorce can be an intimidating process that is already emotional and stressful, and feeling unsure how to proceed can create even more anxiety.

By hiring an experienced AZ attorney, you will receive advice and assistance throughout your divorce, including formidable representation in court. A divorce lawyer is experienced with all the issues that may occur during divorce, including financial considerations. If you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse differ regarding the division of assets, an attorney can help you handle financial concerns in a way that preserves your future.

Organize and Identify Your Assets

Organize Records

Identifying your assets also helps if you think your partner may try to sell or hide any community assets in an attempt to avoid dividing them with you. Bank statements, credit card statements, mortgage statements, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and any physical assets or properties should all be accounted for. It is critical to know what you have before you begin the property division process.

Estimate the Cost of Your Divorce

Unfortunately, divorce is rarely a cheap process. Many people go into divorce not expecting its high price tag and are therefore uncertain what to do with money before a divorce begins. Whether you choose mediation to settle various aspects of your divorce out of court or engage in lengthy litigation to make decisions, divorce expenses can add up quickly. Since every divorce is different, it isn’t easy to determine the potential cost of your case. However, estimating attorney fees, moving costs, court fees, and regular monthly expenses can help to give you a better idea of how to manage your money moving forward.

Avoid Making Major Financial Decisions

Of course, divorcing is itself a major financial decision that will impact your finances. However, other major decisions, like changing your beneficiaries, closing accounts, and transferring assets before a divorce can hurt you during the divorce process. These things will be handled legally once the divorce is underway and the division of assets has begun. If you make these moves too soon, you may risk contempt of court or lose your assets to your soon-to-be-ex.

How to Prepare Finances for an Arizona Divorce

During your divorce, division of assets will result in property ownership changes, in addition to your regular and divorce-related expenses. Here are some tips for handling your finances during the chaos of a divorce.

Close Joint Accounts

Close Joint Accounts

Once you have begun the divorce process, it’s time to start closing your joint accounts. Often, bank accounts have both partners’ names, and funds will have to be transferred individually to new accounts. Joint credit cards must be canceled through the creditor, and you’ll have to open your own new credit account.

Closing joint accounts can help prevent your ex-spouse from misusing funds before the divorce is finalized. It’s important that you open a new checking and savings account in your own name and arrange income for deposits and debits for expenses to be handled through the new account. You should also keep documentation regarding when you closed your joint accounts and began your own.

Get An Asset Evaluation

Your assets are important. Whether you’re dealing with expensive collectible items, a shared family home, or your retirement fund, evaluating your assets is critical for a fair property division process. By hiring a professional to evaluate your and your ex-partner’s assets, you can ensure that the correct value is placed on each asset and that they are fairly divided during the divorce. A professional asset evaluation should be done as soon as possible to avoid delays in your divorce and prevent your partner from hiding assets.

Gather Financial Documentation

To properly handle your finances and ensure that property division occurs fairly during your divorce, you will need to collect a great deal of financial documentation. If you have not already done so prior to beginning your divorce, gather bank statements and credit card statements to help to give your lawyers and the court a better idea of how finances were used throughout your marriage. Checking and savings statements, pay stubs, credit card statements, bills, loan agreements, and income tax returns are all critical documentation needed during a divorce. These documents can help the court understand how money was handled as well as its source, such as the individual incomes of each partner.

Maintain Your Individual Credit

Your credit score plays a crucial role in many areas of your life, including your financial health. Despite the difficulties of your divorce, it’s important to maintain your credit. Unfortunately, people often complete a divorce with weak credit due to mounting expenses, their partner’s spending issues, and many other factors. It’s essential to continue building your individual credit so that you can avoid issues like higher financing rates or difficulty renting or purchasing a new property.

Don’t Forget About Insurance Policies

Insurance policies can become a complex financial task because they often affect other important aspects of your life, many of which were shared with your partner. For example, most life insurance policies will require beneficiary changes if you wish to remove your former spouse. Car insurance policies may also need to be changed if they were previously shared by both spouses or if vehicle ownership has changed.

How Can I Afford to Live on My Own After Divorce?

During a divorce, you may experience multiple different housing situations, all of which present different financial concerns. So, how does this work?

Home Sale

One Spouse Buys Out the Other

Since a home is a physical asset that cannot be split unless sold, the person remaining in the family home must often “buy out” the other spouse. This can be done via a cash out finance or forfeiture of an asset or assets of equal value. With these assets or funds from the cash out refinance in hand, the other spouse can afford a new living situation. The title will need to be transferred to the remaining spouse, and all ownership and mortgage documents should be solely under that spouse’s name.

Spouses Agree to Sell the Home

Another option is selling the family home. Sometimes, this is the best option for couples who do not have children, or cases where neither partner feels they have the finances to maintain the home on their own. With the help of a real estate agent and your lawyer, you and your partner can sell your shared home and then split the proceeds fairly. If you and your partner can’t afford to keep the home or are worried about selling it in the current market, you may also agree to rent the house to a third party. When this happens, proceeds can be split between both partners.

Other Circumstances

Unfortunately, the above options may not be available for all couples, especially if they owe more for the home than the home’s current market value. In some cases, if neither you or your partner wants to remain in the home, or neither of you feel you can afford to stay there, you may have to agree to sell the home at a loss. In more severe circumstances, foreclosure may be necessary. Moving forward, the assets retained after the divorce and your own efforts to maintain your credit should help you find a new residence you can afford.

Protect Yourself and Prepare Your Finances During a Divorce

We provide affordable legal services for any individual involved in or looking to initiate a family or divorce law case. We offer guidance as well as our professional expertise and knowledge of the law. We are located in the heart of Phoenix, but our services are digital, which allows us to help individuals throughout the state.

 

*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published March 21, 2018 and has been rewritten August 23, 2022.

High-Quality Documents for DIY Divorce in Arizona

Do I Need a Lawyer to Get a Divorce in Arizona?

In the state of Arizona, many divorces can proceed through the legal system efficiently without either party hiring a lawyer. Arizona is what’s known as a no-fault divorce state, so couples do not need to file a specific reason for their divorce. In the eyes of the Arizona court system, an adult simply no longer wishing to be married is sufficient cause for proceeding with a divorce. This process of unilateral divorce has increased the divorce rate in states like Arizona.1

Couples with complex estates may be better served by hiring an AZ lawyer specializing in high asset divorce before heading to divorce court. This will also be true if there are contentious child custody issues that need to be worked out.

However, if your shared property is simple to divide, your marriage has been fairly short, and you and your ex are amicable about making the split work for everyone involved, you may be able to proceed without the extensive services of an attorney. 2 This leaves more assets on the table for you to divide between yourselves to start your new lives. It also creates a more accessible path out of bad marriages for citizens of modest means. 3

Situations where you may want to consider obtaining the services of a lawyer for your divorce include:

  • Extensive debt
  • Child custody and child support issues
  • Large, complex estates with questions about who owns what
  • Alimony or child support battles

If none of the above apply to you, it’s a good sign that you and your ex may be candidates for a simple, low-cost DIY divorce. This process can be begun by finding and completing the proper forms.

filing your own paperwork

Alternatives to an Arizona Divorce Lawyer:

  • Completing and filing your own paperwork and representing yourselves in court
  • Hiring Arizona divorce paralegal services to help you correctly prepare and file forms without the steep costs associated with retaining a divorce attorney

Arizona Divorce Forms

When you decide to proceed with filing your own divorce in Arizona or any other state, the single most important aspect is getting all the paperwork right. You not only need to obtain the correct forms and fill them out properly, but you also need to know how and when to serve them to other parties and file them with the court.

This will often seem daunting to someone with no legal experience, at least when you first begin to research the process. You may even second guess your choice to proceed without legal counsel when you see the list of forms that can be needed for a divorce proceeding.

While it is true that all of the paperwork and supplementary materials necessary to complete a divorce can sometimes be tedious and confusing, and the help of a skilled attorney can indeed be a valuable resource, most couples with simple, uncontested divorce situations are quite capable of filling out the paperwork for themselves.

They will be equally capable of representing themselves in the simple court proceedings that typically ensue in amicable divorces where both parties are on the same page about the end of the marriage, the division of assets, and parental responsibilities.

Retaining the services of a paralegal professional with experience in divorce and family law can also be a cost-effective way to get help with divorce paperwork while still representing yourself in court and not investing in the full cost of retaining a divorce attorney.

Our informative blog will also be an invaluable resource as you move ahead and dig deeper into the process of conducting your own divorce. Your local public library is another excellent resource for self-help materials on preparing and filing a divorce.

Divorce Paperwork: Arizona Courts Are Another Resource

The Maricopa County Courthouse
Historic Maricopa County Court House

The Maricopa County Superior Court has a self-serve area with basic divorce forms and instructions that can be obtained at no cost. Other Arizona courts may offer similar materials — check with your local court clerk. Basic divorce forms can also be found online. While these materials are free, the filing party (or the plaintiff) will still need to pay any court filing fees or costs related to serving the papers to the defendant (which must be performed in a specific, legally verifiable way).

What to Consider When Filing Your Own Divorce in Arizona

Even fairly simple divorces tend to have their own complexities and considerations to be made. Every marriage and every family are different, after all. Here are some of the potentially tricky situations you may have to consider, some of which may require additional, specialized paperwork.

Minor and Dependent Children

Children are often the innocent victims who feel the brunt of the emotional trauma in a divorce. All divorce proceedings must be approached with the best interest of any involved children in mind. Custody, legal authority over decision-making, the division of parenting time, and child support will all need to be worked out. There are legal standards that must be met, so the court will need to approve any plan agreed upon between you and your ex-spouse.

Spousal Maintenance or Alimony

Spousal maintenance, also called alimony, is a legal instrument by which the party in a divorce with the more significant income remits their ex-spouse a regular payment so that they can maintain their standard of living while rebuilding their lives. If you and your ex-spouse had a simple life with an equal division of assets and have no wish to set up spousal maintenance payments, it will make the divorce faster and simpler to process.

Child Support

In the State of Arizona and many other states, child support will largely be determined by a court-established formula. The purpose of child support is similar to alimony in that it is meant to be of an adequate amount so that it allows the children of divorced couples to maintain their standard of living after the divorce. When completing paperwork related to child support, it is essential that you fill out all information about your finances and living situation completely and accurately. Any false or misleading information on such documents intended to either make you look like the better parent or make your income appear less than it truly is will subject you to serious liability if disproven in court.

What to Consider When Filing Your Own Divorce in Arizona
African student guy sit at desk hold papers tasks having difficulties with test, company lawyer read contract terms and detail feels discontented, received bad news from bank unpleasant letter concept

Shared Debts

Married couples share bank accounts on a routine basis, but they also often share credit cards, mortgages, and car loans. When a marriage ends with shared debts on the line, the divorcing couple must decide who will take responsibility for them — and if they can’t decide, the courts will. We don’t always think of debtors as a factor in divorce, but they can be major factors and stand to gain or lose a significant amount.4

Business Interests

If the couple owns one or more businesses together, the terms of the divorce will need to establish what happens with these business assets. This will begin with determining the value of the business and what share of the business can rightfully be claimed by each party. Whether the business was established during the course of the marriage or brought into the marriage by one of the parties will also play a major role.

Separate and Commingled Property

Sometimes court intervention is needed to determine what property belongs to which party in a marriage, and what property should be considered community property. 5 The value and ownership of all such property needs to be established if the parties cannot amicably divide such assets among themselves to the court’s satisfaction.

Assets and Financial Instruments

Bank accounts, retirement accounts, and investments all need to be considered just like business interests and real property. The better you and your ex-spouse can do dividing such assets up among yourselves before filing for divorce, the cheaper and faster your divorce will likely be.

If any of the above situations apply to your divorce you may want to enlist the services of a qualified attorney. If, however, you can come up with a plan to amicably work out these issues with your ex, you may be able to continue representing yourself in the divorce case.

Representing Yourself in an Arizona Divorce

If you choose to represent yourself in divorce court in the State of Arizona, you will essentially be treated as though you are an attorney. This means you will be expected to know the area of the law in which you’re practicing — in this case, family law, and divorce specifically. Make sure to read up on every step of the process before you ever serve your ex-spouse the initial divorce papers.

Know exactly what to expect, and make sure you have the following tasks in order.

  • Knowing which documents are necessary, and obtaining or drafting them
  • Understanding where to file which documents
  • Meeting important deadlines for filing documents and responding to notices
  • Keeping a court schedule and not missing hearings or appearances

Something as simple as missing a deadline can jeopardize the success of your DIY divorce and even lead to you being limited in your ability to further participate in your case on your own behalf. If you should accidentally fail to appear at a scheduled hearing, the consequences may be similarly dire as the case will likely proceed without you being there to speak for yourself.

Timeline for Initiating a Divorce Without a Lawyer in Arizona

Timeline for Initiating a Divorce Without a Lawyer in Arizona
Event planners use timetables and agendas to arrange and schedule events. On the office table, a businessman is using his mobile phone and taking notes on the calendar desk.

To be able to file for divorce in the State of Arizona, you and/or your spouse need to be a resident of the state for at least 90 days. If you do not meet these criteria, you should look into the divorce laws for the state you previously held residence or wait until you meet the 90-day Arizona criteria before proceeding with your divorce.

In the State of Arizona, the first action to be taken in a divorce case is for one spouse (who henceforth becomes the plaintiff) to file a document called a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” with the court clerk and pay the necessary filing fee. This fee can vary by county or jurisdiction and is routinely in the hundreds of dollars.

At this time, the other spouse (who takes on the role of defendant) must also be served with a copy of the petition, which will include a summons to court. The defendant then has 20 days from the date they were served the papers to file their written response to the court. This window is extended an additional 10 days if the party being served is out of state. In amicable cases where the spouses are working together to get the divorce processed, the formal service process can be waived through a notarized legal instrument called an “Acceptance of Service.”

 

*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published March 14, 2018 and has been updated July 25, 2022.

 


Sources

  1. Friedberg, L. (1998). Did unilateral divorce raise divorce rates? Evidence from panel data. American Economic Review, (88) 3, 608-627 Retrieved May 20, 2022, from https://www.nber.org/papers/w6398
  2. Sales, B. D., Beck, C. J., & Haan, R. K. (1992). Is self-representation a reasonable alternative to attorney representation in divorce cases. Louis ULJ, 37, 553. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/stlulj37&div=33&id=&page
  3. Yegge, R. B. (1994). Divorce Litigants Without Lawyers. Family Law Quarterly, 28(3), 407–419. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25739993
  4. Ratner, J. R. (2010). Creditor and debtor windfalls from divorce. Est. Plan. & Cmty. Prop. LJ, 3, 211. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/epcplj3&div=16&id=&page
  5. Patton, M. (2005). Quasi-Community Property in Arizona: Why Just at Divorce and Not Death. Ariz. L. Rev., 47, 167. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/arz47&div=12&id=&page
Tips for Protecting Children From Conflict During Divorce in AZ

Tips for Protecting Children From Conflict During Divorce in AZ

It’s no secret that divorce can be a difficult time for children. From feeling caught in the middle of their parents’ arguments to dealing with the stress and anxiety of change, kids often struggle when their parents split up. However, parents can do things to help make the transition easier for their kids while they deal with their own emotions. By working together to keep conflict to a minimum, communicating openly with their children, and seeking outside support when needed, divorcing parents can help their kids adjust to this new chapter in their lives.

Remove the Cause of Conflict

The first step to protecting children from conflict during divorce is to remove the cause of the conflict. The specific cause will be different in every situation, but some common examples include financial stress, infidelity, or constant arguing.

If the cause of the conflict is not removed, the impact this can have on children can be significant. They may feel stuck in the middle of their parents’ arguments. They might also worry that the divorce means one parent will leave them, or they may feel like they need to choose sides.

All these scenarios can lead to anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues in children. These are very personal decisions that need to be made on a case-by-case basis, but if parents can find a way to remove the cause of conflict, it can go a long way in protecting their children from unnecessary details about the divorce.

Learn New Skills for Dealing With Conflict

Learn New Skills for Dealing With Conflict

The next step is to learn new skills for dealing with conflict. This can be done through therapy, support groups, or books. Some skills divorcing parents can learn include:

  1. Active Listening

    This is a strategic form of listening that involves giving your full attention to the person speaking, paraphrasing what they say, and making sure you understand their perspective. 1

  2. Assertiveness

    This is the ability to state your needs in a clear and respectful way that doesn’t involve putting down the other person.

  3. Compromise

    Compromising means reaching an agreement that is acceptable to both parties, often by giving up something important to you in return for something that is important to the other person.

  4. Empathy

    This involves the ability to deeply understand and share the feelings of another person by putting yourself in their shoes.

  5. Conflict Resolution

    This is the process of coming to an agreement when there is a disagreement. From identifying the problem and brainstorming solutions to implementing the agreed-upon solution, conflict resolution skills can help divorcing parents reach a resolution that is in the best interest of their children.

Keep Children Out of the Middle

Another important step is to keep children out of the middle. This means parents should avoid talking about the divorce in front of their children. They should not use their children as messengers to communicate with the other parent, and they should not ask their children to take sides. 2

While it may be tempting to use children to get information from the other parent or to vent about the divorce, it is important to remember that this puts a lot of pressure on children. They did not ask for this divorce and they should not be put in the position of feeling like they need to choose sides. This can lead to a lot of guilt and confusion for children, which can impact their mental and emotional health.

If parents can find a way to communicate with each other without involving their child, it can go a long way to protect the child from the stress and anxiety that can come with being caught in the middle.

Control Your Emotions to the Best of Your Ability

It is also important for parents to try to control their emotions to the best of their ability. 3This means avoiding yelling, name-calling, and put-downs. It also means avoiding making threats or ultimatums.

When emotions are running high, it can be difficult to control what you say. But it is important to remember that your words can have a big impact on your children. They are likely already feeling scared and confused, and they don’t need to see their parents fighting.

If you find you are having trouble controlling your emotions, it may be helpful to step away from the situation and take some time to calm down. Once you have had a chance to cool off, you can then approach the situation in a more constructive way.

Prepare for Long-Term Conflict

While it is important to try to resolve conflict in a positive way, it is also important to prepare for the possibility of long-term conflict. This means having a plan in place for how you will deal with conflict if it arises.

Not all conflicts can be resolved. In some cases, you may need to agree to disagree. This doesn’t mean you can’t still be civil to each other, but it does mean that you may need to find a way to co-parent without agreeing on everything. Reminding each other of your mutual goal of what is best for your children can help you stay focused on what is important, even when you don’t see eye to eye.

If you are preparing for a divorce, it is important to talk to a lawyer about your rights and responsibilities. They can help you understand the legal process and what you can expect. The long-term conflict may not always be avoidable but having a plan in place can help you deal with it in a more constructive way. It is also beneficial to seek out support from adult friends and family. They can provide you with a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.

No matter what, remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you through this difficult time and be best prepared for the future.

Divorce Resources

Contain Any Anger or Frustration

Feelings of anger and frustration are common emotions during and after a divorce. However, it is important to try to contain these emotions as much as possible, especially when around your children.

Active displays of anger, such as yelling or name-calling, can be very scary for children. They may not understand what is happening, and they may feel like they are to blame.

It is okay to feel angry and frustrated, but it is crucial to find healthy ways to deal with these emotions. This may mean talking to a friend or therapist, going for a run, or writing in a journal.

Avoid Fostering Any Loyalty Conflicts

During and after a divorce, it is common for children to feel loyal to both parents. They may love both parents and want them to be happy, even if they are no longer together. This can lead to conflict if children feel like they have to choose between their parents.

Some examples of loyalty conflict include:

  • A child may feel like they must choose which parent to spend holidays with.
  • A child may feel torn between parents if they have different rules or expectations.
  • A child may feel like they need to keep secrets from one parent to avoid upsetting the other.

To avoid this, it is important to try not to put your children in the middle of any conflict. This means avoid talking about your ex in a negative way, asking your children to take sides, or using them as a sounding board for your own emotions. It is also important to be respectful of your co-parent in front of your children. This means avoiding talking badly about them, arguing with them, or trying to undermine their authority.

If you find yourself having conflicting emotions about your loyalty to your ex, it is important to talk to a therapist or counselor. They can help you work through these emotions in a constructive way.

Focus on Constructive Arguments

It is normal for divorced parents to disagree with each other from time to time. However, it is important to try to keep these disagreements constructive. This means avoiding arguing in front of your children, name-calling, or making personal attacks.

If you find yourself disagreeing with your co-parent, try to remain calm and respectful. Listen to their point of view, even if you do not agree with it. It is also important to avoid getting defensive and try to see their side of the issue.

In some cases, it may be helpful to take a break from the conversation if you feel like it is getting too heated. This means walking away or agreeing to disagree. Once you have both had time to calm down, you can try to resume the discussion in a more constructive way. This can protect your children from being caught in the middle of a heated argument that they have no control over.

Never Deny Parenting Time

Never Deny Parenting Time

It is important to remember that even though you are divorced, your children still have two parents. This means they should have the opportunity to spend time with both parents, even if it is not equal. 4

To avoid conflict, it is important to never deny parenting time to your co-parent. This means if they have scheduled visitation, try to keep it as scheduled. If there is a legitimate reason why the visitation must be changed, work with your co-parent to find a solution that works for both of you. When this happens, openly communicate with your children about exactly why this change is happening. If they can follow the logic behind the decision, it will be less likely to cause conflict.

Keep in mind that your children may not always want to spend time with both parents. This is normal and should not be seen as a sign of loyalty conflict. It is important to encourage your children to spend time with both parents, but ultimately, the decision should be up to them. They may already be feeling pulled in different directions and may need some time to adjust to the new family dynamic. Children feel a lack of control when parents go through a divorce, so it is important to try to give them some control back when it comes to decisions about parenting time.

Focus on Positive Affirmations About the Other Parent

To help reduce loyalty conflict or combat negative feelings, be sure to focus on the positive aspects of the other parent. This means looking for things that you appreciate about them as a person or as a parent and ensuring your children hear the same message. 5

It is also crucial to avoid speaking negatively about the other parent in front of your children. This can be difficult, especially if you are still angry about the divorce or have a difficult relationship with your ex. However, remember that your children love both of their parents, and hearing negative things about either one can be very confusing and upsetting.

If you find yourself struggling to say anything positive about the other parent, it may be helpful to take some time to reflect on why you feel that way. If there are legitimate concerns, address them in a constructive way. This means communicating directly with the other parent or, if necessary, involving a third party such as a therapist or mediator.

When Children Are a Cause of Conflict

In some cases, children can be a cause of conflict between parents. Common emotional or behavioral problems, such as acting out or not listening, can be frustrating for parents. As these issues progress and do not resolve, they can lead to more serious conflict between both parents. A lack of communication about how to discipline the child or how to handle the behavioral issue can further divide the parents.

If you find yourself in this situation, try to remain calm and constructive. It can be helpful to talk to your co-parent about your concerns and see if you can mutually deal with the issue. If you cannot reach an agreement, you may need to seek out the help of a mediator or counselor. Remember, you are not alone. Many parents find themselves in this situation, and there is no shame in seeking help.

It is also important to remember children are not to blame for conflict between parents. In some cases, conflict may be due to differences in parenting styles or values. If this is the case, you’ll want to try to find a way to respect differences and work together for the sake of your children. Remember that children are not purposely trying to cause conflict. In most cases, they are just trying to express their own emotions and needs.


Sources:

Co Parenting

When Mom and Dad Work Together, Everyone Benefits: Effective Co-Parenting

Bruno Bettelheim, an esteemed child psychologist, once wrote, “The security of the parent about being a parent will eventually become the child’s feeling of security about himself.” Children become what they are in large part because of the confidence and competence that parents find and create in the parental experience.

An effective parental partnership is perhaps the single most crucial factor in achieving that goal. Likewise for children, the most important element in their becoming healthy, solid, and secure individuals is having two parents who have formed and forged an effective parental partnership. Parenting, like marriage, is a proactive process that couples must think through together, creatively sustain, and nurture as an entity in itself.

An effective parental partnership is one where parents unite to offer their child an ongoing experience where both their individual and parental partnership roles combine, support, and mutually enhance each other for the child’s benefit. The relationship is not just child to mother and/or father, but to parents in a primary way.

Bettelheim stated that “With the single exception of the child’s natural endowment, nothing shapes a child’s personality more than the experience of family living–the feelings it arouses and the attitudes it inculcates.” His view of himself, his relations to others and his expectations of the world are gotten from what he observes, experiences, and internalizes in relation to his parents as a mutual entity–how they act, love, value, and authentically are in relation to each other and him as parents.

How does a couple attain and sustain this desired state in the midst of complicated marital, family, and personal living? The answer is both complex and yet basic in its essence when parents get in touch with themselves as parents and the reasons why they chose to be parents. A mutually supportive, enhancing, and rewarding parental partnership is not only possible, but a natural course of events, if properly formed. This can be true, not only for intact families, but also where separation or divorce is the reality. It is never too late to forge a working parental partnership in a child’s development. It is crucial that a child experiences his parent’s ongoing attempts to do so.

Benefits for the child 
The child basically benefits in two ways. First, the child has the chance to absorb and internalize the very experience of mother/father interactions, actively identifying with each and, at the same time, as a parental duo. This is a powerful emotional and behavioral formula that creates unique and authentic individuals. Secondly, the child learns to integrate disparate and contradictory elements in his/her developing self as parents do in their relationship, a parallel process. Opposites such as love and hate, frustration and adaptation, self-esteem and worthlessness, and confidence and humiliation are integrated cohesively into the viable internal and external “playground” to safely and securely grow into his/her authentic self.

When both parents are actively involved and children reach higher levels of emotional and cognitive development, they are less likely to be violent or be hurt, get into serious trouble, or do poorly in school. When fathers stay close during infancy and adulthood, a boy has a less turbulent adolescence, is less aggressive and overly competitive. He is better able to express feelings of vulnerability and sadness. He can more easily resolve conflicts, and can develop more of a sense of empathy. Daughters with active fathers have higher self esteem, are less likely to have sex before they want to, become pregnant, or be assaulted.

How to forge the partnership 
Using a child’s puzzle of about eight to 10 pieces as a metaphor, the elements of a parental partnership can be seen and understood as a whole picture or as the separate components that link to each other in complementary fashion to comprise the whole. Individual pieces represent parental strengths/skills or weaknesses/gaps in either mother or father. To have a coherent picture, one parent’s weaknesses should be compensated by and connected to the other parent’s pieces representing strengths/skills. Where the pieces are placed in relation to each other and why is a joint creative process by both.

To create a viable partnership/puzzle, each parent needs to become aware and accepting of their own strengths and weaknesses (which is not always an easy task). Making this a mutual process and discussion can lead to further or new understanding of how each parent sees themselves, and also in what areas they need understanding, support, or active help. Areas where both need help should lead the couple to new creativity in their partnership, possibly with the help of outside expertise.

Most importantly, to begin assembling the puzzle, a process and language of cues and communications needs to be agreed upon so that when help is needed, the needed supportive process can swing into action. Examples of these could be:

• “Please step in and take over. I need a break.” (parent acting as a buffer) • “I need your assistance.” (parent complementing other parent’s attempts with their own skill, support)
• “Let’s go talk.” (parent knowing when it is time to think something through rather than react)
• “Let me do my own thing.” (parent knowing when not to step in or interfere)
• “Please be understanding.” (parent being patient and supportive, even if not in total agreement with spouse as a parent).
• The more these and other cues can be used and heard in daily life, the more there will be an actual parental partnership at work. How this works, what else is needed, and how each feels about the process should be an ongoing mutual conversation. Different “pieces of the puzzle” can be focused on at any point without losing
• site of the whole picture or what holds it together.

Examples of effective partnerships 
Here are a few examples of effective parental partnerships.
• Fathers help mothers understand the needs of a growing boy
• Mothers, with a spirit of kindness, try to understand a father’s parental insecurities.
• Fathers have—and mothers allow—one-on-one time. They feel engrossed with the experience, and discover their own fatherly impulses.
• Both parents understand that, in a family, shared daily acts and routines are valuable opportunities for connection and true shared parental nurturing.
• Mothers don’t leave lists of activities for husbands to do with the kids, but allow them to have their own experiences.
• Husbands and wives don’t let child rearing be the only center of their bond.
• A strong and supportive parental partnership allows for both parents to have jobs and interests outside the home.
• Shared parenting further commits a couple to each other, as they protect, nurture, worry and rejoice about their children-–a daily intimacy that enhances marital love.
• Children of parental partnerships learn directly that: marriages grow stronger, mutual respect is essential, promises are to be kept, and that conflicts don’t have to destroy relationships.
• Sons of two active, involved parents will likely be nurturing fathers themselves.
• Parents don’t have to be the same or agree on everything. They can play very different roles as equal partners. How they integrate things makes the difference. • Parents act as mutual supporters and consultants. It’s OK for one to be lost, overwhelmed, or confused, as the other supports and understands.
• At times, each parent acts as a buffer for a child and the other parent.
• Learning on the job is OK. There is no need to feel perfect. Children will understand and learn from watching their parents develop as parents, as they do as kids.
• Parents can rotate roles. There is no need to always be the disciplinarian or nurturer.
• Creating enough family time for the ongoing parental and family interactions to be truly experienced by the kids. DON’T farm out essential roles to others. Being there is everything!

Interactive parenting 
• During each stage of a child’s growth and development, both parents play key roles. For example:
• During their child’s infancy, dads can begin their own unique relationship with the infant. A father’s voice is uniquely experienced, even in the womb. He becomes the protector of mother from “the outside,” so she can focus on “the inside” with her infant.
• As the infant, then the toddler, begins separation from the mother, dad actively becomes the first important “other’ in the world outside him and mom. Mom will become security and safety, and he will be the initial connection to the outside world–a critical mutual process in the child’s development as a unique individual.
• When toddlers throw a tantrum “storm” out of separation anxiety with Mom and is all “no’s,” Dad can assist by neither giving in to the toddler’s demands nor by getting into a lose/lose control battle. His calm, re-directing behavior into established routine and rituals, supports mother in modulating the child.
• Parents of a four-year-old experience both mature behavior and then melt- downs over minor incidents. Mother helps Father to understand that, even though he tries to instill moral directives, the operative factor is the parents and their behavior—especially interactions between the parents—that models for the child how to deal with situations.
• The father of a seven-year-old boy relishes in showing his son how to do things, without listening closely enough to the child’s stories of his own masteries. Mother gently and supportively talks with Dad about how, if he listens and admires his son’s “showing off,” that he will be truly idealized by his son, as interactions will be a mutual experience.

Barriers to effective parental partnerships
Barriers can exist that need to be understood and attended to before developing an effective partnership. These can include: fathers who haven’t had strong parental models and are unsure; men who feel that nurturing might not be masculine; men who see their role primarily as the family provider exclusively; or dads who are comfortable with the “policeman role” and not as a caretaker or teacher/playmate. Mothers may be reluctant to share the power as the primary parent; be critical or anxious about the dad’s style of parenting; or may be threatened by the father’s active role as an infringement on her role and relationship with the children. Couples who are experiencing disconnected or dysfunctional relationships may not feel ready or safe to intimately share parenting. Sadly, negative parenting disagreements become a lightening rod for other marital difficulties, with the children as the real losers.

Is it possible? 
An effective parental partnership is certainly possible when both parents see the benefits, not only for their children, but for themselves. What is essential is that each parent be aware of their own parental styles, needs, and shortcomings. Couples must think about what each partner needs from the other to complement their parenting style. The discussion and resulting journey can be rewarding, and make family life an engrossing, enriching experience for all.

A good parental partnership, like a good marriage, is based on trust, commitment, shared visions about a relationship, and a willingness to work at it. A parental partnership needs to be established in all family constellations, intact families, separated or divorced situations, or any other situation where two adults are fulfilling the parental roles for a child.

Tom Bass, L.C.S.W., is the clinical director at Family Services of Winnetka-Northfield. His clinical practice has included work with children, adolescents, adults, and families. This article was first published in the Fall/Winter 2007-08 issue of Early Childhood.

Source: http://www.theallianceforec.org, “http://www.theallianceforec.org/library.php?c=6&news=106”, Tom Bass, Fall/Winter 2007-08.

The Human Side

Divorce Report 2018: The Human Side

We all know the divorce rate is high, though it’s thankfully not as high as the 50% we often hear. It’s actually lower but the exact number varies depending on the study. Since divorce is still a common problem and grey divorce (among people over age 50) is on the rise, WP Diamonds decided to do some research on the human side of divorce. To that end, they conducted a survey of 1,018 divorcées in the United States and asked them about their personal experiences and insights.

Study: The Basics

The average age of participants was 23.2 years old when they first married and 38.7 when they separated, making 15.5 years the average length of a marriage. Notably, those who married under 25 stayed married longer (16.8 years) than those who got hitched when they were older (11.3 years).

 Why Divorce?
‘We just didn’t love each other anymore’ say one in five when asked why they got divorced. But the number one reason turned out to be communication problems, though this seems to be a more important reason for younger participants. One in four who married before 25 names it, compared to only one in five who married after 36. So, what does it mean exactly? Well, turns out ‘communication problems’ is a euphemism for some seriously toxic forms of interaction: contempt, criticizing the other’s personality, defensiveness and stonewalling (not communicating at all).

For 24% of those who married under 25, infidelity was a factor. After that, the other main motivators cited for divorce are: the inability to resolve conflict (22.2%), incompatible life goals (10.2%), lack of individual freedom (12.6%) and financial problems (12.6%). Domestic violence was given as a reason by 3.5%, though unfortunately that relatively low number doesn’t mirror data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

 Selling the Wedding Ring
Since 49% of respondents said their separation cost more than $10,000 (the longer the marriage, the costlier the divorce), it’s no wonder many divorcées look for creative ways to bulk up their bank accounts. Interestingly enough, the majority of the participants sold jewelry (the old wedding ring as a symbolic gesture perhaps), clothes and other personal belongings. Women also preferred to borrow money from friends if necessary, whereas men would rather go to the bank for a loan.

 Seeking Help
Most participants sought help from a lawyer (40%) and one in four considered visiting a therapist to navigate the emotional stages of separation. Those people seeking therapy reported dealing with aspects of grief: denial, pain, uncertainty, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression and acceptance.

Tying the Knot, Again
But to end on a positive note, all this hasn’t made us lose our faith in marriage at all. Only 9% of respondents said they would never marry again, compared to almost three-fourths who said they would consider getting remarried or had already even tied the knot for a second or third time!

By Dorien Dijkwel

Source: https://movingpastdivorce.com, “https://movingpastdivorce.com/2018/03/new-divorce-report-2018-human-side/#sthash.QFPFdQU4.IT0cxgPW.uxfs”, Dorian Dijkwel, 3/1/2018.

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