Three Important Steps to A “Happy” Divorce

happyDivorceHappy and divorce. They’re not two words that people think of together. After all, going through a divorce is an emotional time that can be filled with a sense of loss, regret, and grief. For some couples, divorce is also a contentious time that includes fighting and ugliness. But for others, the decision to divorce is based on the realization that they just don’t want to be married anymore and it’s time to move on with their lives. They don’t have ill will towards one another and want to work out the terms of their divorce in a peaceful way. For these couples, they seek ways to have a “happy” divorce.

Begin with a mediator. A constructive first step towards an amicable divorce is working with an experienced mediator. Divorce mediation is about separated couples deciding their own divorce and what is best for them and their children, if any. Couples meet with a neutral third party (the mediator) and work through issues that need to be resolved, such as distribution of property, child custody and support, retirement and taxes. The mediator helps to keep the lines of communication open, brainstorm ideas, and keep discussions on track, thus helping to end the marriage as peacefully and cost effectively as possible. Mediation is a highly effective and confidential process, particularly for couples that have a working relationship with similar goals and no large, looming issues up front.

Write it down. Despite how “happy” a divorce may appear, it’s essential to make sure everything is in writing. One party may feel happy with a verbal agreement one day and change his/her mind the next. This is why a mediator can be such a helpful component when working through a divorce. And the more details in writing, the better, particularly when it comes to issues such as parenting and money. It’s also important to figure out potential issues that may turn into big problems down the road. For instance, what happens if one party relocates to a different state for a job? Or someone changes jobs and earns less money – or more? By having details written down in a clear manner, ex-spouses have a process to turn to before issues boil over into a larger battle.

Clearly define the parenting plan. While ex-spouses may feel their divorce is amicable and relatively drama-free, children are going through their own issues dealing with the major life changes happening to them. That’s why a clear, detailed parenting plan is a vital part of the divorce process. It may be helpful to write the plan as if speaking directly to the children involved to help keep their best interests in mind. If kids are old enough, it can even be shared with them. It’s an important way to let them know that parents are working as a team, even if they’re no longer married. For parents who have an amicable split, getting together and going out as a reconfigured family can show children that they are still a loving, caring family, despite the divorce.

Divorce is never easy, but there are a number of strategies couples can use to make the process a “happier” one. Listening, communicating, laying out a proposal, collaborating, and compromising are just a few ways to help couples work through divorce and come through it with an amicable relationship moving forward.

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