Just Because Your Marriage Doesn’t Work Doesn’t Mean Your Family Can’t
Restructure Your Family, Don’t Destroy It
Sadly, over 50% of all marriages end in divorce. But just because your romantic relationship has ended doesn’t mean that your family is doomed.
Consider your divorce as a restructuring of your family, and not as its destruction. In fact, the separation of spouses often has a positive impact on the family. Rather than living in tense quarters in which the parents are constantly arguing and upset with one another, when a spouse finally moves out, it can be a relief for the entire family. While it is sad and takes adjustment, families often find that it is easier to live in two happy homes than in one stressful, hostility-filled household.
So, if you’ve decided that divorce is in your future, don’t view it as an ending; instead, think of it as a new beginning for all involved.
Divorce Can Be Positive
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative thing. Take, for example, Marta and Mario, a couple in their early forties who had tried for years to make their marriage work. They could agree on one thing, and that was that, once their youngest child reached eighteen, they would divorce. But on their middle child’s eleventh birthday, as he was blowing out the candles on his cake, he openly wished that his parents would live apart and get along.
Marta came to me the next day for a divorce. She told me that she loved and respected Mario very much, but they were just so different. Initially, she had found it sexy. But after several years of marriage and three kids, their differences had grown to a point with which she couldn’t live. She was a spender; he was a saver. She took risks; he couldn’t handle a spontaneous change in his daily routine. She was adventurous and ready to travel the world, and he didn’t like to leave the house.
While she hated fighting with him, she couldn’t remember a night in the past few years when they hadn’t fought about something, usually in front of the children. She wanted to wait until her youngest was eighteen to divorce, but when her son made his birthday wish, she knew she had to do something now. She was concerned that Mario would fight the divorce, not because he wanted to stay married, but because he found change especially difficult. She wanted the divorce to be as quick, painless, and fair as possible for both of them, as well as their children.
Professionals Can Aid In Divorce Situations
I proposed a collaborative divorce, emphasizing how the mental health professional could help to ease Mario into the transition, and how the financial professional could appeal to the fiscally responsible side of him.
Marta decided that she wanted to be the one to broach the subject with Mario, rather than having me reach out to him. When she contacted me about a week later, she reported that her conversation with Mario had gone better than she expected. While he wasn’t happy, he agreed that now was the time to proceed with the inevitable. And he was calmed by the idea of a collaborative divorce, a process he had never heard of before.
I quickly amassed the collaborative team, recommending several attorneys to Mario, and giving Marta and Mario a few options for mental health and financial professionals.
Moving Forward, Collaboratively
Once we chose our team and the process began, a few times during our meetings, the spouses became adversarial, and the team got a sense of what the children had been experiencing at home for years. While the collaborative divorce took a bit longer than usual (about eight months) because the parties were having a hard time agreeing to timesharing arrangements, when they finally did reach a settlement, they both seemed content and ready to move forward with their new lives.
About a year after their divorce, I reached out to Marta to see how she was doing. She had remained single since the divorce, while Mario had begun to date a woman she described as “very nice.” She reported that their children were excelling at school. Her youngest, who had been experiencing disciplinary problems, had turned his behavior around since the divorce. Her oldest child, a sensitive girl, had come out of the cloud of depression from which she had been suffering. And Peter, the little boy who had made the fateful birthday wish, was finally on the honor roll and had recently been honored as his school’s student-of-the-month.
Marta’s happy response about all of this good news? “I guess we’re a better family apart than we ever were when Mario and I were together!”
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, 2 of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.