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Changing How We Think About Divorce

By Alan Freed

I don’t think I’d be going too far out on a limb by positing that everyone in this country knows multiple people whose marriages ended in divorce. Yet we continue to deal with divorce as if it were anything but normal. Most statistical analyses put the U.S. divorce rate at around 45% for first marriages and even higher for second and third marriages. If nearly half of marriages end with a divorce judgment, perhaps it’s time to rethink how we approach divorce.

Let’s start with the metaphors. We may have laughed at “The War of the Roses,” but the “war” in that title resonated with the viewing public because we are accustomed to thinking of divorce as a military exercise. Newspaper headlines trumpet the accusations of celebrity couples as if they were lobbing grenades at each other. Parents want to “win” their custody “battles.” All this war talk ignores the post-divorce reality that will require the former combatants to cooperate around taking care of their children.

Even if you don’t have children, thinking of the person you swore to love, honor, and cherish as your mortal enemy will leave you emotionally spent and less able to deal with the very real challenges of re-entry into single life.

Here’s an alternative perspective: Think of divorce as a surgical procedure. Particularly when children are involved, a divorce is making fundamental changes to a family, but it is not destroying that family because, for the children, their family consists of two parents and the kids, whether in one house or two. If the surgery is done in court, the judge will be wielding a chainsaw, which will make deep cuts resulting in much pain, lots of bleeding, big scars, and a long period of healing.

If the surgery is done through negotiations, the cuts can be made with the legal equivalent of scalpels and lasers. There will still be pain, but the bleeding and scars will be less severe, and healing can happen much more quickly. If the divorcing spouses are willing to listen to each other, those negotiations can lead to a far more productive and less confrontational future relationship, resulting in happier children and a more peaceful post-marital relationship.

At the outset of your divorce case, you should discuss with your lawyer what process options are available. Most divorce cases end through settlement and not through trial. Settlements can be negotiated between lawyers, but many couples benefit from mediation or collaborative divorce, both of which focus on the needs of the family rather than a “winner-take-all” mentality.

The family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal can help you better understand how you can achieve a satisfying resolution of your divorce and how you can plan on preserving the health of your family post-divorce. Contact us for a consultation.


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