By Alan Freed
Why do people file lawsuits? Usually, it’s because one person (let’s call him the “victim”) claims to have been wronged or injured by someone else (the “wrongdoer”). The victim wants compensation for this injury and the wrongdoer often claims to have done nothing wrong. A judge or jury has to decide who has the more persuasive evidence or whose story is more credible. Then the judge announces the verdict and the matter ends.
In short, two people, with very different views about an event that happened in the past, ask a stranger to sort things out. After the trial is over, the victim and wrongdoer each go their separate ways and life goes on.
When two people get divorced, however, they are not just dealing with events that happened in the past. Particularly when they have children, they are looking in three directions at once: past, present, and future.
They are looking at the past because they are trying to figure out how their marriage got to this point and who was responsible. They are looking at the present because, all during the time they are dealing with their divorce, they have to continue to look after their children, pay their bills and, frequently, share a household. And they are looking at the future because, once the dust settles from the divorce proceedings, they must continue to make decisions for their children, pay for their children’s needs, and do everything else possible to insure that the children’s lives are disrupted as little as possible.
Divorce requires a different approach from other litigation because the lives of entire families depend upon a reasonable resolution of the case. Divorcing husbands and wives who engage in endless name-calling and fault-finding discover that, once the divorce process ends, they now need to figure out a way to work cooperatively with the person they have spent many months demonizing.
Divorcing parents who recognize that their children’s lives depend upon their abilities to look past perceived injuries and wrongdoing understand that they need to view divorce as a process of transition from a poorly functioning intimate partnership to a smoothly operating co-parenting relationship.
Mediation and collaborative divorce both provide excellent opportunities for divorcing couples to sit down together and engage in the difficult, but ultimately rewarding, job of negotiating a settlement that will allow their children to thrive in the new environment of two households.
Couples who want to maintain control over their futures should consider one of these alternatives to the traditional court proceedings.