Martie H. Leys, J.D.
Mediation & Collaborative Family Practice

Things to Consider
When Contemplating Separation or Divorce

Welcome

You are probably consulting my website because you, a friend, or a family member are contemplating a separation or divorce.  Maybe your partner or spouse has informed you that he or she wants a separation or divorce. 

Feelings, Questions, and More Questions

You may be flooded with all kinds of feelings and have many questions about how to proceed.  You may know the relationship must end, but don’t know how to make it happen.  You may be asking who should move?  How do our financial lives get sorted out?  How can we afford to pay for two households when maybe there was not even enough to pay for one?  What are my legal rights?  How can we make a healthy transition in restructuring our lives so that our children will be okay?

Even if you have decided what you think should happen and how, you may not know how to broach the subject with your spouse who very possibly has a very different perspective on what’s wrong and what to do about it.  Since communication between you may be awkward, strained, difficult or nonexistent, how can decisions be made?

If some of this sounds familiar, it is not surprising.  Everyone ending a marital or partner relationship faces some or all of these questions.  So what to do from here?

First Things First

First of all, it is useful to acknowledge that you don’t know what to do, and you don’t know what comes first when everything is in upheaval.  Moving beyond fear with appropriate support, you just may be open to discovering how you can approach your situation so that your steps can be informed, deliberate and wisely planned.  This takes learning what information you need to assemble, and, with knowledgeable support, creating realistic options to address your short- and long-term needs.

There is a tremendous temptation at this beginning point to jump to the resolution that you think you need and that you think will work best for you.  It is very difficult to sit with the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen next, or whether your spouse or partner will go along with or accept your plan.  Do you have the law on your side?  Usually this is when people consult an attorney, with or without the knowledge of their spouse or partner.

Choose a Process

If this sounds familiar I suggest that you stop and think about what kind of process will be most effective for you and your partner or spouse.  Moving forward means pulling together the information you need to make good decisions.  It involves developing options that take into consideration of everyone’s needs and goals—options that will work for everyone and not just you.

Gather Information

The process you choose will guide you in identifying which issues need to be addressed,  how you will gather the information needed to consider and evaluate choices, and finally in making decisions.  Part of the information you need will be factual.  Part of the information you will need is legal.  Perhaps the most important and hardest part of the information that both you and your spouse or partner will need is knowing what is most important to each of you.  Really knowing and understanding both of your underlying needs and interests will have a big effect on the settlement you reach.  Until you have gotten all the relevant information together and really looked at the interrelationship of all the pieces, and the consequences of any decisions you might make, you won’t know if you’ve reached the best resolution for your transition.

Working Together

This is a very different way of going about things than trying to find out what the court would say about your situation and starting from there.  What I am suggesting is an orientation and process that encourages you and your spouse to participate together in crafting a resolution that works better for you than anything the court would order or anyone else would tell you to do.

The first step in getting started is for both of you to agree that you want to work out the divorce or separation together.  You might choose either mediation or a collaborative process.  Making this choice depends on how much professional support you both need to feel safe and to talk effectively about your needs and goals without being emotionally flooded or intimidated.  It is good if you can have this conversation between you, either on your own or with professional facilitation before either of you starts talking about the specifics of the settlement that you want.

Be Open to Options

This is a very important point.  It is amazing what is possible if people allow themselves to be open to options without having it all figured out in advance.  I invite you to do just that.

Contact Information

If what you have just read makes sense to you and you would like help in choosing the right process to negotiate a resolution to your situation, please get in touch, either by e-mail at mhl@divorcewithcare.com, or call me at 707-789-0390.