Divorce affects us all, whether it is our divorce or not. And, ugly bitter divorces impact us all far more severely than amicable, respectful divorces. We all stand to benefit if other people handle their divorces better.
Ugly divorces impact us in very real, practical, every day ways. For instance, consider these scenarios:
Your child’s teacher is getting divorced. Their spouse is the breadwinner and has told them that they refuse to help out financially. And, the spouse has filed a custody action seeking sole custody of their children. How well do you think that teacher is focusing on your child with that kind of threat hanging over their head? Is your child getting the attention they need for those end of year tests? Is that teacher so stressed that they are short with your child in class? Are they so distracted that they are not noticing that your child is slowly falling behind in class? Did they forget to nominate your child for that award that would look great on a college application?
Your neighbors are getting a divorce. They fight over custody of the kids. They each approach you to testify for them. One wants you to testify about the Christmas parties where their spouse drank too much in front of the kids. The other wants you to testify about the time their spouse cursed at the kids in front of everybody. You get a subpoena to appear in court to testify. You have to take the day off for court, the one day that you have to be at work because the President of your company wants to hear the update on your ongoing project work.
Your neighbors separate and hire litigation attorneys and start a lawsuit. Due to the cost of the fighting in court and attorneys fees, the couple has to sell their house. The court orders the sale, and the house is sold for $30,000 less than the market price because the parties just want out. You want to open an equity line on your home, but you can’t qualify because their short sale lowered the appraisal for your home.
Same scenario as above, but your kids are best friends with your neighbors’ kids. They’ve lived next door to each other for 10 years, and have played together every day for 10 years. Now, their best friends will be moving away. Your kids are devastated and you have to drive 30 minutes round trip just so your kids can play with their best friends who used to live next door.
Your co-worker is getting divorced. It’s ugly. Their spouse is asking for thousands of dollars a month in alimony and/or child support. Their retirement is going to be gutted. They’ve been accused of abusing their children in an effort by their spouse to gain custody of the kids. Social Services visited their home. The two of you are in charge of a huge software development project. They are so distracted that all they can think about is the divorce, whether they are going to lose their kids and how they will support themselves if they have to pay a large amount to their spouse. Weeks go by and they’ve accomplished little to nothing on the software project. Nonetheless, your reputation is on the line if the job doesn’t get done. Guess who is going to be working all hours to pick up the slack? You. Guess who isn’t a huge fan of you working all hours? Your spouse and kids. Guess where there is new marital tension spreading like a virus? Your house.
You are a financial professional. You manage investment and retirement accounts for families. Your clients have $500,000 in investments with you. Your clients separate and hire attorneys to get divorced. They own businesses and have a complicated financial life. By the time the trial is over, they have liquidated all but $50,000 of their investment with you to fund the litigation. You’ve just lost $450,000 from your book of business. And you know that 40-50% of your married clients are going to get divorced.
You are a therapist. You’ve worked with a client for 10 years to help them with their depression and anxiety. You’ve made a lot of progress in that time. You finally think that they are going to turn the corner and live the life that they’ve told you they want to live. Then their spouse drops the divorce bomb on them in the form of a lawsuit seeking sole custody, alimony and more than half of their assets. The Complaint specifically mentions your client’s depression and anxiety as a reason to keep the kids from them. Despite your best efforts, your client is set back years in their progress.
Now compare that to a respectful divorce process where the parties are working together to find ways to make sure that they are both financially supported, that their kids get to continue their relationship with both of them, and that they sacrifice as little of their accumulated wealth as possible during the process. They aren’t threatening each other. They aren’t asking you to be a witness. They aren’t impacting your work life.
You have the ability to influence other couples by letting them know that an ugly divorce is not their only option. Tell them that Collaborative Divorce and mediation allow people to divorce without destroying their lives, children and finances. You may be saving yourself a lot of trouble.