Divorce is something that can and will impact more than just the divorcing couple involved. The consequences of divorce will reach not only the immediate family members such as the children of the couple, but will also reach their extended families, circles of friends, and possibly generations to come. This is why I believe that our work at Alternative Divorce Solutions is so important. When we are able to settle a divorce case out of court, we are not only saving the couple time, money, and energy; we are also sparing the people close to them.
Think about it like this – Husband and Wife are thinking about a divorce. They have two minor children. They have several options to consider. First, they can go the “traditional” route of litigation. This means that each one of them would seek out and hire their own attorney, which would cost anywhere from $5,000 – $20,000 per person if we go by Orange County averages. Therefore, right out of the gate, the couple will have spent about $10,000 – $40,000 just to get their case started. This is just the initial retainer fee paid and before any work has been done on the matter. Then, each attorney will work with the client to figure out his or her legal “position.” Basically, the attorney is shaping how he or she will argue the case in court. This, by its very nature, will make the couple into adversaries. In order to “win”, they must prove the other person wrong. In this case, there will be a lot of issues that need to be decided, which will probably range from child custody to spousal support, child support, property division, debt division, etc. Each issue will need at least one separate court date. Since the couple is represented by divorce counsel, the communication between them will be done through attorneys whose jobs are to be zealous advocates for their clients. This can create more animosity.
In the background of all of this, you have two spouses who are becoming increasingly more angry at one another. They will have released control of their outcomes to a judge who does not know them, which could create even more fear. The children involved will not only be subjected to intrusive court evaluations, but they will be present to witness the constant conflict in their family. This, unfortunately, will shape how they see the world. Research shows that children learn to model their own behavior after their parents. Therefore, if they see their parents fighting each other, yelling and screaming, and unable to communicate, this is how they will begin to believe that conflict should be resolved. At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we believe that children should be given a better example for how to resolve their differences.
Further, having to respond to all of the stress and negativity, the couple will begin to vent to their family members and friends, who will also get caught up in the emotional turmoil of the couple. This is how the stress of the divorce begins to spread to the people in the couple’s extended circle. As a result, friends and family members will continue to talk about the divorce to others and continue to spread the negativity. In addition, they may be worried for the well being of the couple, which creates additional emotional strain.
If the couple chooses divorce mediation, however, they have the option to settle their divorce without any additional stress or animosity. Divorce mediation is an entirely different kind of process. In divorce mediation, the couple will sit down with a trained divorce mediator to communicate respectfully about how to settle their divorce. The divorce mediator will create a safe, private environment in which the couple can voice their concerns and priorities. The couple will be able to handle child custody, child support, spousal support, property division, and debt division on their own with their divorce mediator’s guidance. Instead of having to spend $10,000 – $40,000 retaining individual divorce attorneys, the couple will be able to pay a one-time flat fee to their divorce mediator. On average, this fee is less than $10,000 for the entire divorce process! They will save money, which they can allocate to the things that really matter in their lives such as their children’s college education and retirement accounts. This, in and of itself, creates a positive ripple effect for the children and couple.
In addition to saving money, and since the couple will not be positioned as adversaries, there will be a lot less stress involved. The children will observe that their parents can handle the conflict in a respectful and even loving manner through divorce mediation. This will set a positive example for how the children will handle conflict. These children, who will grow into adults who may have children of their own, will be less damaged from the divorce. Therefore, they will cause less damage to future generations. Further, the couple will be able to communicate their forward progress to their friends and family instead of just talking about the conflict. This will save those close to them the emotional damage divorce can cause. Finally, because the couple will be in a better position overall (financially, emotionally, mentally), they will function better at work, at home, and in society. This is the true ripple effect.
Remember, we impact the people we come in contact with in this world whether we realize it or not. One small act of kindness has the ability to change someone’s life. We can only give to others when we have that energy available ourselves. When we choose to handle a challenge with grace, we are choosing to make a difference.