Deciding on Divorce

Calming Down the Combativeness

The actual process of divorce can be a nightmare. Otherwise reasonable and intelligent people have been known to slash their spouse's clothing and throw it out a window. People will wipe out bank accounts, leaving the other person with nothing. Some people even resort to violence. Divorce touches everyone at the core of their sense of security. There is a process of anger and grieving much like the one that occurs in a death.


Mediation is a process in which a third party helps couples negotiate a divorce settlement with the least amount of conflict.

Moving Through Mediation

You can prolong and accentuate the agony or you can try to approach divorce through mediation. Mediation is a fairly new system that is being adopted in most states. It is a wonderful alternative to standard divorce proceedings because the mediator, a neutral third party with certain education and certification, helps couples dissolve their marriages with the least amount of conflict. The conflict is resolved in a setting that is intended to balance the power between the parties so that both can express themselves and reach mutual agreement.

Both parties typically receive advice from individual attorneys so that they are aware of their rights, but in a mediation there are no lawyers present. The mediator may be a lawyer but he or she does not work as an advocate for either side. This gives the parties much more control in determining their own destinies and ultimately leads to greater cooperation between the parties as they continue to be parents to their children.

Keeping Children's Interests Paramount

One of the nicer aspects of mediation is that it strives to keep the interests of the child at the center of the process, and separates the issues of child custody and property. In standard divorces custody issues often are used as leverage to influence the property settlement. People can be vicious when money is involved.

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

Mediation is not for everyone. When I tried mediation with my first husband we made a little progress, and quickly reached an impasse. Mediation is impossible when two people are unyielding in their positions. It is successful only when the mediator can move the parties to a compromise position they can both live with.

When the custody portion of mediation is complete, mediators often suggest bringing the children into the process so they can understand the changes that are going to occur. It is important to stress to a child that although Mom and Dad are divorcing each other neither of them is divorcing the child. Mediated agreements can even reflect statements of intention, as if the couple were substituting for the marriage vows a vow to continue to parent together.

There is no doubt that children with this kind of divorce experience adjust much more readily than children who are used as pawns in a dysfunctional adult chess game.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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