Preventive medicine for the bitter divorce

February 26, 2012

Love and Relationships, Spiritual

Rather than having to experience and then recover from a bitter and harrowing divorce experience, why not nip it in the bud and avoid the mess in the first place?

by Pamela Donison — 

We are all familiar with the horror stories of nasty divorces — the ones that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, take years to complete and leave the family in ruins. Unfortunately, those scenarios are pretty much the norm in our society. The emotion-fueled “intimate war” is promoted and glamorized by Hollywood, daytime television, greedy lawyers and unenlightened spouses determined to have their “pound of flesh” for sins, both real and imagined.

Is it possible to recover from such a traumatic, devastating experience? Perhaps — with a great deal of counseling and inner reflection. On the other hand, we are now seeing the fallout from ugly divorces — books and Web articles abound. Oprah has even featured adult children of divorce on her popular talk show. At last count, Google offered more than 1.36 million divorce resources, including support groups in every city and at most places of worship and community centers.

As a divorce attorney who has seen good divorces and bad, I think the best recovery program is prevention. Rather than having to experience and then recover from a bitter and harrowing divorce experience, why not nip it in the bud and avoid the mess in the first place?

“What? No way!” you say. Too difficult to bite your tongue and put aside your basic instincts in favor of a peaceful divorce experience? Well, here is a news flash. That is precisely what divorce litigators are counting on.

Want to drag out all the dirty laundry and make your spouse pay for his or her bad acts? Yippee — that means more (and more) billable hours for the attorneys. Cannot bring yourself to have a civil conversation about exchanging the kids for the holidays? Perfect — all those after-hours and holiday calls are going to cost extra. You get the drift.

And, in the final analysis, who benefits from the fist-clenched, angry divorce? Not you. Not your former spouse/co-parent. Not your family-owned business. And certainly not your children — even if they are all grown up and out of the house. Basically, the divorce industry benefits: lawyers, judges, court staff, therapists, child custody evaluators, accountants, etc.

So can you prevent this travesty from visiting your family in the first place? Yes. The simple answer is not to divorce, but that may not be the best option for people in bad relationships. The better answer is that you can change your mind right now and decide — yes, decide — to have a peaceful, rational, amicable and healthy divorce, even if your spouse does not want to go along with that plan. In my experience, the compassionate heart always wins, and the generous spouse who extends the olive branch — even in divorce — will more often than not be met with kindness, or at least acceptance.

Facilitators of mediation and collaborative divorce go to great lengths to provide preventive maintenance for the bitter divorce. As a mediator and collaborative team member, I do not condone nastiness, and I work hard to help spouses, especially those with children, understand and recognize their intertwined fates. What destroys your spouse will likely take you down in the process; likewise, what supports your spouse and children will likely buoy you up, as well.

Recover from your nasty divorce before it even starts by adopting a peaceful perspective and find the support that you and your family need to prevent the long-term effects of an intimate war.


Pamela Donison is the owner of Donison Law Firm, which specializes in out-of-court solutions, including arbitration, mediation, collaborative law and negotiated settlements. She is a Judge pro tem and court-approved mediator for Maricopa County Superior Court and president of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association., or 480-951-6599.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 4, Aug/Sept 2010.

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