collaborative divorce

It's All in the Timing

Every person going through a transition experiences their own timeline.  The challenge with divorce, of course, is that the timelines of the two parties may not be aligned.  Here in North Carolina, law dictates that we take at least one year between the date of separation and the final divorce.  This imposed timeline has little meaning to a broken or an impatient heart.  We move on when we’re ready to move on. 

A lovely couple I saw this spring was splitting after about 5 years of marriage.  They had a young daughter whom they both cherished.  The wife originally contacted me.  She had initiated the break up and was energized by the idea of settling their affairs and moving on.  The husband agreed to meet in mediation and so we began.  We met about 5 times over the course of several months.  At each session, the wife came prepared, with a notebook of ideas.  In between sessions, she made the calls or developed the plans they agreed upon previously.  The man showed up often unprepared or reluctant.  As I got to know these two, I watched the woman move the man forward gently, asking something of him and then waiting until he was ready to make that move.  I saw him let go of some of his “demands” (such as no new romantic partners for the first year) as he came to accept his new reality.  Eventually, they developed an elegant parenting plan.  They divided their assets and their debts with a fine chisel.  Having the opportunity to follow up with them, I’ve learned that they are co-parenting their daughter beautifully. 

Consider what might have happened if they had taken a more traditional path.  The woman might have opted to find a lawyer who could get her out of the situation as quickly as possible.  She might have withdrawn money from their shared account to demonstrate their separation.  The ma might have felt betrayed and lost in this and lashed out by suing her for full custody or accusing her of some type of foul play. 

This early phase of separation is a sensitive time.  Plans need to be made and matters need to be settled, but often one person is grieving heavily and is not ready to make those types of decisions. I encourage anyone going through this to practice patience and seek constructive advice.  Find a mediator or collaborative attorney who can answer your questions and allow for these dual paces.  Refuse to be pushed into an adversarial position because of someone else’s timeline.  Expect that you will hit bumps along the road and you will need to pick yourself up and keep moving.  Avoid comparing your pace to anyone else you know who took a different path.  Remember, it took a while to get yourself into this relationship; it will probably take a while to get yourself out.