Many relationships today look different from marriages of the past, from open relationships or long-term couples that choose to never marry, to keeping separate bedrooms or even two homes. More than ever, couples strive for open communication and cherish their freedom to remain individuals within their partnerships.
In a society where we aim to be more conscious about the way we do everything (conscious eating, conscious consumption, environmentally conscious, conscious awareness, conscious parenting, and the list goes on), we have of course become more conscious about the way we enter into a partnership with someone else, as well. It only makes sense, then, that if we are more relationship conscious and emotionally conscious, so too do we become more conscious about the way we separate.
There’s a term for that, obviously: conscious uncoupling. The term was coined by marriage and family therapist, Katherine Woodward Thomas, and to put it simply, it means to have an amicable divorce.
An amicable divorce or separation means a civil one. One which involves kindness, mutual respect and consideration, and as little drama as possible. If there are children involved, consciously uncoupling especially means that the primary focus of both parents is protecting the children and putting the needs of the children first. An amicable divorce means that the parties agree on spousal and child support, property division, and guardianship of children without hostility or drama. It means that instead of fighting, the parties enter an agreement reasonably without having to argue it out in court.
Having an amicable divorce does not make it painless, lets clarify that right now, nor does it make it easy. Deciding to divorce is a huge and difficult decision that usually affects many more people than just the couple separating, especially when there are children involved. Separations are always painful to some degree, and depending on the circumstances, more often to a large degree. There can be feelings of hurt, betrayal or blame on one or both sides, even when separating spouses mutually decide to consciously uncouple.
Furthermore, hurt feelings, resentment, or blame can make the agreement process exceedingly difficult. Having an amicable divorce involves compromise, and at times, each party may have to put their feelings aside and decide to do what is best for everyone, even when it may feel unfair. As hard as it is, though, having an amicable divorce is best for everyone involved, and it is becoming more common.
When family matters can be settled amicably, it eliminates the need for most applications to the court. When issues of separation, like custody, division of property, and support are settled, then the only application to the court might be the application to dissolve the marriage itself.
With fewer court visits, there are less legal costs. Representation in court can be expensive, so staying out of court is in everyone’s best interest.
Applications through the court take time. Needing the court to settle disputes can significantly slow down the process of coming to an agreement.
Settling family matters on your own, out of court, means you have more control over the outcome. When you can negotiate amicably, you are more likely to be satisfied by your eventual agreement than if the terms of the agreement are imposed onto you by a judge.
An amicable divorce is easier on children for all the reasons above and countless others. Settling the terms of the separation sooner, with less expenses, and more agreeable results means parents are in a better emotional state sooner and better able to care for their kids. Also, the less conflict there is while negotiating the terms of the agreement, the better parents are able to focus on the needs of their children even during the process. This can significantly reduce the negative effects that divorce can have on children. When there is a lot of conflict, especially around issues directly related to the children, like custody, there could be lasting negative effects.
An amicable divorce is easier on adults, too. Finalizing your split from your ex-significant other sooner means that you can start healing sooner and settling things with the least amount of conflict limits the issues you might need to heal from.
After any separation, there is a grieving and healing process, but imagine you now have the added trauma of *insert awful situation here*. Plus, spending less money on your separation settlement means you have more money to spend on things like new furniture or that motorcycle your ex never let you buy.
Although it is possible to negotiate a separation agreement yourself, and even represent yourself in family court, it is not recommended. Even when you and your ex-spouse have vowed to consciously uncouple, hurt feelings can sometimes get in the way, no matter how emotionally intelligent you are. You may have the best of intentions when you start out, but any time emotions are involved, it is all too easy to get distracted from the important issues. Finger pointing and fighting over what each person views as “fair” is common in separation negotiations, and it is in no one’s best interest. When all is said and done, squabbling over minor details will have done more harm than good.
This where a good lawyer or mediator can help. Using a neutral third-party can help both you and the other party negotiate while keeping emotions in check and stay focused on the important issues when conflict does arise.
Even if you and your ex come to an agreement amicably, it is important to have a legally binding, written agreement that will hold up in court. Just because you are getting along now, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. If you have children together, disagreements or disputes could arise in the future. For example, one parent may choose to relocate or suddenly decide to join a cult, then what?
An experienced family lawyer will make sure you are covered for all of the unforeseen situations that could arise in the future, and that your agreement is worded properly to eliminate disagreements over interpretation.
Another option for negotiating your amicable divorce or separation is to use a Certified Mediator. With divorce mediation, a trained and certified mediator will meet with you and your soon-to-be ex-partner to attempt to “nicely” negotiate the issues so that you can move forward with a divorce plan in an amicable and more scheduled way. Be prepared to share your plans and goals for your post-divorce life and to provide all financial disclosure and assets.
Whether each party chooses to get independent representation or you and your ex choose to use one lawyer for mediation services, the legal representative you choose can make all the difference. One sure-fire way to turn your divorce into a war zone is to hire a lawyer who is more like an attack dog than anything. A good lawyer will approach your case with all facts and considerations, and they will only proceed with your best interest in mind.
If there are children involved, ensure you choose representation whose primary focus is the best interest of the children, rather than getting you “what you deserve.”
Winning in the short-term may feel satisfying, but in the long-term, you and your ex-spouse will most likely still have to have a relationship as co-parents. When all is said and done, money, possessions, and pride will matter much less than everyone’s emotional well-being and your ability to co-parent effectively.
If you don’t feel like your lawyer is the right lawyer to help you consciously uncouple, find a lawyer that can.
In any divorce or separation, a knowledgeable lawyer who has your best interests in mind is priceless. If you want a lawyer that can advocate for you, be professional, and help you keep things amicable search for legal professionals near you now.
Lawggle Admin is a regular contributor to Lawggle.