Friday, April 15, 2016

Should We Fight or Should We Talk?

For many people, the title states the choices they see when they approach a divorce (or a divorce approaches them!).

You might as well recognize that talking is the better option.  Here's why.

No matter how angry someone is at the beginning of a divorce, the parties almost always end up talking and reaching a settlement.  In some cases, though, the parties spend a lot of time fighting before they start seriously talking.

Divorce, contrary to popular perception, is ultimately a process of agreement, although many people manage to take detours onto argument trails and delays.  Fighting takes time and money, but some people get blinded by anger or a desire to punish or get revenge for their spouse's bad behavior, which may be real or imagined. In addition, many people wrongly assume that divorce centers around courtroom battles.

Eventually, fighting usually subsides as anger wanes, money is dissipated or the parties face a date in court.  Facing a choice between letting a Judge make all the decisions or making their own decisions on the outcome, most people choose to control their own destiny.

Here's a simplified version of the standard, Texas divorce process:

1.  File a Petition for Divorce.
2.  Get notice to the other party.
3.  Have a temporary hearing or hearings on various matters, or reach informal agreements.
4.  Gather information, either formally or informally.
5.  Negotiate to final agreement, very often in mediation, or in rare cases, have a final trial.
6.  Prepare a Final Decree of Divorce and get it signed by the Judge.

The opportunities to negotiate are numerous.
  • Prior to filing.
  • Immediately after filing.
  • At court, each time there's a hearing scheduled.
  • After the information is exchanged.
  • Informal final terms negotiations near the end of the case.
  • Mediation.
For the best results, I suggest that you:
  • Always be prepared to negotiate -- Get the information you need and make a plan for negotiations to create options to meet your needs.
  • Always be willing to negotiate -- Don't let anger or revenge keep you from doing what's best for you in the long run. 
Negotiating is a sign of intelligence, not weakness.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Starting with Forgiveness

We all have many conflicts in our lives.  Some marriages are destroyed by serious conflicts that aren't resolved. Friendships end and family relationships are damaged because of resentments and hurt feelings.  Relationships in business, school and politics, as well as between neighbors are damaged or ended because of anger and resentments that aren't resolved.

When people get divorced, there are often continuing resentments, hurt feelings and anger even after the divorce is final.  We all know the result of that:  arguments, fighting over issues big and small, stress and continuing bad feelings. 

Keep in Mind:  Fighting--Bad,   Peace--Good.

That's pretty simplistic, but it's true.  I have seen many people continue pointless fighting because one or both of the parties can't let go.  It's costly and it's stressful.  Most people continue their fights by filing motions and going to court  or by acting in ways that will obviously trigger the other side to file something and go to court.

Forgiving and living peacefully will make life less stressful.  That means, among other things, lower blood pressure and a healthier life. It will also save money from being spent on attorneys and court.

Happier parents = happier kids!  It's so obvious, it shouldn't need to be said. For parents who are concerned about their children's best interests, fighting is the last thing they would consider.

So, how do you move from anger to forgiveness?  I'd like to say, "Simple" and then give you a simple, effective way to do that, but I can't. Here are some things I can suggest.

1.  Let a little time pass.  Wounds heal and anger often subsides.  Also, as the parties get used to changes, the problems sometimes will diminish.

2.  Go to a counselor.  There are many different kinds of counselors and they charge different rates.  As a cheaper alternative to a professional counselor, you can talk with a minister, rabbi, priest, or other religious-oriented counselor, and they should be able to talk with you about the importance of forgiveness.

3.  Use Collaborative Law to work out remaining issues.  If the issues are significant, you may want to use attorneys and an MHP to work out solutions for the problems.

4.  Use social workers who work with the Court.  Many larger counties, such as Tarrant County, have a Domestic Relations Office with social workers who are trained to help resolve issues, even post-divorce, regarding children.

5.  Take a co-parenting class with your ex.  Your attorney or counselor can help you find appropriate classes, and some are online now.  If both parties take the classes, they can be very helpful.

Hopefully, if you are caught up in conflict, you can break free and help yourself by showing forgiveness.  It will help you and your whole family.