As you are headed for trial, take a final breath and ask yourself whether you have done all you can to avoid the continuation of conflict. By now, if you are still disputing a settlement, you have probably decided that it is really your spouse who does not want to settle, and he/she is doing everything possible to prevent your getting your fair share. True or not, you still have the power to end the dispute. One can always turn the other cheek in a fight. Even in war, it takes two to tango. The 60′s slogan is apropos here: What if they had a war and nobody came?
Taking stock of your situation one final time, and determining whether settlement is possible, evaluate…
- Am I still consumed with hurt and rage that I wish to visit on my ex-spouse?
- Do I still want him or her to come to his senses and call the whole thing off?
- Have I acknowledged my share of what went wrong in the marriage, even if my spouse had the affair or became the alcoholic? What did I do, or what did I overlook?
- Am I ready to become more self-sufficient economically? If I have small children, do I have a reasonable plan for how I can be with them as much as I need to and participate in the family money making as soon as I am able?
- Do I have a lawyer who advises me to make compromises, to keep my family interests at the center of the divorce, and to settle issues whenever possible? Or do I have a lawyer who encourages me openly or indirectly to fight?
- Do I need to keep fighting or do I and my children have the basis for a healthy post-divorce life? Maybe my ex-spouse will see the children more than I want him to, but will that really harm my child, or will it be an irritation he or she will have to stand up to when at an appropriate age to do so?
- Am I acting out of fear of the unknown; are my fears rational or irrational?
- Have I worked out ways of separating from my spouse physically and psychologically? Do we have plans that limit contact to the extent I feel comfortable; could limiting contact further help us reach settlement?
- If we’re stuck on economic issues, is there another way to look at the issue? Could we make an interim agreement that has a definite endpoint that will give us both time to adjust? Maybe it is less fair for one of us for 5 years, and then tips the other way. Maybe our negotiations leave things too open-ended for too long.
- Are we communicating in a way that serves the divorce rather than conflict? Am I badgering him? Is she provoking me? Could we get help communicating rather than negotiating?
- Am I still focused on the past? What could I do to look more happily toward the future? How will the settlement proposals support my goals for the future?
- Do I have proposals on the table that I can live with? Are they really impossible or are they unfair? If unfair, how much fairer would they need to be before I can live with them?
After answering these questions, you will have a sense of whether you are ready to settle or in what areas you need to do more work. Your inability to find an acceptable settlement could be personal, or it could be between partners, or it might require more assurances where your children are concerned. In this imperfect world, weigh the value of stretching out the divorce versus living with this amount of imperfection. If you are satisfied that you have not settled your divorce for solid reasons — that you or your child’s safety, mental health, or economic stability are at issue — then you need to switch into the mind set of preparing for trial.
For a terrific video describing the Seven Keys to Resolving Family Conflict, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYBx–zUtlo. For additional tips on how to diffuse an argument before it gets out of hand see http://singleparents.about.com/od/successfulcoparenting/ tp/stop_arguing_with_your_ex.htm.
Excerpted from Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001). For more information: http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com/.
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