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What Every Woman Should Know About Divorce

"I thought that once we got to court I'd get my fair share." "I never knew that moving out to get away from an awful home situation would cost me my home." "I thought the court had the power and interest in enforcing support and visitation agreements."

Because divorce affects one in two couples today, chances are that you or someone you know will have to deal with divorce. Therefore it is important to at least be acquainted with the basics of the divorce process so that you are aware of the business, personal and legal issues that are involved.

Women who are informed consumers in most other.htmlects of their lives are often hindered by what they don't know about divorce. Overwhelmed by the emotional upheaval and lifestyle changes wrought by divorce, women can be lulled into the false belief that the courts will necessarily render "justice." However what you and the court consider justice might be very different.

Fact #1 - Litigation is not the only option. The concept of a drawn-out court battle over divorce and custody issues is the most common perception of the divorce process, but it is no longer the only option. In fact, Pittsburgh retired family court judge Lawrence Kaplan advises couples, "Avoid going to court. Most divorcing couples are in a position to avoid domestic relations court."

"Ninety percent of them do just that by negotiating through their lawyers, retaining a family mediator to assist them in developing an agreement, or in very rare cases, working out an agreement themselves." Kaplan says.

Mediation enables a couple to work with an independent mediator they choose to negotiate a mutually agreed upon settlement. This approach enables clients to maintain control over the decision-making process and to contain costs by utilizing attorneys and the courts more efficiently. It also offers a safe, cost-effective way for people to settle disputes in a responsible manner, without doing greater harm to children and themselves.

Fact #2 - You can protect your interests without sacrificing your principles. If you opt to hire an attorney to negotiate or litigate on your behalf, consider carefully whom you choose. Choosing the "toughest" lawyer you can find may not increase what you obtain in your settlement, but it will very likely increase the level of stress, anger, and hostility that accompany the process. Instead, seek a competent lawyer whose orientation generally focuses on negotiating a settlement.

If you choose to mediate, neither party risks the compromise or loss of a legal right or interest. However, interview the mediator to assure she or he is professionally trained and competent. Many such mediators practice in accordance with the standards and practices of the Academy of Family Mediators or a local professional mediation organization. In a quality mediation process parties are always encouraged to consult with their attorneys throughout the negotiation. And either party may quit mediation at any point. Good mediators will assure both parties are heard and neither party will be able to take advantage of the other.

Fact #3 - It is possible to establish an amicable relationship with your former spouse post-divorce. "One tightly held secret is that out of many bad marriages come good divorces," according to Constance Ahrons, author of The Good Divorce. She reports that almost 50 percent of divorced couples today maintain amicable relationships. According to Ahrons, the style of interaction and communication a couple develops post-divorce affects all their future intimate relationships, including remarriages.

Part of establishing a good working relationship with a former spouse in the future usually begins with how the divorce process is handled. Mediation, for example, requires both parties to communicate directly, lays the groundwork for, at the very least, a businesslike relationship later on.

Fact #4 - Consumer Beware. The law helps those who help themselves. By becoming informed about the divorce process, you will need to rely less on lawyers and the court for your protection.

Take time to read up on divorce and to outline the issues of greatest importance to you. Some books that offer great resources to women facing divorce include:

  • The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons, Ph.D.
  • Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D.
  • Money and Divorce by Woodhouse & Collins with Blakeman
  • Between Love and Hate by Lois Gold, M.S.W.

The Center for Problem Resolution, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in addition to providing mediation services, also serves as a resource on divorce and parenting issues. For information Call 412-848-9181.