By its very nature, divorce is a time of conflict. Whether your marriage is ending due to an intense dispute, a breach of trust, or simply irreconcilable differences, there is clearly something preventing you and your spouse from getting along to resolve your marital issues. However, not all divorces involve conflict to the same degree, and in fact, minimizing conflict during divorce is possible.
The ability to keep conflict to a minimum depends in large part on the behavior of you and your spouse before, during, and after the divorce process. With that said, an experienced Will County divorce lawyer can often help by ensuring that you are well prepared for any negotiations and encouraging approaches that can help you steer clear of contentious arguments and focus on mutually beneficial outcomes.
The Secrets to Minimizing Conflict During Divorce
Before the Divorce Process
If the inciting incident leading to your decision to file for divorce is something like infidelity or domestic violence, a high-conflict divorce may be unavoidable. However, in a case where you and your spouse have simply grown apart over time, you may have more control over how you bring up the subject of divorce. If you are planning to tell your spouse that you want a divorce, you should be prepared for them to be surprised, and allow them time to process what you have said. Try to focus not on what they have done to harm the relationship, but on how both of your actions have contributed to the current state of your marriage. Listen to their concerns whenever possible, but be willing to step away from the conversation and return at a later time if emotions are starting to overwhelm one or both of you.
If your spouse tells you they want a divorce, make an effort to listen and understand their perspective. The way you respond can have a ripple effect throughout the rest of your divorce process. If you can commit to a cooperative approach, you can save yourself time, stress, and hardship in the long run. On the other hand, if you shut down or start to engage in retaliatory behaviors aimed at harming your spouse, such as dissipating your marital assets or trying to turn your kids against your spouse, you will likely make the process much more difficult, and your behavior may detract from the outcomes you desire related to decisions involving the division of property and the allocation of parental responsibility and parenting time.
During the Divorce Process
As you begin the process of working toward your divorce settlement, you can reduce conflict by remaining open to approaches that enable cooperation between you and your spouse. Many couples are able to reach an agreement on most or all aspects of their divorce through negotiation, resulting in an uncontested divorce that only requires the court’s involvement to approve of the consensus you have already reached. For other couples, a trained mediator can serve as a neutral third party who helps keep discussions on track and ensures that each spouse has the opportunity to voice their perspective and provide input in all decisions. Either of these options can help you avoid the stress, costs, and public conflict of a long, drawn-out trial.
Regardless of your approach, it is important to know what your priorities are so that you can clearly express what you want and need. Perhaps your primary goal is to maintain financial stability after your divorce or to keep control over certain assets. Alternatively, you may be focused on the best interests of your children above all else, which can pave the way for cooperation with your spouse if he or she shares the same goal. Once you have established your priorities, try to express your perspective with calm, rational, fact-based communication, as this is often more effective than emotional arguments that may only serve as reminders of pain.
As negotiations proceed, look for opportunities for compromise. Rather than trying to gain the upper hand on every issue, be open to giving ground on things that are not as important to you so that you can push harder for the things that are. By listening to your spouse and making an effort to understand his or her needs, you may even be able to arrive at solutions that benefit both of you without requiring either of you to give up more than you are comfortable with.
After the Divorce Process
After your divorce is finalized, you still have an important responsibility to follow the terms of your legally binding divorce decree or judgment. If you have been ordered to pay child support or spousal support, you should make every effort to do so on time and in the full amount. You should also honor the terms of the division of property as well as the agreements about child custody and visitation. Repeated failure to follow the terms of your divorce can create hardship for your ex, who may file a petition for enforcement that could result in legal and financial consequences for you. You may even be found in contempt of court, with possible penalties including fines and jail time.
If you believe that the terms of your divorce decree should no longer apply due to a change in your personal or financial circumstances, you should not simply stop following them. Instead, you should take the necessary steps to pursue a modification in court to establish a more appropriate divorce order. If you have maintained constructive communication with your ex, you may even be able to agree upon a fair modification together and obtain the court’s approval, rather than engaging in a contested courtroom battle.
Divorce may not be something anyone wants to deal with, but those who fail to make a plan and take positive actions to manage the situation often do so to their own detriment. With the right strategy and behavior before, during, and after your divorce, and with the guidance of a skilled Joliet divorce attorney, you can make your divorce easier for yourself, your ex, your children, and everyone else involved.
Joel Patrick Brown was admitted to the practice of law in 2008. Joel Patrick Brown practices family law and criminal law. Most of his cases are in Will County, but also have cases in DuPage County, Grundy County, Kane County, Kendall County, and Markham and Bridgeview in Cook County. www.reederbrownlaw.com