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The 3 ingredients to succeed at getting divorced amicably

By Chloe O., The Divorce and Separation Coach

Unfortunately, divorce is often portrayed in the media as a conflictual and war-like process. However, studies should that 90% of divorcing couples intend to divorce amicably. Fear of conflict is one of the most common reasons why my clients struggle with making the decision to divorce. But besides avoiding conflict, there are many other reasons why a non-litigated divorce is better for everyone. While getting divorced amicably takes a real commitment from both parties and isn’t always easy, it does deliver many benefits that should not be overlooked and that will facilitate a smoother transition for everyone involved.

First, it is usually much cheaper and faster than going to court. As an example, mediated divorced cost on average 97% less than a litigated one and usually takes 3 to 4 meetings to find an agreement. More importantly, a negotiated divorce helps preserve your mental health and reduce emotional strain. Beyond the grief that we experience during divorce, litigation also brings a large amount of anxiety, destruction and hurt. Another important advantage is that an amicable divorce helps you maintain a decent relationship with your ex. By divorcing with less conflict, there is often less anger and resentment, therefore helping to preserve a degree of civility between the former spouses. This will benefit children too when a family is involved. Research dating as far back as the 1970’s shows that it is not the divorce in itself that hurts children but the parental conflict it leads to. When their parents manage to divorce amicably, the children are naturally exposed to fewer arguments and reduced tension. Finally, a negotiated divorce is the best way to set yourself up for successful co-parenting and to build stronger foundations for effective dispute resolution in the future.

There are therefore very few arguments that support a litigated approach to divorce, except in some extreme cases. The divorcing couple’s good intentions is clearly key to them achieving an out-of-court divorce. But this surely isn’t enough, since 80% of couples who attempt a Do-it-Yourself divorce do not complete the process.  So, what are the secret ingredients to getting divorced without litigation? Is amicable divorce a fantasy or can it truly be achieved? 

In this article, I share the three main ingredients to successfully divorce without going to court. These relate to the most common mistakes when getting divorced, which can unfortunately end up being very costly.

1.     Proper preparation

Before initiating any conversation with your spouse, or with anyone for that matter, I strongly recommend you spend some time doing research to understand the divorce rules and requirements in your country. Depending on your divorce jurisdiction, there will be different rules with regards to who can get a divorce there, how the process works and how long it might take. Some countries, for example, require a minimum wait period where the couple must be officially separated for a number of months or years in order to apply for a divorce. 

Similarly, laws will vary with regards to grounds for divorce. While the UK has adopted no-fault divorce since 2022, other countries might require a specific justification for the divorce. This can be, for example, proving that there has been abuse or infidelity. Beyond understanding the various grounds for divorce, you should spend some time educating yourself about the possible avenues for out-of-court divorce settlements (mediation, collaborative law, arbitration), as these will reduce conflict with your spouse and allow you to divorce cheaper, faster, and less destructively. You will want to take time to review all the options and understand exactly how they work, how much they cost, how long they take, and identify any prerequisites.

Along with the need to educate yourself on divorce rules and options prior to initiating the process no comma comes the importance of security. Even if your spouse is not abusive, it is essential to protect yourself in case things go wrong. The bare minimum will consist in creating a separate email address to use for all divorce-related correspondence, one of course which your spouse does not know about and cannot access. You’ll also want to ensure that any tracking or “Find my phone” services are disabled on your phone. Any calls or conversations you are having about your divorce should be held outside of the family home, even if your spouse is not home. If you are concerned about your safety and security, consult a domestic abuse specialist for information on how to protect yourself prior to starting the divorce process, including finding a safe place to go if your spouse reacts violently.

Finally, proper preparation will require you to gather as much financial information as you can. Creating an inventory of joint bank accounts and balances will be important for example. Speak to your lawyer if you are unsure what you are legally allowed to access or not. The idea is to gather as much information as possible on the family finances so you can easily provide that data when necessary for the divorce process and identify any missing funds or assets later on.

2.     Qualified professional support

The second magic ingredient to achieving an amicable divorce resolution relates to ensuring you are getting quality professional support. There are two main things to consider in this respect: which types of professionals do you require and the quality of the services they provide.

There are a multitude of divorce professionals at your disposal, which can be drawn upon depending on your specific situation. The vast majority of people select to have a divorce attorney, as divorce remains a legal process even when it is settled out of court. But there are many other professionals which will be key to supporting you during your divorce. A Certified Divorce Coach® will be an invaluable resource from one end to the other of your divorce. They will work as your thinking partner to help you define your objectives and make the right decisions for you and your children. If you are experiencing strong feelings of guilt, trauma or other anxiety, a therapist will provide you with the support you require to process these emotions and avoid them impacting your future. In cases where there are significant financial assets, many people choose to consult a Financial advisor to help them model various financial scenarios and define their future financial needs.

But you will also want to spend time ensuring the professionals you hire are the right ones for you. That means that they have experience dealing with cases like your own, that you have a good rapport with them and feel you can trust them, and that their overall philosophy and approach aligns to your needs. Understanding their pricing and billing structure is also important, however many people use this as their main selection criteria. In fact, it is so much more important to ensure that the person is someone who can truly help you. As a Divorce Coach, I often spend time with my clients defining what it is they want from the professionals they hire, in particular their lawyer, and prepare questions they will ask during their first meeting to gage whether they are the right specialist for them. If you are committed to reaching an agreement out of court, I strongly recommend selecting a lawyer who is a member of the Amicable Divorce Network. He or she will be able to advise you on how to proceed. 

My main piece of advice when it comes to selecting the right professionals to support you in your divorce is : be clear about what you require and trust your gut with regards to whom you feel you can trust. 

3.     The right mindset

The final essential ingredient for achieving an amicable divorce is to set off with the right expectations and mindset. Poor advice or bad information often lead people to underestimate the time and effort required to divorce. The first misconception is that amicable divorce is only an option when the spouses agree on everything. That is not the case, nor is it realistic to expect a couple to agree on absolutely everything. Every divorce involves conflict. What allows people to negotiate an agreement without litigation is a commitment to maintaining control of the conversation rather than asking a judge to make the decision for them. This commitment requires ongoing communication, resilience, and an ability to think creatively when negotiations come to a standstill.  It means that all parties must understand, from the outset, that there will be no winner or loser. Defining what success looks like for my clients allows them to know what a good agreement looks like for them. This will not consist in getting everything they want. It consists in obtaining the elements that are priorities for them, and being comfortable that they can live with the terms of their arrangements in the long term. 

It is often said that the F word in divorce is Fair. Divorce is not meant to be fair; it is not an opportunity to obtain emotional justice nor to get revenge on your spouse. It is important to shift your mindset away from the concept of fairness towards the concept of good. The objective is to reach a “good agreement”, one that gives you the main assurances you need, but also gives the other person what they need. This will remove opportunities for resentment later on from either party.  Be prepared to feel like you have given in on certain subjects that still matter to you.   Both parties will feel that way, but that is ok because you will have signed an agreement that you have deemed acceptable and viable.

The final and most important mindset shift in achieving a no-regret divorce relates to the children. People often think that divorce is a “you versus me” conversation. What I get versus what you get. Who gets the children at Christmas vs at Thanksgiving. But in the middle of all these conversations are the children. Discussions about parenting plans aren’t about either parent’s time with the children, it is about the children’s time with their parents. Decisions about who keeps the house are directly related to where the children will live and which school they will attend. By keeping their focus on the best interest of the children and on their true values, divorcing couples will often find that important decisions will become much easier to reach. Many people leverage child-inclusive mediation to ensure the voice of the child is heard. But even without asking the children themselves about their own preferences, parents ultimately know what is in their children’s best interests. If they are being honest with themselves and set aside their own emotions and interests, they will find that their children’s wellbeing is usually the one thing divorcing parents can both agree on.

The intent of these three tips is to highlight the importance of entering divorce fully prepared and with your eyes wide open. Preparation, from a logistical, support and mindset perspective is key. Taking the time to work through the 3 points above might seem like an extra delay or an unnecessary expense.  It is, on the contrary, an upfront investment in a successful, negotiated divorce, which will ultimately save you even more time, money and stress.

Chloe O. is a leading Certified Divorce Coach for International and ExPat Families. She is a member of the Amicable Divorce Network and can be contacted via our Membership Directory or her website

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