You didn’t imagine you’d be in this situation when you said your vows. I’m not going to ask you to be happy about it right now. But I will tell you that a divorce doesn’t have to be a torturous process filled with screaming matches, angry courtroom scenes, or traumatized children.
An amicable divorce is possible for many couples — even ones who are angry with each other. Going the amicable route can make a difficult situation less painful.
So how can you choose a more peaceful process?
What is an amicable divorce?
First, let’s talk about what exactly an amicable divorce is. At the most basic level, an amicable divorce is one where the two parties come to a legal divorce agreement that works for both of them, generally outside the courtroom.
You may have heard of an uncontested divorce. What’s the difference between an amicable divorce and an uncontested divorce?
You could have both an amicable and an uncontested divorce. “Uncontested” has a specific legal meaning in the context of divorce. It means that the parties agreed on all terms of the divorce prior to filing their petition with the court.
Amicable divorce is often an uncontested divorce, but the term is more about the tone of the divorce process. And it’s important to note that you can still have an amicable divorce even if your spouse has already filed with the court, meaning it’s technically going to be a contested case. An uncontested divorce attorney can help you de-escalate the process and bring it down to an amicable tone even if the case is already filed.
Unfortunately, many attorneys simply file the case right away rather than trying to help their client reach an agreement outside the courtroom.
What is the Amicable Divorce Network?
The Amicable Divorce Network (ADN) is an organization made up of attorneys and other professionals that work to help couples have amicable divorces.
ADN follows the Divorce Amicably process, which requires that the divorcing couple commit to certain timelines and a roadmap where no one files with the court until all issues are resolved.
I’m a member of ADN, and it’s an important organization doing valuable work. That being said, you can absolutely have an amicable divorce even if you don’t go through their network.
Steps to take for an amicable divorce
Amicable divorce is all about problem solving the divorce process rather than treating it as a competitive event. You and your spouse both want to end the marriage and move on. What’s the best way to do that?
Decide what your primary goal is
The most important step to having an amicable divorce is knowing what your goal is. Whenever emotions start to rise, you can turn to your goal and remind yourself why you’re keeping things peaceful.
Maybe you don’t want your personal business to be part of a public record, so you’re committed to keeping your divorce out of the courtroom.
Perhaps you have young kids, and you want to keep their lives as peaceful and drama-free as possible during a divorce.
Maybe you just want to maintain your integrity.
Whatever the reason, hold it close so that you can call on it whenever you want to do something that won’t be in the best interests of an amicable divorce.
Focus on moving forward
The point of a divorce is to divide your assets and legally end your marriage. It’s not to punish your spouse or prove who’s the most responsible for your marriage’s demise. Putting your energy into blaming your spouse will only get you a messier, longer, and probably more expensive divorce.
Instead, focus on what comes next — hopefully a positive new chapter in your life.
Of course, you may have feelings of anger, resentment, or blame. The key is to separate those from the divorce process. Talk about them in therapy or with a good friend, and then leave them at the door when you’re engaged in negotiations with your spouse.
Treat your spouse as you would want to be treated
This may seem like an odd time to turn to the golden rule. But on the whole, people are much more likely to treat us well when we treat them well. So it’s probably in your best interest to go into any negotiations with as open a mind as you can muster.
And above all, be honest. When you’re negotiating over how to divide assets or what custody arrangements will look like, don’t try to play games or hide the ball from your spouse.
Those underhand tactics may end up backfiring by sending you into the courtroom, where you’ll spend more money and have much less control over the resulting divorce order.
Be ready to compromise
You’re not going to get everything you want. Neither will your spouse. Figure out what’s important to you and what you’re willing to compromise on.
If you want your divorce to drag on for months (or years), then being unwilling to compromise on anything you want is a great strategy. But I’m guessing that doesn’t sound good to you.
Compromise is a necessary part of any amicable divorce process. It may not be easy, but remember that primary goal you came up with at the beginning? Use that to help you through the tough times.
Hire an uncontested divorce attorney
Not all divorce lawyers are interested in helping clients keep their divorce out of the courtroom. For many, the first step in the divorce process is automatic — file a case in court to get the ball rolling.
But that’s often not the best first step, especially when the couple might be able to come to an agreement and then file for an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces are usually less time-consuming and less costly than contested divorces.
You’ll be less likely to end up in court if you work with someone who’s demonstrated a commitment to helping couples resolve divorce outside the courtroom.
Get help from professionals
Going through a divorce — even an amicable one — is challenging. You may need various types of support.
Aside from your attorney, three types of professionals can be particularly helpful during the divorce process.
- Therapists. An individual therapist can help you work through the emotions in a useful way so you can avoid blow-ups with your spouse. Co-parenting counselors can also be especially helpful for divorcing couples who have children. A counselor can guide you through the process of becoming co-parents after divorce.
- Financial advisors. A financial coach or advisor can help you understand and make decisions about your financial future.
- Mediators. Not all divorcing couples go through mediation, but it can be a useful step if you’ve hit an impasse in your own negotiations. Mediators aren’t judges, so they don’t decide your case for you. What they can do is help you work through any sticky issues with the goal of an agreement you both think is fair.
At Porchlight, we work with clients to have uncontested and amicable divorces so they can focus on what comes next. Schedule a Strategy Session today.