By Val Hemminger; Westshore Lawyer, serving British Columbia
Is a friendly divorce an oxymoron? Some would say so; however, just because you are thinking about getting a divorce, it does not mean it can’t be a friendly divorce or amicable process to get you there. A friendly divorce is also known as an amicable divorce. In short, it is a way of getting to a final and binding separation agreement without darkening the courtroom door. A friendly divorce avoids the need for a legal battle. At Pathway Legal we talk about friendly divorce options available in British Columbia as ones that avoid the courtroom.
3. Rebuilding Life After Divorce
A friendly divorce also lets you start rebuilding your life after divorce much sooner than if you chose litigation versus mediation and other dispute resolution methods.
Jump to see The 10 Ways to Increase the Likelihood of Getting a Friendly Divorce in British Columbia.
When you commit to a friendly divorce process in British Columbia, you have many methods available called (alternative) dispute resolution. Here are just a few dispute resolution methodologies we use at Pathway Legal:
Because we are lawyers that focus specifically on family law matters, we know first-hand that when people seek our assistance, it is because they are going through a divorce. If their families were highly functional, they wouldn’t be looking for a divorce lawyer in the first place. Now that they are getting a divorce, avoiding high conflict and court is essential whenever possible. There are oodles of reasons for this. Divorcing without court, that is getting all matters settled and resolved without being dragged through the court system is good for you, and good for your children.
Unfortunately, separating parties are sometimes unwittingly dragged through an expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally traumatizing court process that can easily be avoided. Don’t let this happen to your family if you can avoid it.
You want to avoid the many negative things that can occur to you and your entire family. This is particularly the case if you are divorcing with children. Families do not belong in courtrooms.
At the end of this article, I will tell you some ways you can achieve a friendly divorce, but first, let’s explore the downside. Avoiding a high-conflict divorce process and obtaining an amicable and friendly divorce whenever possible while avoiding many pitfalls. What are those pitfalls?
Before examining at the 10 ways to increase the likelihood of getting a friendly divorce in British Columbia, let's look at the pitfalls of NOT having an amicable divorce! There is a significant downside.
A high-conflict divorce can and usually does get very expensive. In our experience, resolving the legal aspects of your family law matter using friendly divorce methods such as mediation costs a fraction of what people pay to drag matters through the court system.
A friendly divorce avoids overwhelming emotional stress and turmoil. Getting divorced is hard enough. You don’t need to add easily avoidable legal battles to the mix. Make sure you hire a lawyer that values friendly divorce methods. It is no coincidence that it is always the same divorce lawyers who repeatedly drag their clients through courtrooms. At Pathway Legal, we use the court system as a last resort and do everything possible to avoid the stress of a high-conflict divorce.
If you remember this fact: you are still a family, and even though your family looks much different than you expected when you first fell in love, you are more likely to get through the entire legal process while still maintaining respect, and even compassion for your ex-spouse. A friendly divorce allows you to be a family still. When families end up in courtrooms, they throw the worst of everything at each other, and those relationships never recover.
Once they have decided to get a divorce, most people want to get through the process and start building a new life for themselves. Why wait right? Well, the problem with not getting a friendly divorce is that it takes time, a long time, to see your matter resolved. In our experience, when we utilize dispute resolution strategies available for a friendly divorce in British Columbia, we can get to a final legally binding agreement anywhere from two to six months after being hired. Whenever the court system becomes involved, sometimes, those months become years. Wouldn’t you rather just get on with your life? Most people do.
If you have kids, they will be impacted if you do not get a friendly divorce. Even if you and your ex-spouse do everything possible to shield them from the ugliness of court, if there are court proceedings, they will know about it in some way. Even if they are not specifically aware that a court case is happening, they will pick up on the stress, frustration, and even financial concerns you have because you are engaged in a court process.
The turmoil associated with not getting a friendly divorce impacts your kids and you, and court proceedings will also likely have significant consequences for your other relationships. When going through stressful times, we will seek the support of friends and family. Although friends and family are often happy to assist us in times of need, it can be exhausting and stressful for them too. Friends and family can become “fed up” with lengthy and tumultuous litigation almost just as much as the parties themselves.
If you didn’t want your “dirty laundry” aired for everyone to see and know about, court proceedings are public. Absolutely anyone can walk into your court proceedings and learn about some of the most intimate details of your personal life. When you utilize a methodology for a friendly divorce in British Columbia, you get to keep your negotiations and settlements confidential between you, your ex-spouse and your lawyers. Nobody gets to dig into your personal life without your consent.
Regardless of whether or not you are in the “right,” court proceedings impact your reputation. Think of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Even though our dear Johnny “won”, his reputation has been tarnished by that very famous court battle. Although your court battle will likely not be so public, famous, or dramatic, people gossip, and your reputation will likely be affected.
Just because court is over, does not mean the conflict will end. If you have gone to court against your ex-spouse, it will be a knock ‘em down and drag ‘em out-type situation, at least to a certain degree. Once people have had that kind of fight, it is unlikely that they will ever get along in future. This is particularly a problem if you have kids. If you've had a big court battle, will both of you be able to attend your children’s school concerts, sports events, soccer practices, and weddings?
When you use dispute resolution to resolve your matter, you have much more control over how long the process takes, how much the process will cost, how much stress it causes you, and whether or not you and your ex-spouse will have a relatively positive future relationship.
So, now you know about the benefits of obtaining an amicable divorce in British Columbia.
As I write this, I have a very high-conflict case. Unfortunately, the other party, I will call her Martha, hired a lawyer that is not well versed or trained in dispute resolution. Martha happens to have a borderline personality disorder. To say she is difficult to love is an understatement. Martha has put up a fight every step of the way and even the most simple of things, such as dividing personal possessions has become profoundly difficult. Her ex-spouse, I will call him Jason, has been frustrated beyond belief that the mediation/arbitration process has been moving so slowly.
These are just some of the things Martha has done in the past number of months (and yes, there has been police involvement):
Because Martha is dramatic, difficult, has wild mood swings, and blames Jason for all of her problems while refusing to settle even the simplest of issues, her first lawyer withdrew from the case.
She hired another lawyer and unfortunately for Jason, the new lawyer combined with Martha’s personality disorder has only increased the conflict. The new lawyer clearly does not have any meaningful dispute resolution training. As a result, most of his cases end up in trial or arbitration. Martha’s new lawyer is combative and embroiled in Martha’s narrative. It is challenging to move the case forward because of Martha’s new lawyer’s court schedule.
Martha does not appreciate that the kind of lawyer she hired is not the kind of lawyer that will bring her case closer to resolution. There is no such thing as a friendly divorce in this circumstance.
(Or, if you are too sad and angry to be communicative and cooperative just yet, get your lawyer to be communicative and cooperative.)
When I say be communicative, I am not saying be communicative the way Martha has been with Jason. She repeatedly texts him, emails him, and shows up at his home uninvited. When she communicates, she throws many insults and Jason and swears at him. Jason is in the process of obtaining a restraining order.
To accomplish a friendly divorce, you want to ensure your communications are helpful, cooperative, and not combative.
Court battles are often avoided if you are able to “give” a little. Most often, what you have to “give” is nothing compared to the outrageous cost of court.
Martha is not able to compromise at all. Jason can be stubborn too, so these parties have spent more on the fight with each other than they will ever see from one another’s assets.
Your family just looks way different than you expected it to compared to when you first fell in love.
The process can still be challenging even if you are pursuing a friendly divorce. This is to be expected. You are dealing with your financial future, your future as a parent, and are going to have a life you expected to be much different than it is. It is a lot to get used to. Even in mediation, things can get very tense with the parties, however, it is most often much less tension than the alternative.
You and your ex-spouse are going to have to deal with each other and mastering respectful and assertive communication will bring you a long way.
If you can, be kind to your ex-spouse. if you can, have compassion for your ex-spouse. Be fair. Be respectful. Admit your mistakes even if just to yourself. Engage in a forgiveness practice. Think win-win.
Never lose sight that the other party is half of who your kids are.
Martha is not getting rid of her lawyer, and the proceedings are becoming protracted and expensive, not to mention stressful, for both Martha and Jason.
Your future is closer than you think. Even though you might be knee-deep in stress at the moment, a friendly divorce will get you to the goal of a better future sooner rather than later. The more you focus upon what that future looks like, the better.
Jason is focusing on his future, while Martha is not. She is focused on the past and is hanging on to blaming Jason for her unhappiness while refusing to take any responsibility for her actions. Jason has long since given up hope of having a friendly divorce.
I would continue talking about this, but I have to get back to the situation regarding Martha and Jason and apply for that restraining order ...