I recently heard a quote that really resonated: “Love your kids more than you hate your ex.”  Although I’ve seen a fair share of hatred in my divorce mediation practice, I’ve also seen a lot of respect. Which brings me to this week’s topic — divorce doesn’t have to get ugly.

We all know people who have suffered through an ugly divorce. Feelings such as hurt, anger, blame, resentment, fear, and uncertainty all play a part. The inability to deal with these feelings can unintentionally stir the pot, and so can aggressive lawyers.

In a perfect world, I’d like to see newlyweds pinkie swear that if the relationship takes a detour, their behavior toward each other will remain on the high road.  I have a four-step plan to accomplish this:

Step 1:  Don’t keep it a secret that you’re unhappy.  Tell your partner what’s not working for you.

Step 2:  Have a heart-to-heart about whether the problems are fixable or terminal.

Step 3:  Take some responsibility for your own contribution to the relationship issues.  As trite as it may sound, it does take two.

Step 4:  If you’re calling it quits, say goodbye with respect.

I realize that this is a tall order.  But if you’re thinking about ending your relationship and you’re starting to ask for attorney referrals, I’d like you to consider mediation as an alternative.  While I have nothing against attorneys, particularly since practically everyone in my family is an attorney, or a paralegal, or a judge, I want you to understand that divorce litigation is a huge business.  And because it’s big business, it costs big bucks.  If you think your attorney’s retainer fee is all you’ll have to pay, please think again.  For example, you might have to have your deposition taken.  So add in the court reporter’s fees.  If there’s a business involved, you’ll need to have it valued by a forensic accountant.  And seeing a family therapist is always a good idea to help your kids adjust to the divorce.  Don’t forget about filing fees, and photocopying charges.  It all can add up, at least in Clark County, Nevada, to a whopping average cost of $29,000!!  Talk about ugly!

I want to make it clear that not all divorcing people are candidates for mediation.  There may be complex legal issues requiring the assistance of a judge to sort out.  But if you’re willing to consider the four steps listed above, a mediator is, at the very least, an excellent place to start.  The primary difference between mediation and litigation is that in mediation you are able to decide your own outcome.  In fact, you are required to make your own decisions.  A mediator will simply help you sift through the complicated process of ending your relationship.  If you go the attorney/litigation route, you are likely entrusting a judge to decide what’s best for you and your family.  In Vegas, we call that rolling the dice.