You’ve decided to end your relationship and I’m sure it took a great deal of soul-searching, endless talks with your support system and, finally, the most difficult conversation of all — telling your partner.
Now what? Obviously, there are many options to cutting the ties, and also obviously, mediation is my preference. Regardless of whether you choose to do it yourself, hire a paralegal, hire a mediator, or go into full-blown “my-attorney-is-meaner-than-yours” mode, there are things to think about, and to prepare for, before you proceed.
With an eye towards mediation, I want to share some things for you to consider.
Number 1: Fair and Equal are Two Different Things. Equal is math. It’s simple — divide by two. Fair, on the other hand, is a perception, and everybody has a different opinion as to what is fair. My job, as a Mediator, is to help you communicate your idea of what’s fair, and of equal importance, to help you understand what fair means to the other person. This isn’t always easy.
Number 2: Forget about what’s right. Forget about being right. Forget about blaming your partner for the end of the relationship. It has no relevance to the mediation process, and it slows down your ability to move forward.
Number 3: Accept the fact that you’re probably going to have to talk about your feelings. Not with the intention of convincing anyone that you’re right (see Number 2), but instead, with the intention of validating those feelings, and understanding your partner’s feelings. Anger, betrayal, resentment, sarcasm, disappointment, hurt, and fear are all inevitable in the divorce process. Expressing yourself in the Mediator’s office is probable. It’s also safe.
Number 4: Do your homework. Talking about your feelings is one thing. Talking about your finances is entirely different, and it requires preparation. Know what you’ve got, know what you owe, know what you need for now, and know what you’re going to need in the future. If your partner typically handles the finances, now is the time to acquaint yourself with your assets and liabilities. Make copies of your prior tax returns. Even run a credit report. You cannot discuss finances if you haven’t a clue about your own.
Number 5: Talk to your friends, your family, your colleagues. It’s important to have a support system during this difficult time. Now, please reread the first sentence of this paragraph, and note the word “talk.” I didn’t suggest that you listen, because nobody else’s experience is the same as yours. So if your sister’s best friend’s cousin got $10,000 a month in alimony, it certainly doesn’t mean that you’ll get the same. And if your boss and his wife share 50:50 custody of their kids, it doesn’t mean it’s the right solution for your family. Make sense?
Number 6: Before you decide to hire someone, conduct some interviews. Make sure you’re comfortable with who you hire, and that you trust his/her expertise. If you choose a mediator, congratulations!
I’m a big fan of the mediation process (obviously). Next week, I’ll explain why.