Carol Bailey is an attorney here in Seattle with a strong interest in more peaceful divorce processes. In an article in the Seattle PI blog last February, she talked about amicable divorces, making several very good points.
No matter what your spouse decides to do, how amicable you are in your divorce is a conscious choice you make, and in every decision you make in the process of your divorce you can choices to be more or less amicable. As Carol points out, the choices you make can have a long term impact on you and your children.
One choice you make is in the attorney you hire. You can choose an attorney who is going to stoke the fires of conflict, riding forth to do battle, leaving nothing but scorched earth, or you can choose an attorney who will seek to limit the level of conflict, to find reasonable out of court solutions, and protect your interests in the least contentious way. Some attorneys only know one way to practice law – they way they learned when they were starting out – while other attorneys may be trained in a variety of dispute resolution techniques.
Many places in the case there are options to choose from that may be more or less inflammatory. I like to tell my clients that every time they unnecessarily tick off their spouse in the divorce, there will be a price to pay later. If you want your spouse to play fair with you, you have to play fair with them first. Decision points can include whether to serve the initial papers on the other party or to ask them to accept service, or whether to try and have the other spouse barred from entering the house or not.
One place where there are some major choices to make involves whether you are going to treat the other spouse as the co-parent of your children or someone they have to be protected from. Sometimes there are situations the children really do have to be protected from – violence, substance abuse, etc. Other times we see parents trying to keep the children from the other spouse simply out of spite, or because they think the other spouse as not as good a parent as they are. If there are real issues, there may be ways of dealing with those issues if the parents can work with each other in a more cooperative spirit. Those can include voluntary treatment or parenting education, agreed limits on time spent with a parent, or dispute resolution processes (maybe a professional child specialist) to help move past differences in parenting philosophies.
The choices you make now create the path you will walk down later.