This article was published in Rochester Woman Magazine, July 2002

The Decision To Divorce:
The First Of Many Decisions

By Carolyn T. Bryson, Family Mediator

Julie and Bill have been married for 15 years. Both in their late thirties, they are parents to three children ages 13, 9 and 5. Julie is a high school teacher and Bill is an engineer. Both have been in marriage counseling for several months. Each describes the home environment as very stressful and express concern about how their anger and frustration toward one another is affecting their children. Both state that the marriage is over and that they have put off the inevitable long enough. They are concerned about costs and express uncertainty about what to do next. Their therapist suggests divorce mediation.

There are many decisions to be made during divorce, such as how the children will adjust, how to parent when the two of you are no longer together, and how to survive financially as a single person, now and down the road. Making decisions during an emotionally traumatic time in your life can be confusing, overwhelming, frightening. But know that you have choices and that you need not be alone during this vulnerable time. The key is to empower yourself with good information, choose to make informed decisions, and utilize resources to help guide and support you along the way. This is why divorce mediation works for so many people; it respects and nurtures your decision-making process.

No Two Divorces Are Alike

Whether you are considering a divorce, or know of someone who is, the experience does not have to be an ugly, painful and overly expensive ordeal. Don't allow horror stories about people losing their home or paying outrageous legal fees, or about parents losing their parental rights fuel your fear and cloud your judgement. Rather, choose to do your research and think things through so that your decisions accurately reflect you and your spouses' intentions, while addressing your needs and interests.

Empower Yourself

By working with a divorce mediator, you are encouraged to consult with financial planners, bankers, attorneys and other professionals to help you understand your options. There are numerous web sites, books and presentations available about grounds for divorce, joint and sole custody, requirements for a legal separation, financial considerations, tax consequences and budget preparation. Collecting facts about the process and acquiring the information that you need not only boosts your self-confidence about how to deal with the present circumstances, but it will secure a higher level of self-esteem as you map out your future. Remember, the objective to divorce is to survive it well, and prepare yourself and your children to live and sufficiently support yourself as an independent individual. Realize that people do survive divorce, and so will you.

You Have Choices

Among your decisions is to determine how much control you and your spouse want to maintain during your divorce process. The question is, do you want to make the ultimate decisions or do you want someone else to?

Using a professional divorce mediator will help you and your spouse discuss and decide about child custody and residency, the parenting plan, asset and debt distribution, spousal maintenance and child support. When the line of communication is open, decisions can be made in an expeditious and inexpensive manner, because they are made by you and not someone else.

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