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What are you feeling as you head toward divorce? Common answers include hurt, anger, shame, guilt, stress, fear and anxiety. You’re unlikely to answer that you’re feeling “optimistic” or “co-operative,” but it’s important during a divorce to stay focused on your future goals.

If you’re angry and hurt, a high-conflict courtroom battle might feel like a chance to exact vengeance, but such battles rarely offer the best path toward future success. Especially if you have young children, the steps you take to reduce the conflict in your divorce can pay off in the long run.

Think past the process to focus on your goals

When you have children, your divorce doesn’t end your relationship with your former spouse. Instead, your relationship changes. You’ll still work together to raise the kids, but that work gets a lot harder if a nasty courtroom battle leaves one or both parties hurt and resentful.

As a result, courts and lawyers often advise parents to try settling their differences in mediation. Studies show that people who seek mediation typically do a better job of co-parenting after their divorces than those who fight their battles in court. There are several reasons this may be the case:

  • Less conflict during the divorce. Divorce is tough on children. They feel caught in the middle, and they often blame themselves for their parents’ arguments. Reducing the conflict between parents helps children recover. Using mediation to reduce the conflict during the divorce can be an early win.
  • Less conflict after the divorce. Parents who resolve their difference in mediation tend to harbor less resentment. This smooths the way for better co-parenting. Less post-divorce conflict often leads to happy and more successful kids.
  • A good precedent for future disputes. Most couples who get divorced have had trouble with communication and conflict resolution. Amplifying those problems in court won’t really position you for the successful resolution of your next conflict, and divorced parents of young children are likely to find more conflicts. During mediation, you may discover other ways to solve your future problems.
  • Quicker and cheaper. On top of the other reasons you might want to seek mediation are the facts it’s generally quicker and less expensive than going to court. That leaves you more time and money to feed, clothe, educate and entertain your children.

It’s important to remember that divorce is a process. Your life—and your children’s lives—will continue well after the divorce papers have been finalized. Even if you think you can “win” in court, your children are more likely to benefit if you aim farther ahead toward your years as an effective co-parent. In fact, Illinois Supreme Court rules require you to resolve your custody and parenting issues in mediation, so it’s usually not a giant leap to seek mediation for your other disputes as well.

Plan farther ahead

When you think about the type of life you want and the relationship you want to have with your children, are they summarized by percentages of time, property and money? Not likely. Those are important, but they don’t always lead to lives that are safe, healthy, happy and successful. Even in the middle of divorce, you’ll want to think about the type of life you really want to live and the steps you can take to reach your goals. An experienced attorney can help you reach past the hurt to find your options.