“Conscious uncoupling” is a term popularized by Gwyneth Paltrow and her ex-husband Chris Martin, who kept their emotions and baggage out of their divorce in order to provide safety and consistency for their children – even going so far as to have family dinners and vacations. However, you don’t need to stay that friendly with your ex in order to have a good divorce. Here are some steps you can take to keep conflict to a minimum.
- Hire a low-conflict attorney. The film Marriage Story includes a very compelling example of how a shark attorney (played by Ray Liotta) can turn a potentially low conflict divorce into a battle royale. If you want a sane divorce, you must hire a lawyer who believes in keeping divorces as low conflict as possible. When interviewing prospective attorneys, find out how many cases they mediate, and how many they litigate. Ask about their philosophy of divorce: do they strive to keep divorce as positive as possible, and if so, what steps do they take to make that happen? By the way, low conflict doesn’t equal a doormat attorney. It means an attorney who is highly skilled enough to know how to both get the fairest settlement for their client while still keeping the situation defused and on track.
- Mediate. Mediation is the fastest, most cost-effective way to divorce. Some parties choose to have an attorney present to advise them during the mediation, or will send the agreement to their attorney afterwards for review. Unlike litigators, mediators are not interested in proving who’s “at fault” or who’s the “best parent.” Their goal is solely to help couples reach compromises so they can settle all financial and custody issues expediently and amicably – without going to court.
- Get off on the right foot. How you begin the marital dissolution process sets the tone for not only the divorce proceedings, but also your post-divorce life and co-parenting relationship. For instance, formally serving your STBX with divorce papers, announcing you want to split on Valentine’s Day, and other high-drama maneuvers will immediately turn the two of you into opponents. Starting the divorce as gently as possible will increase the odds that you can settle amicably and, if you have children, help you transition to an effective co-parenting relationship.
- Be careful whom you vent to. It’s normal to lean on friends and family for support, but beware the perils of spouse-bashing. Your loved ones may join you in turning your former partner into the villain, which will then fuel your sense of victimhood. Friends and relatives may be angry and fearful for you, and project these feelings onto you. All these heightened emotions will lead you away from what you truly want: peace of mind and a commitment to moving forward with grace.
- Don’t put the kids in the middle. In order to prioritize your children’s well-being, it’s imperative that you facilitate your ex’s relationship with them. This means that you support their visitation time, make important parenting decisions together, and never speak badly about your ex in front of the children. Trying to manage your co-parent’s behavior, or telegraphing to the kids that the only parent they need to listen to is you, will inflame conflict and create anxiety and confusion for your kids.
- Think of your ex as your business partner. Well-divorced couples are able to put grievances aside and transition from a romantic relationship to a business relationship. You are now co-CEOs of a valuable “company” called Our Children. If you want your company to thrive, you and your STBX (soon-to-be-ex) must be able to communicate effectively, manage emotions, and share a parenting vision.
Conscious uncoupling is possible when both people take charge of their own personal growth work and focus on creating a harmonious environment of their children – and for themselves. It really is the key to a good divorce.
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