Coming Together to Come Apart

By Kim Johnson

Just two sentences with a total of 12 words.  A seemingly unemotional announcement, yet my life as I knew it completely dissolved within a matter of seconds.  I had only just realized something was going on, confronting him three weeks prior to that fateful day.  Yet, here I was freefalling into the black abyss of a separation that would end in divorce.  As I struggled to regain my sense of balance, he had already retained an attorney.  So my only recourse was to do the same even though I could not believe we were going to do battle over modest remains of our twenty-year marriage.

With opposing attorneys, neither of us had planned to negotiate.  Nevertheless, because he wanted out of the marriage as quickly as possible and I just wanted the pain to go away, we ended up working together to divide our assets and to complete any necessary settlement decisions.  The divorce was final within seven months.  That was eighteen years ago.  Since that time I have come to understand just how fortunate I was to have emerged from that excruciating situation relatively intact.  Not only that, the cost was comparatively low given that we worked together on the final agreement.

Appreciation, however, did not come quickly.  In fact, it was not until I began to lead a divorce recovery program some years ago that I truly realized how blessed I was.  In this role, I endeavor to help those navigating the same dark waters I once negotiated to experience emotional healing.  More and more however, I am finding that along with the difficulty of dealing with the emotional devastation, the majority become completely frustrated with the adversarial nature of the divorce process.  It is lengthy, confusing at times and costly, leaving everyone feeling angry that they have ostensibly lost all control over their life.

That is why I passionately advocate the collaborative divorce process when asked for a legal recommendation.  Divorce is never easy.  However, by taking a shared path on the divorce journey, issues can be mutually resolved.  From a legal standpoint, collective goals that consider everyone’s needs help minimize hostilities and prevent the process from becoming completely antagonistic.  And when there are children involved, this is so much better.

It is unfortunate that the central theme of the legal divorce process is to win at all cost when in reality no one wins.  That is why a holistic perspective through collaboration brings the best of all worlds to the table and the outcome is ultimately the best for everyone concerned.

Kim Johnson is a lead facilitator for the Yorba Linda Friends Church DivorceCare Program.  DivorceCare is designed to help adults recover from the pain of separation and divorce.  To learn more about the DivorceCare program, visit www.ylfc.org  or call 714-974-5390.