Many people contemplate and give great thought to starting a divorce. A person considering divorce wonders about cost and timing and how to tell their spouse they want to initiate the process. Many attorneys talk about filing papers with the court to start a divorce or serving papers on the other spouse. People also think about how to tell the children or extended family members they want a divorce. Very few people think about how the divorce process ends. On the one hand, divorce ends with a Judgment from the Court granting the divorce. However, there are many emotional and relational endings to divorce as well. In collaborative divorce, after couples have respectfully worked together to come up with resolutions, the end of the divorce can take many forms. Here are some recent examples of how the collaborative divorce process can end:
  • In a particularly challenging case with a lot of anger and distrust, Wife reached across the table at the end to shake her then ex-Husband’s hand. It took a lot of effort to make that gesture, but it was well received by Husband. Years later, Wife told her attorney that the day they signed papers and shook hands was the day they began healing their relationship. For their children’s sake, that handshake started some necessary changes in their relationship. Over time, their co-parenting relationship greatly improved.
  • One couple hugged each other at the end of the process. They went out to have a drink together and toast their new beginnings.
  • One client was overheard telling her attorney she was “going to miss her” and may need to stop by her office just to catch up. The attorney provided needed support and guidance through this difficult transition and it was hard for the client to say “good-bye” to that support at the end.
  • A child specialist sent an email to both parents at the end of the divorce process. The child specialist congratulated the parents for working so hard to come up with resolutions that kept the children at the center of the process (and not in the middle). The child specialist specifically identified strengths and positive characteristics of both parents and their children. He wished them all well and offered to be an ongoing resource if needed. He entitled the email “The Beginning.”
It is clear that the end of divorce is also the beginning of life after divorce. A good ending makes for a better beginning. In an adversarial divorce, the ending is often arrived at the pinnacle of anger and frustration. In collaborative divorce, where the resolutions have been arrived at through a respectful process, the ending is often peaceful. This peaceful ending leads to a solid and positive beginning.