You have decided to divorce. How to do it?
Go to a Divorce Options class and find out how it all works. You can get a good sense of which process to use by attending this class where all of the options are reviewed. In SF and other counties, it’s inexpensive, and in some counties it’s free.
Get support from family and friends for yourself and your children, and maybe even for your spouse, if possible. Let the people close to you know that you want to divorce respectfully. Even if you have to litigate, try to find a lawyer who supports a peaceful solution. Some of the attorneys on the CP site do litigation as well as mediation and collaborative divorce.
Can we use a collaborative divorce model if one or both of us have issues with substance abuse or other addictions?
Sometimes. A collaborative model might help you come to a divorce solution that better meets your needs than a court order by a judge. A collaborative approach gives you the benefit of a neutral coach for both of you, and a coach for each of you to help you through the process. It may also help to have a child specialist to represent to each of you the needs of your children. The neutral professionals can be easier to hear than the spouse you are divorcing. With substance abuse or even with behavioral addictions (like gambling or sex addiction for instance), you may not be able to get through a mediation process without that help.
In order to use a consensual process like collaborative, both parties have to be honest about the factors in contention.
If one or both of you can’t think clearly enough about the issues, or if you can’t trust each other enough, or if you are TOO angry to work together on creating an outcome that works for both of you and prioritizes your children, then you may have to go through a traditional litigation where a judge makes the decisions.
How do I protect my children?
Keep your children front and center. Children survive divorce and thrive when conflict is minimized. Even adult or young adult children often react strongly to divorce, and you will want to consider them as well.
How younger children will be cared for is a top concern. If someone’s use is totally out of control, they may not be able to be with the children without supervision. Even if their use is mildly out of control, there may need to be some agreements and even accountability (testing sometimes) regarding childcare. In cases where one person or both people’s lives are chaotic due to substance use and other addictions, the children may need to be protected from exposure to that chaos. Sometimes other family members can help. Sometimes treatment for the addiction might be agreed upon. In fact, treatment for you and the children can also be helpful.
With addictions often comes financial pressures. If money is flowing out towards addictive behaviors, you may want to consult an attorney quickly about how to protect your assets.
One of your concerns may be the cost of the divorce. Divorce is costly. A collaborative divorce is more expensive up front, because you are paying a team of professionals. In a collaborative divorce, part of the team is a financial neutral who can help you plan ways to ameliorate and help you understand the financial impact of the divorce. If the result can be obtained quickly with the support of collaborative, it may end up less expensive than litigation, but each situation is unique.
More about the children
Again, the children are affected by how you handle your divorce. Refrain from saying negative things about your spouse, or former spouse in front of the children. It can be difficult to remember and to do, but it’s extremely important to stay positive about their other parent in direct communication with your children and anywhere they can hear you.
It’s best also to avoid discussing finances or division of property in earshot of the children. They are part of each of you, and when you put down their other parent, you put them down. If you are very angry, tell someone else, privately. You can tell the children that the parent has the disease of addiction but try to stay as neutral and compassionate as possible in telling them this. Make sure to tell them that their other parent loves them even if they can’t show it. Do it for the children.