If you are going through a divorce, you’re never alone in your struggle. Each year, roughly one divorce occurs every 36 seconds. That equates to approximately 2,400 divorces per day in the United States. When going through a divorce, the hopes and dreams you once had for your married life with your spouse vanish. Not to mention, you are now faced with finding a way to get through a tumultuous experience in the most sensible and peaceful way possible — legally, morally, financially, and emotionally. How will you do it?
The solution can be difficult to pinpoint because of the inherent consequences of initiating a divorce. How will your spouse react? If you and your spouse are still living together during this COVID-19 pandemic, how will you broach the subject without fear of backlash? The reality is that divorce, in the best of circumstances, will have a significant impact on almost every part of your life, including your children (if you have children, they are likely your first priority right now), your schedule, your living arrangements, your sense of identity, the way you spend your weekends and holidays, and even who your friends are. It can be challenging to move on, mentally, and logistically. Before you begin the process of initiating a divorce, it is important to know that there are techniques you may find useful for getting through your divorce in the most peaceful way possible, as well as different methods to approach a divorce.
Find Ways to Defuse Anger, Outbursts, and Rage
If you are going through, or believe you will be going through a Massachusetts divorce that tends to result in outbursts or acts of anger and rage, it may be more difficult to divorce peacefully. Complex emotions are normal, but your ability to control your reaction in difficult situations is very important during this time. Not only will you first have to learn to settle your differences with your former spouse, but you must also learn to move forward without anger, jealousy, or bitterness. This can be very difficult in practice. Learning constructive methods to defuse negative emotions will help you cope overall - and it will also lessen the negative emotional impact of divorce on your children. To learn these coping mechanisms, you may choose to enlist the help of a family member, friend, or therapist. There are many techniques a therapist can help teach you to defuse anger in high conflict scenarios- even if you need to meet with your therapist virtually for the time being.
A Few of the Different Ways to Divorce, and Which Are Most Peaceful
Although there is no cut-and-dry, black-and-white method of employing a "peaceful divorce," there are a variety of methods you can consider to both ease any tension during the process and make things feel more amicable. The most effective methods to achieving a more "peaceful divorce" include negotiation, divorce mediation, or engaging in a collaborative divorce.
Negotiating Divorce Terms (after obtaining legal advice, of course)
Negotiating directly with your spouse over the terms of your divorce can save money, time, and a lot of stress- as long as you have obtained legal advice beforehand. This strategy tends to work best in very short-term marriages, with few assets and no children. Once the terms have been decided, you and your spouse can choose to each retain your own counsel to assist you with your Massachusetts long form or short form financial statements, review the terms you negotiated, draft the agreement, and explain your legal rights and obligations before signing.
The Use of a Mediator
Using a mediator is another way that a couple can address the end of their marriage in a peaceful manner. In Massachusetts, divorce mediation is a voluntary process that allows a divorcing couple to work with a certified mediator (who remains neutral throughout the entire process), with the goal of reaching an amicable agreement regarding the dissolution of their marriage. This process is aided by the mediator’s use of conflict resolution skills and training. Although most mediators are well-versed in Massachusetts divorce law (but remember- not all mediators are lawyers) their role is to remain neutral, i.e., refrain from demonstrating a preference for one party over the other, and refrain from giving any legal advice.
A Collaborative Divorce
A collaborative divorce in Massachusetts involves both parties hiring Certified Collaborative Lawyers who work together to negotiate a settlement out of court. This process is truly a "team" effort in which the divorcing spouses and involved professionals collaborate to reach a peaceful resolution. As with most divorce processes not involving litigation, the Collaborative Law process is voluntary, and requires two willing spouses to commit to engage in this process and to cooperate in reaching a resolution. The collaborative divorce process is particularly helpful for parties who are willing to be creative in structuring solutions so as to have a minimal impact on their families, and provides an opportunity for divorcing spouses to hone their communication skills so that they are more effective parents to their children long after their divorce has been finalized.
Because of the emotional, financial, and psychological stresses that go along with divorce, the Collaborative Law method often utilizes additional outside professionals like a therapist, financial planners, and any other professionals who can help the process run smoother. First, in order for a couple to engage this process, each must be represented by an attorney who has been trained and who is certified in the field of Collaborative Law. Additionally, the parties often work with a neutral "coach", who is trained to help facilitate discussions between the parties and work toward resolution of any issues. A financial neutral may assist with any financial decisions made, and a parenting specialist may assist the parties with decisions regarding child-related concerns.
The key to the success of a Collaborative divorce process in Massachusetts is the intent of the parties to work towards resolution together, while removing the threat of litigation. However, this does not bar either party from initiating the litigated process, should the collaborative process break down. At the beginning of the collaborative process, divorcing spouses and their respective attorneys sign what is called a "Participation Agreement," in which all agree that they will not resort to litigation if an agreement on all issues related to the divorce cannot be reached. Again, this does not mean the divorcing spouses cannot litigation down the road- this just means their collaborative attorneys cannot represent them in any future litigation.
Most Collaborative processes are successful because the parties do not want to waste time and money on the collaborative legal process, only to resort to litigation later. They also recognize that the progress made through the collaborative process is not enforceable in any subsequent litigation. Thus, the collaborative law process can be very effective for divorcing spouses in Massachusetts who are serious about engaging in a productive and efficient divorce process.
A Litigated Divorce
In Massachusetts, a divorce is either contested or uncontested. Contested divorces are usually more appropriate when the parties do not agree on most issues, and can be more costly and time consuming.
If you want your divorce to be as peaceful as possible, filing for a contested divorce (engaging in the litigation process) may not necessarily be the best option for you. A litigated divorce may be what you think of when you see divorce play out in movies or on TV - the court is involved, and things can become acrimonious, very quickly. Oftentimes, one party is unwilling to engage in the divorce process at all, or refuses to cooperate without court intervention.
To initiate a contested divorce process in Massachusetts, you must file a Complaint for divorce with the Probate and Family Court designated for the county where you and your spouse last lived together (but only if one of you still lives at that residence). If neither of you still live at that residence, then you may file your complaint for divorce at the probate and family court in the county where either of you live. Once the Complaint has been processed, the court clerk will send to you (or your attorney, if you have hired one to file the Complaint for you), the Complaint Summons, which must be “served” to your spouse by either a constable or disinterested party. Service looks much different in the days of COVID-19, and if you plan to file for divorce in the near future, it is important that you read the Massachusetts Probate Court's most updated guidelines on how these processes will be conducted during the pandemic. You can read our most recent article on COVID and divorce here and on COVID and coparenting here or visit the court website here.
Once “served” with the complaint and summons, the defendant (party that was served) has 20 days to file an answer and, if they choose, counterclaim for divorce. Do you want to learn more about what happens next in the Contested or Litigated Divorce Process in Massachusetts? Click here to read more.
Don't Forget about Self Care
The divorce process may be one of the most stressful personal changes an individual will experience. Stress can take a significant toll on the body and the mind. Taking care of yourself is one of the most beneficial steps you can take before, during and after a divorce.
Hobbies Are (Still) Important
If you find yourself using all of your time focusing your current circumstances and the stress you are feeling, it may be time to invest that energy into a new hobby or interest. Now, this can be hard right now, especially while we are all stuck inside for the foreseeable future, due to COVID. During these times, focusing your mental energy on learning something new can serve as a welcome distraction, like taking an online class, learning a new language (there are some great apps out there), or going for a run / engaging in some type of physical exercise, like a brisk walk. A surge in endorphins can improve your quality of sleep and reduce overall tension- which is especially important at a time like this. Even just a few minutes of physical activity each day can have a powerful impact on your overall well-being.
Make Sure You Have a Good Support System in Place
Talking to a trusted friend or your therapist while social distancing (Facetime! Skype! Zoom!) can be a tremendously useful tool for self-care. A highly trained and experienced therapist can help you learn coping mechanisms to handle stress and anxiety that can arise during a divorce, and research has shown that talk therapy can rewire the brain and help show significant improvement with emotional wounds.
Divorce is About the Future, Not the Past.
We believe that Divorce is About the Future, Not the Past. The complex emotions that surface during a divorce are often enough to make anyone want to run and hide. Although your former relationship is over and there will be much change, there is also a lot to look forward to in the future. Spend time focusing on who you want to be in this next phase of your life, rather than who you were in the last phase. To do this, envision your future- are you more positive, are you pursing a passion of yours (learning how to play an instrument, traveling more, expanding your social networks)? Doing so may help you find the clarity that you need during this challenging time. Lastly, remember to be gentle with yourself and acknowledge that big changes take time and patience.
To speak with a lawyer about divorce or a child custody matter, contact Mavrides Law in Boston, MA. To schedule an in-depth initial consultation, call 617-723-9900 or contact the firm at firstname.lastname@example.org
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