In the 2019 film “A Marriage Story,” the narrative of a marriage is redefined by an acrimonious divorce. The ties that once bound a couple in marriage are subverted and weaponized in a divorce that threatens to destroy their relationship and the future they share together with their son. Nicole and Charlie divorce in a way that causes each other intense hurt and pain. Making a decision to end your marriage is not easy one. No one ever gets married with the intention of getting a divorce and with that there are no winners.
In New York, process choice is the first step one can take in maintaining control of your marriage story. Divorce mediation and collaborative divorce are two processes that allow each spouse to end their marriage together with dignity.
In divorce mediation, a couple meets together with a neutral mediator, who either has a legal or mental health background, to discuss and reach agreement on all issues relative to the ending of the marriage. A skilled mediator will facilitate an interest-based discussion with a shared understanding of the financial, legal and parenting information necessary to evaluate options meeting each spouse’s most important objectives. Transparency of information and the ability to understand each other’s perspective in a safe space is essential. Working together with the help of the mediator, a couple is able to reach an agreement reflective of their individual interests and common goals.
Sometimes working with consulting counsel in the mediation provides the support needed for a spouse to find their voice.
In mediation, each spouse must be able to represent and voice their concerns and interests. Sometimes working with consulting counsel in the mediation provides the support needed for a spouse to find their voice. At the end of a successful mediation, an agreement is drafted and usually reviewed by consulting counsel for each party before finalizing. In New York, once this agreement is executed, a couple can proceed at any time thereafter with the filing of an uncontested divorce based upon the no fault ground of the irretrievable breakdown of a relationship which can only be granted if an agreement is reached on all issues. No court appearances are necessary and no issues remain for the court to decide other than to grant the judgment of divorce based upon the papers submitted.
Collaborative Divorce offers another option for couples seeking a divorce who need more support to help them reach a resolution. In the collaborative process, a couple works with an interdisciplinary group of divorce professionals from the legal, mental health and financial fields. This process offers attorney representation through the negotiation process and in the collaborative settlement meetings to help each client develop and voice their concerns and interests in the context of established legal precedents and law. A financial professional is retained as a neutral to gather, analyze and evaluate financial settlement options that will serve each party’s primary objectives including their children, if applicable. A mental health professional is also retained by the couple to help clarify concerns and manage emotions and help couples develop co-parenting skills and develop a co-parenting plan.
A collaborative approach is based upon the core mediation principals of interest based respectful negotiations; however, a team of professionals is assembled from the onset to support the couple and to help them reach agreement on all issues relating to the dissolution of their marriage. It is important to note that the collaborative counsel must recuse themselves if litigation becomes necessary which furthers the incentive to reach settlement by all participants.
In both processes – mediation and collaborative divorce – you maintain control of your marriage narrative; and through divorce, the possibility of living happily ever after.
What will be YOUR marriage story?