When divorce gets messy

Posted on Feb 18, 2013 in Blog, Self Help | 1 comment

When divorce gets messy


Divorce is a process of separation which can be painful for many people.  Even when both parties agree that they no longer wish to share their lives with each other, there can be arguments and disagreements.

The inevitable consequence of separation is division, a division of assets, resources and parenting responsibilities.  Often the two processes become entwined so the pain of separation interferes with practical decisions that must be made.  The attempt of mediation is to mediate between the parties, and to mediate between the two processes of separation and division, to facilitate the divorce.

If the divorce is agreed by both parties then things are often a little easier.  There is a willingness to move away from each other, and often recognition that there is an irreconcilable difference.  This difference often makes separation easier, although there can still be feelings of sadness or regret.  However an agreement over separation does not always mean that a collaborative approach will be taken when it comes to the division of assets and liabilities.  The principle of separation and divorce, and the reality sometimes don’t match up.

Often one person wants a divorce more than the other person, or the other person does not want it at all.  In either case there is no agreement to the separation, and in consequence any attempts to discuss the division will also be resisted.   Although there may never be agreement to the divorce, there is often acceptance that it will happen, even if there is a lot of kicking and screaming!  In these cases it is often difficult to get agreement or even acceptance so that the divorce process is extended and difficult.

The words that we associate with the process of separation give a clue to some of the difficulties that people experience.

To divide:  there are two ways to divide.  One is to divide a whole into two parts which may or may not be equal.  The second is to divide according to characteristics, in which case there is a sorting process in which some things are accepted, and others rejected.  It is a process of judgment on the basis of difference.  In the first instance the arguments are primarily about fairness.  In the second instance it is much more complex and often personal.  Often the solution lies not in the sorting process itself, but reaching agreement about the rules, or principles that will guide the decision making process.

To disassociate: meaning to cut off, or have nothing to do with.  This can be particularly distressing for the other party because it feels uncaring, ruthless even.  Often there is the feeling of being dismissed, or deleted. There is lack or emotion or interest in the divorce, leaving the other party feeling isolated. Some people disassociate quickly after separation, and before the work of division has been done.  This means that they appear disinterested and it can be difficult to get any response or engagement in decisions. If people dissociate in the division process they can be very dismissive of other people’s needs, including those of their children, and can appear selfish and self-interested.

To disconnect: disconnections tend to be abrupt and unpredictable, causing confusion and fragmentation.  This is when people might describe that they have ‘split’ rather than separated.  Again this can be very painful and hard to understand for the other party.  It can be characterised  by a refusal to accept that the separation has already occurred, and a clinging to the hope that it can be repaired.  Sometimes a person needs to be helped to come to terms with what has happened, and to understand that it can’t be fixed.  The situation appears disjointed, so that there is confusion and it’s hard to make decisions.  It helps if order and coherence can be created through the process of division, and making the necessary practical arrangements.

To destroy:  meaning to tear apart, causing it to separate.  The focus here is a deliberate intention to enforce the separation and division.  There can be some urgency or impatience, to complete the divorce process, usually against the wishes of one party. This is why the force is required.  The issues usually relate to pacing and power.  In some cases the other person can give in to the pressure, but in others it causes a fight, or retaliation, in which case mediation can help.

Divorce can be a messy business, which is why it is listed as second on the list of most stressful life events, followed by marital separation which is third!


©Susanna Brown 2013

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  1. Montgomery County Child Custody

    Yes, I had a horrible, messy divorce. The best advice I can give you is to listen to and follow the advice of your attorney. There will be an end.