by Dr. Lynn Halem, Center for Mediation and Dispute Resolution
A Sunday New York Times article in December reported that the average Facebook user spends 40 minutes a day on the site, time typically spent broadcasting one’s exploits and reading about their tens of thousands of friends’ achievements. “Mary is getting married.” “ Sonia is graduating with honors.” “Tim has scored his tenth touchdown.”
At times, the news is not just a cheery entry; instead the writer moans about his or her heavy workloads — a bragging event itself — or his or her lack of sleep due to children’s demands or world travel, or…. What, however, is conspicuously missing, the New York Times tells us, are postings of one’s separation or divorce.
Now, however, this may all be changing. The emergence of the so-called “Good Divorce” may well be an achievement worthy of heralding. Even major fashion magazines are talking about the Good Divorce. Indeed this new terminology may well merit at least a few postings.
“What is a good divorce?” you ask. “After all, divorce is not a good or a happy event.” Correct you are. Divorce cannot be logically characterized as “good,” if we are referring to the event itself. Divorce is a time of sadness, even regret; it symbolizes the end to dreams once held. “ So,” you ask again,” how can a divorce be good?”
The answer lies in the intended meaning of the adjective “good.” It is not that divorce, as a dissolution of a marriage, is good; rather, it is that couples who choose to end their marriages with reason and dignity, based on settlements that are fair to both parties and to their children, have what we are calling “The Good Divorce.”
For over three decades at the Centre for Mediation and Dispute Resolution, we have been in the business of helping people to fashion a “good divorce.” Mediation is our only business, and for our divorcing clients, the “good divorce” is the only option. Our clients are helped to express their priorities, their concerns, and their needs. They are encouraged to focus on structuring an agreement that leaves both spouses “whole,” and especially provides for the best interests of their children. Agreements that are mutually beneficial are structured on a firm understanding of the economics of the situation, present and future, and of the law that underlies their decision-making.
Reaching “good “ agreements is a problem solving process. Couples work together to analyze budgetary needs and projections of future needs; they consider living situations and needs of each family member. They air their thoughts and their feelings; they search for solutions that will preserve each one’s objectives and address each one’s needs. Mediation is based on the creation of a thoughtful and thorough agreement, for we know that provisions need to be included for future changes and events unpredicted at the time of divorce. We know that change is inevitable, and as such, we want to provide our client with a process and structured steps to follow when change does occur. We want them to leave mediation with an agreement that they feel is fair to all parties; we want them to be proud of their accomplishment.
Therefore, in short, a good divorce is a divorce that is mutually determined and is fair and workable. Where there are children involved, the good divorce provides a road map and plan for a lifetime of future parenting. Couples who continue to cooperate and collaborate, as parents, after divorce, are the poster people for the good divorce. They win the academy award for having achieved a divorce that does not end in destruction and havoc and is not followed by years of bitterness. Indeed, their accomplishment deserves a posting.
The Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution is under the directorship of Lynne C. Halem. Dr. Halem has worked in the mediation field since 1982 and is a Certified Divorce and Family Mediator by the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation.