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By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT
Do not be in a hurry to tie what you cannot untie.
Developing a divorce agreement is a process that has significant impact and a lingering effect. Decisions you will have to live with for a long time may make more sense if you exercise a little patience and a lot of common sense. There are mediation models that advertise (and deliver) single session divorce agreements. A marathon session can go on for hours and hours. In the end, there is an agreement. But, is the product of negotiation based on exhaustion or intimidation? Are the parties just “worn down” and willing to make any agreement just to have it over?
On the other hand, litigated divorces (often ending in an agreement under court pressure) can prolong the process for months or years. The process is also very corrosive. Demands and threats are countered with like reactions. All the while the meter is running, life is unsettled and planning is risky.
Have you ever made an impulsive purchase and later, after thinking about it, decided to return it? The “return policy” on a divorce agreement is a trip back to the lawyers or to court. When you view the negotiation for a divorce agreement as a process, fine tuning is an expected part of the exchange. A plan may sound workable when first developed. If you sleep on it, and it still sounds acceptable, it often will be a good choice.
Each negotiation is unique because the issues, the parties and the environment for agreement strongly influence possible outcomes. Each of these factors must be considered to arrive at a pace that will accommodate the needs of all involved. The pace will be contingent on the ability of the couple to gather, organize and prioritize information needed for agreement. The resolution of some issues will be quickly apparent. Others will not. Some ideas need testing, such as parenting plans that are often the key issue for couples.
Mediators are sensitive to the timing and pace of negotiation. It is important to help the couple keep their eyes on the target, to be conscious of underlying needs, to be creative, and to be comfortable with a final solution.>