Divorce can be heart-wrenching, painful, infuriating … can it ever truly be amicable? The short answer is “yes”, but it really depends upon who’s involved, why they’ve chosen to divorce, and what their intentions are.
If all other avenues have been exhausted and divorce is now the only route forward for you, please know that divorce doesn’t need to be a war. It’s entirely possible to have an amicable divorce.
First, Accept the Current Situation
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
At the beginning of the divorce process, you and your spouse are likely in different headspaces. We all process our experiences differently so your spouse will be dealing with this life shift differently to you.
The first stage of any major life change usually involves ample amounts of shock and denial. Whoever first thought of divorce will have had more time to process it and will likely go through their shock and denial earlier than the other partner. If you were the one to think of divorce as a solution first, you are going to be in the headspace to talk about it sooner than your spouse who might need some more time to get through their initial reactions. It’s important to give your spouse the time to catch up with you. Rushing them to the acceptance stage when they’re still moving through shock, denial, and anger is only going to exacerbate the situation.
If you are keen to divorce sooner rather than later, staying patient here can be especially hard. However, for you and your spouse to have an amicable divorce, both of you need to be in the acceptance stage.
A note on acceptance: Acceptance isn’t about liking or approving something. It is an acknowledgment of the situation – a conscious choice to drop all forms of resistance to whatever has come to pass. From there, you can endeavour to make the most of the situation.
Lead with Logic, Rather than Emotion
Regardless of how you feel about the divorce and what you think you’re entitled to when you part ways, the law will approach your divorce from an objective position and seek to find the best outcome for all parties.
Unless you had a prenuptial agreement stating otherwise, the legal starting place for division of assets is 50/50. In most cases, you and your partner will not continue to have the same standard of living after your divorce. It’s really important to understand this because it can come as a shock for many.
The law considers the following as key points when agreeing on what is in the best interest of all parties, including any children you or your spouse may have:
- Child welfare: the law aims to provide the best home for the children while ensuring child maintenance is in place for ongoing support.
- Marriage length: shorter marriages are less likely to have their assets divided equally.
- Contribution: the law considers financial contributions and time spent caring for the family.
- Health and age: the closer to retirement age you are, the more important your pension will be. Age and health also affect future earning potential.
- Earning ability: if one partner stayed home to raise children, their earning ability will be lower and this would need to be accounted for.
Bear these conditions in mind for the next step…
Envision the Ideal Outcome
“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” – Jim Rohn
What does an amicable divorce look like to you? What are the benefits of an amicable divorce? Why do you want one? What is the worst thing that could happen if your divorce gets messy? Are there certain possessions that you want to keep at the end of the divorce? Why do you want to keep those possessions?
When you are feeling relaxed and calm, take some time to think about what you want the end result of your divorce to be and what you want to avoid, bearing in mind how Canada’s divorce laws will affect the potential outcome. Writing out your thoughts can be especially helpful here. For example:
“I want our children to feel secure, loved, and understood. I want them to know that regardless of our household setup, we are united in our determination to ensure their ongoing well-being and success. I’d like [spouse] and I to still respect each other and be able to have a loving, but platonic, conversation. I want to maintain my integrity and character to remain intact…” and so on.
We highly recommend doing this exercise when you are feeling relaxed (as much as you can be), because later on if/when things get heated, you can revisit this and use it is a reminder of why you are aiming for an amicable divorce.
Extra tip: Pay attention to any desires that might arise out of a desire to “get even”. It’s completely natural to feel upset about the end of a relationship. We quite often want people to feel the way we feel; if we are happy, we want others to be content. If we are depressed, we want others to empathize with our sadness. Consequently, if you’re feeling hurt about the end of your relationship, you might want the other person to feel some form of regret or sadness. If you would like to have an amicable divorce, any desires that you know would be to the detriment of your spouse should be further examined and, ideally, avoided.
Hire a Family Lawyer Who Specializes in Mediation and Arbitration
Mediation-arbitration is a process for resolving issues related to the breakdown of a relationship to get you to a place of agreement. It provides a framework that gives you more control of the process while keeping a back-stop option available if there are irreconcilable differences that require a third party to make a final decision.
If you’re talking to a family lawyer who doesn’t offer mediation-arbitration or seems agitated at the question itself, then this could be a lawyer who is more interested in “winning” for you at the cost of the other person and should be avoided.
The ideal family lawyer for you will be someone who works in your best interests but is objective enough to tell you when you might be overlooking something.
Don’t Condemn Your Spouse Around Your Children
“Kindness is caring for others, even when they may not care for you” – RAKtivist
Far too often, children of divorcees feel like they’re stuck between the war trenches of their parents. Despite what may have happened between you and your spouse, your kids still have two parents, and no child should feel pressured to “choose a side”.
Speaking negatively about your spouse in front of your children is a short-term strategy with no winners. In time, your children might even start to view you in a negative light instead. You’re going to need people who can console you as you go through this divorce, but your children shouldn’t be the ones to do it.
Let your children know that just because you and your spouse will be ending the relationship, you still respect each other and will work together to protect their best interests.
Speak to your children, ideally together, so that you can both understand their concerns.
- What are your children worried about? How can you help to minimize those worries?
- Is there anything that they need clarity on?
- What are their expectations for the next few months?
Though it can be difficult to hear how you and your spouse’s actions have impacted your children, pretending that they don’t exist will likely cause a rift that will be hard to bridge.
Aim for a Win-Win Outcome
“Win-win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.” – Stephen Covey
Granted, a win-win outcome might not be possible for you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. But you lose nothing by trying. There is a difference between aiming for a positive outcome for both parties and only aiming for a positive outcome for yourself. When you aim for a positive outcome for both you and your ex-spouse, you are placing the bricks of a solid foundation for an amicable divorce.
At the very least, seek to understand before you try to be understood. Know that you and your spouse can have different opinions and both be right. Your experiences and viewpoints are 100% valid.
To give yourself the best chance at having an amicable divorce, work with a lawyer who prioritizes your family’s best interest. Please do not hesitate to contact a family lawyer at Richmond Tymchuk Family Law LLP if you require assistance at any stage of your journey.