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Evaluating Multiple Methods to Resolve Divorce Conflicts

When it comes to working through issues during your divorce there are several options to choose from. Preferably, you won’t find yourself in a position where you need to get a divorce. This should be your last possible option to choose from. If you and your spouse are willing to go through the effort, I would recommend counseling as an option before you file for divorce. Marriage counseling can help you and your spouse develop better communication skills with one another so that every disagreement does not turn into an argument. You can use disagreements as a jumping-off point to discuss overall issues in your family or marriage without having to resort to threats of filing for divorce. 

Marriage and family counseling is often timing a type of pre-marital counseling that people go through as they prepare for getting married. However, even if you and your spouse did not go through pre-marriage counseling you are certainly able to do so during your marriage. It takes two to tango, however. If your spouse is not equally committed to the process that can be seen as their not being equally committed to the marriage. Talk with your spouse about counseling and see what he or she has to say. Their response may surprise you- for better or worse. You can then use that response to guide you as far as how you should proceed within your marriage.

Counseling services are available in a variety of ways. Online counseling is one medium that you can seek counseling services. Some apps allow for paid subscriptions to counselors depending on the various qualifications that you are seeking. If you want a marriage or family counselor, you can enter that information into your application and be provided access to a counselor who can help you and your spouse. These are convenient and private ways for you to obtain mental health and counseling services from the comfort of your home or your place of work. 

Next, you can contact your health insurance provider to determine which counselors or therapists in your area are covered by your health insurance plan. We all know that money is a factor in a decision like this. To be able to obtain the counseling you need it is a balance that you need to strike between convenience and cost. Using your health insurance to pay for a service like this would be ideal. You can reach out to your provider by phone or online to see what options you may have. You may even be able to obtain a list of providers from your employer or human resources department depending upon their relationship with the health insurance company. 

These sorts of counseling services can help you to figure out what the exact issue that you are facing is. It may be that you need to learn better communication skills with your spouse. As I tell people all the time in situations like this- none of us are born good communicators. These are skills that we need to be able to develop over time. When you can try alongside your spouse to work on that skill it is amazing the problems that it can solve. Being able to look your spouse in the eye, communicate your thoughts and then listen to theirs can make your life much simpler and your marriage better. 

Counseling can also provide you with an understanding of what other issues may be factoring into your marital issues. Sometimes there are other issues at play that you may not have thought of or could even realize without the help of someone experienced in that area. Your family and your upbringing all play a role in how you approach various topics in your marriage. Therefore so many people recommend marriage counseling as more of a “pre-marriage” activity to help you avoid problems in your marriage before they become major issues. Most people, from my experience, do not engage in remarriage counseling so it often becomes necessary to do during the marriage itself. Take the time necessary to determine if this is an option for you and your spouse. It is one of the only ways to avoid a divorce once you have begun to experience major issues in your marriage. 

Using your attorney to help resolve divorce conflicts

Once the divorce gets started it is almost inevitable that there will be conflicts that you need to work through with your spouse. One of the benefits of having an experienced family law attorney by your side is that you can take advantage of their expertise in conflict resolution to help you keep the fighting and discord to a minimum. The more complex your case is the more likely there may be disagreement between you and your spouse. With so much at stake in your case this is a reasonable expectation.

However, you do not need to feel like you are going into this situation alone. Your attorney will help you by minimizing the opportunities that you will need to directly negotiate or discuss the issues of your case with your spouse. Nobody would argue that it is better for your case 100% of the time to need to use your attorney to perform the major share of the communication in your case. However, it is important to note that if you have a history of not being able to communicate well with your spouse or if there have been problems related to violence in your marriage then using your attorney to perform the heavy lifting in this area is not out of the ordinary. 

The attorneys for you and your spouse can take the emotion and the history out of the equation during negotiations on this subject. Sometimes it can be just a look, an eye roll, a facial tick, or something equally as minor to set a person off and completely distract him or her from being able to focus on the particular issue at hand. I have seen this happen myself many times. Imagine being able to use an intermediary to perform this kind of settlement negotiation on your behalf. Don't you think that would be more effective than you trying to go about these negotiations on your own? 

Therefore, even if you consider your divorce to be simple, hiring an attorney for your divorce can be an as good decision for you to make. It is without a doubt that divorce attorneys get into the muck of your case to help you stay clean much of the time. Your attorney will help you by drafting documents, filing motions, communicating updates to opposing counsel, and making offers and counteroffers in a settlement. The list goes on and on. Consider that an attorney can prepare you for the intensity of a divorce case better than you would likely be able to do on your own, as well. 

Mediation as a method to resolve divorce conflict

The most effective method to resolve divorce conflict, in combination with having an experienced family law attorney on your side, is mediation. Mediation is when you and your spouse agree to utilize the services of a third-party, neutral attorney to help you settle the outstanding issues in your divorce. Typically, your lawyer has a few mediators that he or she likes to use for their cases and your opposing attorney will have a few, as well. The two sides will share names and select one mediator who is mutually agreeable to both sides. 

For instance, some mediators specialize in military divorces because the mediator is ex-military and understands the complex issues related to property division and child custody for military families better than a civilian would. Retirement benefits and the division of those benefits are different for military families, as well. It pays to have someone who can guide negotiations in this regard so that you and your spouse can make informed decisions with the advice of your attorneys. 

Attending mediation means preparing for the big day. Having up to do information as far as your property is important. You can take to mediation updated materials regarding balances in retirement and bank accounts so that you know the value of your assets. Having done an inventory of your home, you and your spouse can determine if any other personal property needs to change hands that have not already done so. Much of the time you and your spouse would have already gone through and divided up much of your estate for simple things like household items. Mediation is the last place you can negotiate on this subject, however, before your case goes to a trial. 

One of the benefits of mediation that many people do not consider is that mediation can serve as a kind of trial preparation. Hopefully, it does not come to that, but if you cannot settle your case in mediation you can use the time and effort spent preparing for mediation to also prepare for a trial. The evidence that you use to negotiate can be the evidence that you mark for exhibiting and eventually offer into the record in the trial. You can also gain a sneak preview of the case that your spouse plans to present in trial. It isn't as if either of you is going to change your tunes a great deal over the next week.

Mediation also tends to be a time when you see people with their backs against the wall begin to make decisions to either go to trial or settle their case. If you are in mediation, especially mediation immediately before your trial setting, it is true that you have a major deadline staring you in the face. You or your spouse may have had the attitude for the longest time that you were going to take the case to trial if necessary. However, now that you are mere days away from trial your confidence in your case may be slipping. 

It is natural to second-guess yourself in a situation like that. Are you doing the right thing? Would you be backing down if you decided to try and settle your case rather than push through to a trial? Are you giving up on yourself? Or worse yet- giving up on your children? To think about parenting, property, and marriage in these terms is tempting but keep in mind that a relationship and your life are so complex that it is impossible to break it down into terms like that. You can spend your entire divorce thinking about where you went wrong in the relationship and if you are doing the right thing. However, when it comes to disputes in the divorce there is rarely a clear-cut winner and a clear-cut loser. Often both you and your spouse can walk away from mediation feeling like you lost. When that happens, it is most likely true that both of you are winners because you managed to resolve your case with minimal 'bloodshed" and a fair result for both parties. 

When you are in mediation you are likely to be in a separate office at your mediator's place of business. Experienced mediators tend to have office locations that can accommodate both their law practice and their mediation practice. This means that he or she will have staff available to make copies and pull information off the internet if you do not have a laptop or do other things like this. The offices will be comfortable so that you cannot feel like you have to leave quickly once you get there. If you are involved in a full-day mediation you will have at least one meal brought in for you. All of this is done in hopes that you will want to sit down and finish the divorce right there rather than proceed to a trial. It doesn't always work but for most people going through divorce mediation is the final destination of your case. 

After mediation, your mediator will take all of your agreements and create a bullet-point list of them for you and your spouse to review. How the mediated settlement agreement is worded is extremely important. The two of you will use that mediated settlement agreement to draft your final decree of divorce. Any questions or wording change clarifications should be made during mediation. Once you sign the document there is no going back. The law in Texas is clear that once you sign a mediated settlement agreement there is no going back absent extreme circumstances. Instead, you should check ahead and make sure that what you are signing comports with what you had agreed to. 

From there, you can take the agreements and draft a final decree of divorce. This is a far cry from a situation where you and your spouse could not agree to much of anything before mediation. Conflicts that had seemed insurmountable can be toppled in mediation- I have seen it happen myself many times. However, you and your spouse need to come together and be willing to sometimes agree to disagree and find whatever middle ground is possible. With the right attitude and the right mediator, this is extremely possible. 

Final thoughts on conflict resolution in Texas divorces

Conflict is a near-constant threat to derail your divorce. It is obvious that your marriage has had some degree of conflict- you are getting divorced, after all. However, when you have a divorce where the spouses absolutely cannot agree on anything that is a tricky situation. Do not assume that you will go directly to a trial and then have a judge decide the issues of your case. Not only is that not likely to happen but you don't want a judge making important decisions for you and your family. Rather, you want your spouse to be able to come to terms with you on a settlement. This is a much better situation for all parties involved. Nobody knows your family better than you and your spouse- even if you are having trouble agreeing on much of anything at the moment. 

At a certain point, a divorce becomes a business transaction. Ideally, you and your spouse can set aside your history together as much as possible and approach these issues as a person disinterested in the events of your case would be. However hard this sounds I find that if you can do this you are better off and more likely to reach a common ground that much easier. Combine that kind of attitude with a diligent attorney and a creative mediator and you have a recipe for conflict resolution possibilities that can overcome difficulties and differences of opinion. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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