Divorce mediation and child custody mediation can be excellent choices for couples that are able to communicate openly and honestly with their spouse. However, mediation can be difficult, unproductive, and even emotionally damaging for some couples, such as many of those who have a history of domestic violence or domestic abuse.

Why is divorce mediation a poor choice for those with a history of violence or abuse?

Reasons Why Divorce Mediation May Be A Poor Choice

•    A lack of safety or a lack of feelings of safety. In order for mediation to work correctly, both parties must feel safe and comfortable. If one spouse does not feel comfortable being open and honest, mediation will not be successful. Secondly, it may simply not be safe for a couple to meet in person if one spouse could be potentially violent.
•    Intimidation and compliance. Mediation works best when both husband and wife have the ability to assert themselves, ask for what they want, and work toward a compromise. Often in an abusive relationship, however, the abused spouse is overly compliant and intimidated by his or her abuser.
•    Manipulation and control. Most abusers, and especially those who have been emotionally abusive, often use manipulation and control to get what they want. They are not programmed to treat their spouse as an equal or to work through problems with an open mind and rational thought.
•    Possible restraining orders and protection orders. If there are restraining orders involved, it may be illegal for you to meet in the same room or communicate directly. While some mediation sessions can happen remotely, it is not often recommended that couples with restraining orders participate in divorce mediation. 

Five Good Reasons To Choose Divorce

While all marriages are different, and while you ultimately must make your own decisions about your life and relationship, there are a few strong reasons that many couples should call it quits and try to move on with their lives.

•    Your marriage involves some form of abuse. Abuse, whether it is physical, verbal, emotional, or psychological, is simply not acceptable in any way. No matter how much you may love your spouse or how much you want to keep your family together, you have to realize that abuse hurts your whole family – and that your family deserves better.
•    You and your spouse have stumbled upon an irreconcilable difference. Couples can work through a number of problems, pitfalls, and arguments, but some differences of opinion will simply never solved. If you find yourself absolutely unable to solve a problem in your marriage – whether it relates to sex, family, work, children, or even political views – it may be time to move on and find a partner who is more compatible.
•    You’ve been abandoned by your spouse. If your spouse has left you – and has been actively ignoring the vows you recited on your wedding day, it is most likely time for a divorce. The abandonment could be physical, emotional, or sexual – but all types of abandonment illustrate that your partner no longer supports you and no longer respects your marriage.
•    You and your spouse no longer love each other. If both of you mutually agree that you are no longer in love and want to move on, it is probably the best decision to divorce even if children are involved in your marriage. If neither of you feel for your partner or wish to work on the marriage, it is probably time to move on to the next phase of your life.
•    You’ve tried everything else. If you’ve been through couple’s counseling, tried to work things out, communicated openly, worked together to solve your problems, and are still struggling to stay together, it may be time to consider divorce.

Adult Children Of Divorce Face Special Challenges

If you wait until your children are in college to file for divorce, you may think that you are saving your children from the complications and hurt associated with having parents who split. However, studies and research have shown that adult children of parents who divorce also face their own challenges as they acclimate to their parents’ new lives.

While younger children of divorce may find themselves worried about their home life, their security, or their parent’s love, older children of divorce have very different worries and concerns, such as:

•    Whether they need to financially support a divorced parent.
•    Whether their college funds are secure.
•    Whether they might have to house a parent during a divorce.
•    Whether their parents were waiting until their children were adults to divorce.
•    Whether they need to emotionally support their parents.
•    How they will react to or accept their parents’ new love interests.
•    How they will split vacations and visits between parents.
•    Whether they could have prevented a divorce by being more involved in their parents’ lives.
•    Whether divorce is inevitable in their own relationship.

Many parents assume that if their children are grown up and out of the house, they will not be upset about a divorce. However, adult children often feel a growing responsibility for their aging parents and are often filled with stress and anxiety upon hearing that their parents are splitting. In many cases, adult children of divorce are also dealing with their parents’ breakup at the same time that they are concerned with worries in their own lives, including spouses, children, financial issues, and career issues.

What can divorcing parents do to ease the worry and pain of their adult children? 

•    Acknowledge their pain. Don’t brush off your children’s emotions and concerns by saying that they aren’t kids anymore.
•    Explain the divorce. Adult children of divorce usually need more information than younger kids regarding why the split is taking place and how life will be after the divorce. Share the details you are comfortable with while avoiding blame and badmouthing.
•    Let them know what you need. Your adult children will immediately be concerned with your financial situation, your living situation, and your emotional health. Be sure to let them know your plan – and let them know what they can do to help. However, if possible, don’t ask for them to drop everything to help you through the process.

Feeling large amounts of constant stress during the divorce process is not healthy or helpful.

While feeling some stress during a divorce is natural and even unavoidable, it is important to know that there are ways to successfully manage your stress and keep healthy as you begin your new chapter in life.

Let’s start with five divorce stress management tips:

  • Identify your specific stressors. With a divorce, there are many changes and emotions happening all at once. In order to manage your stress, it is important to understand what issues are specifically affecting you.
  • Avoid unnecessary stressors. Don’t try to do it all. A divorce takes a huge amount of energy – this might be a good year to pare down your responsibilities, learn to say no, and simplify some aspects of your life. Don’t feel guilty about avoiding a friend who might cause you stress or asking someone else to temporarily take over a leadership role at your job or in your activities.
  • Accept the stressors that you can’t avoid. While some stress is avoidable, other stressors become worse if you don’t confront them. When it comes to divorce stress, you simply can’t hide. Learn to express your feelings, learn to forgive, learn to focus on the positive, and understand that the situation will get better over time.
  • Realize the unhealthy ways of coping with stress. Some ways of coping with stress are even more harmful than stress itself. These including: drinking too much, relying on illegal or prescription drugs, overeating or under eating, sleeping too much, withdrawing from friends, or taking your stress out on others.
  • Make a list of healthy ways to cope with stress and keep it nearby. Healthy ways of coping with stress include exercise, spending time with friends and family, talking through your feelings, writing in a journal, taking time to relax, listening to music, or spending time on a hobby.

What if you still aren’t sure whether divorce is the right choice for you and your family? Speak to a Washington State divorce mediation lawyer today about your case. 

Molly B. Kenny
Connect with me
Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington