You found yourself facing a crisis in your marriage – A problem that ultimately led to filing for divorce. But now that you’ve decided to move forward with your divorce, how do you keep things ethical? Is it possible for both parties to walk away from the proceedings with what is best for them? Although 95% of divorce cases today are not litigated – it’s still a process of placing blame and guilt. So how does the role of ethics make an appearance in divorce?
Divorce Ethics, What Do They Look Like?
The word ethics sometimes can have a negative connotation. Think of the greedy lawyer who doesn’t really care about his clients. Or about the used car salesman that is finally about to get a known lemon off his lot.
But what does ethics look like when it comes to divorce? In my own divorce planning business, I think about offering comfort to clients who have just hit rock bottom—assuring them that divorce does not have to be a financial death knell. I think about delivering the hard news that a client will need to sell the house, despite the emotional attachment and their desire to stay.
As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, I dig into every minute detail of my client’s finances. I will often be the first person to realize that keeping the house will cause more significant long-term financial harm than good. Do you know what is tougher than having to deliver this news, someone finding out that their home is about to go into foreclosure or that they will need to file for bankruptcy? During a divorce, the primary concern should be for the stability and well-being of both parties in the divorce, especially when children are involved.
Some Things Change, Others Don’t
Once a couple decides that there is no other option but to divorce, the new goal for both parties should be to be the best-divorced family possible—the key emphasis being that they are still a family. But the process makes it tough to get to closure without either party feeling like a criminal. The litigation process can leave people feeling angry, frustrated, and like they were being punished. As a child of divorce, I can personally tell you that the system is broken. We are approaching divorce wrong.
Know the “Game” In Front of You
It’s a major misconception to think that divorce proceedings are a legal dispute to be handled in court. Divorce is more of a family situation than a business dispute… or a dispute at all. The truth is, our legal system was not designed to solve family problems. In the legal system, things tend to snowball quickly. A difference in opinion about the division of an asset can turn into an all-out war because of misguided advice from attorneys, friends, or even family. Keep in mind that even the most ethical of attorneys are forced to operate in a broken system—one where the language is confrontational and actions are combative.
Even with the best intentions, the context may make it seem like someone is looking for a fight. Our legal system is created to handle crime, not to deal with family situations. So, it’s no wonder couples who have gone through the process feel like a criminal in the end!
Fortunately, great strides have been made in the area of Collaborative Law. Collaborative divorce gives families options to restructure their relationship in ways that benefit all family members. Here is a video that explains more about the Collaborative Divorce process. Slowly but surely, we are starting to move in the direction of a more ethical process. Moving toward a more empathetic and honest process shows that we as humans can do better.
When it comes to divorce and the role ethics plays, the best thing we can do is approach the situation with patience and understanding. It’s crucial all parties know they are supported, and their needs matter. It is possible to do what’s best for everyone, and many divorce professionals are ready to help!