The Secret to a Good Divorce (3)

Former spouses--or soon-to-be former spouses--have an intimate knowledge of their erstwhile partners. However, they may not be able to name the actual behavior that causes arguments to start. Dr. John Gottman, professor emeritus at the University of Washington and co-founder of the Gottman Institute, has been researching couples's behaviors for over 40 years. He has identified four factors that usually predict nonproductive arguments that go downhill fast.

These factors are criticism (the problem arises out of the other person's character or personality), defensiveness (a spouse counterattacks or whines), contempt (thinking you're better than you are and talking down to your partner), and stonewalling (shutting down and refusing to talk about the issue).

Interestingly, women tend to use criticism more than men, while men tend to stonewall more than women. So if a wife is castigating her husband for being a slob, it would not be unusual for him to shut down and clam up.


The Secret to a Good Divorce (2)

Imagine, if you will, that a couple (call them A and B) meets at a local Starbucks in an attempt to discuss how to handle the end of their disintegrating relationship. After settling into a corner table, away from other customers, the following conversation ensues:

A: "You know, the breakup of our marriage is your fault. I was willing to go to counseling. I said we should try a vacation, or have a baby, or consider anything you might want to try and save us. But every time I brought up these ideas you didn't want to talk about it."

B: (interrupting) "That's not true. I have always wanted to try to fix things, but you only wanted it your way."

A:  (affronted) "How could you say that?"

B: "Easy. It's the truth." 

Let's pause their conversation at this point. Right now, these words reflect what the couple pictured above are doing. They seek to vilify, discredit, and impugn the other, to try to find a weak spot to punch, and to sting. T…

The Secret to a Good Divorce (1)

On January 12, 2018, the New York Times published an article titled "The Secret to a Happy Marriage is Knowing How to Fight." Click here to view The author, therapist Daphne de Marneffe, points out that modern couples appear to look upon their wedding as a capstone rather than a cornerstone of their adult life, a sense that they have arrived at their shared future rather than a commitment to it. She acknowledges that weddings are complicated, detail-oriented events, but she expresses concern that, "while they're thinking about the Big Day, they should also think about how they will cope with disagreement."

It's rare to meet any married couple who have thought about how they're going to fight with each other, but it's almost guaranteed that they will. Yes, it's possible that one member of the couple may never disagree with the other, either from fear of creating conflict or genuine disinterest. But for most couples disagreements will pop up shor…

Uncoupling for the Unhitched

More people than you think live together as members of a couple, not a marriage. In the course of that relationship they accumulate 'things', like property, assets, debts, and children. Some of these relationships can go on for years before ending. Others are even quite successful, continuing on until the death of a partner.

But not all unmarried couples are so fortunate. For some, as H. L. Mencken said, "Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull."

And so, they reach a point in their lives when they need to uncouple. But, que lastima, they're not entitled to the same privileges married people have.  Unmarried partners in a relationship may think they should be entitled to an equitable division of assets and debts. But the courts treat unmarried couples as single individuals, so the rules of community property and their division don't apply to them. Those same courts, however, can assert jurisdiction if minor children are involved, but this requires activ…

A Yardstick for Divorce Costs

If you're contemplating divorce, there's a part of you that's extremely interested in what the process might wind up costing you. Most people immediately think 'expensive', and it certainly can be, if one or both partners are stubborn and close-minded. But couples should keep the price of their wedding in mind when comparing the cost of undoing it.

According to, depending on your particular situation, the total costs for divorce here in Nevada typically run between $4,000 and $30,000. The average cost of a divorce for a couples without any minor children is $13,700, which rises to $19,000+ if there are serious issues with property division or spousal support. If minor children are involved, the average cost is $20,600. Attorneys's fees are, on average, $10,800.

Compare those costs to what you might spend in mediation. Assume the mediator's fee is $250 per hour, both for any sessions you have and the time spent drafting your agreement or prepari…

"First you say you do, and then you don't"

It's highly unusual to find both members of a couple at the same point on their journey to decoupling. More likely, one is ahead of the other and either feels already out of the relationship or well along the way.

This, of course, leaves the other in a quandary. Perhaps this individual only recently learned that the marriage was heading toward the rocks. Or perhaps he or she held on to slim hopes the other person would come to their senses, or the whole nightmare would magically disappear. Some believe that, if you don't talk about the problem, it goes away.

Unfortunately, it doesn't. If one of you wants to end the marriage, it will end, one way or another. Either you will try negotiating the terms of the decoupling in mediation, or the matter will end up in family court.

Until that time, the one left behind may exhibit what, on first glance, seems like odd behavior. She may state unequivocally one day that she is totally on board with divorce, only to change her mind dra…