It’s Monday morning as Mark walks into the office. The environmentally friendly lights in the ceiling shine down on the rows of cubicles ahead of him, most of his employees already in the office.
At the corner row, Mark sees Donald, his manager of operations. “Hey Donald.” Mark says in a friendly voice.
Donald looks up, face haggard and careworn. “Oh, hey Mark. Happy Monday,” he says limply.
“Yeah, to you too.” Mark says as he walks away. He thinks about Donald, almost 50 years old going through an ugly divorce with his wife. Mark can see the strain it has on the man, the screaming fights, the skyrocketing legal bills, and the brutal custody battle.
Mark frowns, thinking about his own plans to divorce his wife. “I just can’t end up like Donald… there has to be a better way than that.”
About Mark and Jennifer
Mark and Jennifer have been married for almost 20 years. They have three children – Lindsey (19), Adam (17), and Jeremiah (14). Nominally Christian, they sometimes attend services at CCV. Mark is an Executive Vice President at Henkel where he’s worked for the past 15 years, working his way through the ranks at a very impressive pace.
He is active in the Rotary Club and enjoys playing golf on Saturday mornings with his friends. Jennifer hasn’t had to work in over 10 years; as a result she has spent a lot of time volunteering at the children’s schools, working out, and spending time with her friends.
In the past 20 years they have established themselves as solid members of the communities in which they operate individually and as a couple, something that makes them both proud.
In the past few years Mark has realized that while he doesn’t hate Jennifer, he doesn’t love her anymore and feels that they’ve grown apart to the point where it doesn’t make sense for them to remain married. He’s idly wondered what has caused their departure but is no longer invested enough to do anything to stem the change.
Ideally he’d wait until after the kids go off to college but with Jeremiah that means waiting almost 4 more years. If he’s going to make a move, he realizes he needs to do it sooner rather than later so that he can get things started on rebuilding without Jennifer.
Certainly, Mark is concerned that with his substantial personal wealth that he has a lot to risk. But more than that, he’s worried he can end up like Donald whose marriage is detonating into a spectacular mess. Arguments, battling, and of course the emotional devastation to the children. Mark wants to make sure that he doesn’t do the same thing to his family in the process of divorce.
Jennifer has sensed Mark’s distance and is also dissatisfied with the state of the marriage. When she’s really honest with herself, Jennifer realizes that she’s ready for a divorce. Jennifer is disappointed things won’t work out but with the kids getting ready for college, she knows that things between Mark and her won’t get any easier. Jennifer also wants to make sure that her divorce doesn’t become a public mess and is very worried about how the kids will handle it.
She doesn’t want her or her husband to end up the villain in this story and she worries that it’s going to be hard to do the right things for herself while protecting her children. She’s also very concerned about what life will look like for her after divorce – some of her recently divorced friends have found new leases on life while others have crashed and burned.
Jennifer knows that she wants to keep the house that she’s raised the kids in and she wants to be sure that she’s going to get a fair deal in the divorce – Mark may have been the primary bread winner but that’s because she helped make it all possible. As long as Mark respects her contributions and values them appropriately, she’s likely to be cooperative so she can figure out the next stage of her life.
Why Collaborative Divorce Works
It’s clear that Mark’s biggest fear is that in the process of divorcing his wife, that he’ll be creating a situation that’s bad for himself and his family.
Ultimately, there are three things that are very important to Mark as an outcome of his divorce – that his kids don’t suffer, that he doesn’t lose everything he’s earned along the way, and that he doesn’t end up like Donald as a public spectacle of bad divorce.
When it comes to his kids, Mark is willing to do almost anything to ensure that he’s able to provide them with stability during and after the divorce. He genuinely believes that Jennifer wants the same thing and that the lack of drama in their marriage will go a long way to helping him avoid that.
Mark does worry about building an effective co-parenting plan because he’s seen that fall apart when it’s not done right but he feels comfortable that they’ll be able to find an agreement. With one kid off to college and the other two in high school, he knows that neither of them will want to disrupt the kid’s lives and if he has to, he’s willing to go the extra mile to make sure that doesn’t happen.
The involvement of a professional mediator as well as a therapist/counselor/communications coach makes him feel good that he’ll be in a position to communicate what he wants in a way that’s effective without putting Jennifer on the defensive. The last thing he wants is for her to feel like she’s under assault and without options. He knows that if Jennifer gets there that it will be so much harder to make things work out.
As it relates to the financial end of things, Mark has built up substantial assets in retirement accounts as well as joint investment accounts. There’s also the house, a vacation condo near San Diego, and a small collection of art that him and Jennifer have built over the year. Mark is willing to be fair when it comes to the joint assets but he doesn’t want to pay any more alimony than is absolutely necessary. He believes Jennifer is young enough go back to work or find herself a new husband.
As for the public messiness, Mark believes that as long as he and Jennifer can remain committed to the collaborative divorce process, that they’ll be able to achieve that.
He knows it’ll be hard work for all of them but he feels like this is the best chance he has to achieve the future he wants without destroying everything he has today.