Encourage cooperation in divorce process

Oklahoman Published: April 7, 2014

The Legislature is seeking ways to encourage people to stay married. One approach is to try to make the process of divorce more difficult. Suggestions under consideration include prolonging the required waiting period after the petition for divorce is filed and doing away with “no-fault” divorce.

As a professional divorce mediator, I work with people who’ve made the difficult choice to end a marriage. Most of the couples I work with haven’t made the decision lightly. For most, extending the waiting period would only prolong the uncertainty and chaos that’s part of divorce.

Taking away no-fault as grounds for divorce simply make a bad situation worse. The proposal would require one side to prove that the other side was at fault. This would only increase litigation, animosity and bad feelings between the parties.

If lawmakers want to reduce the negative impact of divorce, they might look at ways of encouraging cooperation between couples through and after divorce. Tulsa and several other judicial districts in the state have successfully made mediation a mandatory step in the process of divorce.

Courts want couples to work out issues related to parenting, property division and alimony. Most people prefer to avoid handing over these decisions to a judge. Mediation also has major advantages over the high-risk “do-it-yourself” divorce that often generates more problems than it solves. A professional mediator can guide individuals through a process that helps parents make the best decisions possible while dealing with a difficult situation.

James Stovall, Oklahoma City

Stovall is director of mediation services at Cooperative Divorce Solutions in Oklahoma City.