Resolving to Be Happy Might Require the Courage to Divorce


Jamie C. WilliamsonBy Jamie C. Williamson, PhD

More than half the U.S. population makes New Year’s resolutions. But people rarely actually include “get a divorce” on their list.

Instead, divorce becomes the unhappy by-product of resolutions like this year “I’m going to have the courage to change the things I can”… Or “I’m going to start focusing on my own needs and quit trying to get my spouse to change”…Or “I’m going to stop playing these games and start a new life” …or some other version of: “This year I’m going to find a way to be happy.”

These are familiar resolutions, with the thought of divorce often hidden by the worthy intentions to make a better life. So, it follows that divorce filings peak during the post-holiday season, particularly in January and March. The January spike derives from couples who do their best to get through the holidays for the children’s sake, and then act on their joint decision to divorce after the holidays. The March uptick can be traced to individuals who decide they want a divorce before or during the holiday period but choose not to tell their spouse until after the holidays.

Sometimes people hang on to their last bit of optimism and hope that the holiday spirit will rekindle their marriage. But that rarely happens. Instead, fake holiday warmth and cheer provides a stark contrast to true happiness. By mid-January many distressed people decide to take action or to resign themselves (and their spouse and children) to another game of charades or worse yet, family feud.

If you have resolved to create a better life for yourself and your family, you may have also reached the painful conclusion that getting a divorce is the best (and maybe only) option that will promote your future emotional and psychological well-being, and that of your spouse and children.

And, if you have reluctantly decided to divorce, you may be dreading a long, painful process that drains family financial resources and pits you and your spouse against each other as if you are enemies. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A pre-suit, pro se divorce (a friendly divorce without lawyers) could be a relatively inexpensive, good option for you if you and your spouse:

• Want to remain friendly, especially if you will continue being Parenting Partners.
• Have typical assets and liabilities that can be equably distributed without complicated legal transactions.
• Would rather reserve family resources so that you and your spouse have the money you need to start over and build a stable future for yourselves and your children.
• Want to move forward deliberately and begin building a happy, stable future now, rather than be stuck in limbo for a year or more rehashing the past.

In the “Friendly Divorce” Pre-Suit, Pro Se option mediators facilitate the required (and sometimes emotional) discussions and then empower you to reach mutual agreement on all your current issues. The mediator also prepares your Marital Settlement Agreement, and if needed, your Parenting Plan, and Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. Many mediators also provide assistance with preparation and filing of all required documents.

The “Friendly Divorce” Pre-Suit, Pro Se process typically involves a one-hour planning session and two mediation sessions. This means you could resolve all your issues and be ready to file for a non-contested divorce in about one month. By contrast, the average attorney-driven divorce process in Florida is 15 months.

Divorce is demoralizing and stressful for sure. Still, most couples and families truly value peaceful resolution of issues with as little hurt to those involved as possible. To accomplish this, try to remain friendly and embrace an optimism about what you and your spouse can do with and for each other if you each are simply willing to focus on finding solutions that are good for you AND for the others involved, especially children.

My hope is for all couples and families to stay together happily. But my own new year’s resolution is to help people eliminate distress in their relationships and maintain peace, whether they stay together or not.

If you have decided to divorce, talk to your spouse about the “Friendly Divorce” option. And, let me know if I can help.

Jamie C. Williamson, PhD is a FL Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator and Gottman Methods Couples Counselor. She is an owner and partner at Amity Mediation Workshop, LLC, a mediation practice specializing in “friendly divorce” mediation and marriage revitalization sessions for couples. Dr. Jamie speaks frequently on relationship topics and authors the blog “Work it Out.” You can find her online at
You’ll find me at Amity Mediation Workshop where we conduct Pre-Suit, Pro Se Divorces in an amicable environment. Our approach to Divorce Mediation helps you to resolve your issues without another fight and to build a stable future for all involved, especially the children.