Rafting the River of Divorce – Part 2

This is the second part of a (lengthy!) blog exploring the options you have in front of you as you work how you’re actually going to get divorced.

You can find part 1 here. https://www.planningsolo.com.au/blog/rafting-the-river-of-divorce-part-1

Part Five – Three Options

After the strain of getting your kayak into the amicable lane, the water quickly smooths out.

The paddling’s good here, easy even, as you make good time along the deep, flowing water. It’s hot, but the shade from the tall trees lining the bank helps.

You even accidentally splash your ex with your paddle and look back nervously. Only to see them wipe their face and almost-smile back.

It’s easier to be patient in smooth waters, after all.

You round the next bend and see that the river splits again, into three options.

You decide to beach the kayak on the sandy bank, where you see some other couples standing around another gatekeeper in a colourful uniform, with a big G on their hat.

As you walk up, they’re explaining the three different options:

  • Left is the DIY route.

This route is a bit longer, but you can travel it on your own. There’s no extra charge for heading this way, but you need to know that it’s regularly punctuated by dry stretches, where the river disappears underground.

You’ll need to hop out of your kayak here, hoist it onto your shoulders and walk the portage together. If one of you doesn’t want to, or isn’t up to it, this option will take far longer and you’ll each get more frustrated.

  • The middle is Mediation

This, the broadest tributary, is straight with only a few small rapids. You’ll need to choose a guide after you’ve joined this part of the river, which comes at an extra cost. But they’ve been down there a lot, so they know the way to avoid the most dangerous rapids.

This part of the river occasionally empties into a deceptively large lake, where you’ll both need to dig in to get across the wide expanse of water. This can be difficult work, but if you get stuck your new guide can help .

  • Heading right is Collaboration.

Meanwhile, the right-hand tributary is comparatively narrow. It’s small and a little overgrown, because there aren’t too many people that choose this path.

Once you’ve entered this channel, you’ll need to beach on the bank again and choose your support crew. You’ll have the choice of changing into a 12-seat inflatable, but most people just add two more kayaks to their flotilla of watercraft.

One kayak takes the lead, checking back regularly to make sure the teams still with them as they sail down the straight, smooth river. While the other sits just off your side, holding the edge when needed, paddling ahead when necessary, or hanging back to push you along if required.

It’s important to know that this route is straighter, and also drains into several lakes along the way. But – for every set of rapids, there’s a straight, smooth canal running parallel that you can choose to take instead.

Either way your support crafts will be there with you, but taking the canal is faster, safer and more enjoyable than chancing it down the rapids.

After the gatekeeper’s spiel, you walk back to the kayak with your ex and you look at each other, before both saying at the same time – “let’s head to the right”.

You hop back into the kayak, shove your paddles into the sand and push yourselves back into the river.

Because it’s calmer here, it’s a breeze to paddle across to your chosen path – especially when you’re both rowing together.

Part Six – Getting to the End Together

Once you’ve picked your support team – two lawyers in one kayak, a financial neutral, mental health professional and case manager in the other – you all head off down the now-much-narrower river.

The current has picked up, so it’s easier to pick up some pace now.

You come to the first rapids – called Parenting – and stop for a conference with the other kayaks.

After some – much -discussion, you decide how you want to navigate this part of the river and the team leads the way down the fast-flowing canal. Straight as an arrow, it pops you out back into the river.

Before too long, you come against the second set of rapids – Property.

These rapids look more dramatic so it’s decided that you’ll have another conference on the bank .

It’s agreed that you and your ex will hop in the 3-person kayak with your financial neutral in the rear seat, to steer you along the rapids.

The other kayaks take the canal, but the mental health professional keeps pace with you the whole way, pointing out the tricky bits along the way and shouting encouragement.

You enter the rapids and immediately feel uncomfortable as the pace picks up. You’re quickly bouncing from side to side, and there’s the occasional rock scrape on the bottom of the kayak.

The financial neutral is in the rear seat, using their oar to steer you around the really rough bits but still, this isn’t very fun.

You and your ex keep yelling at each other to be heard over the din of the white water, while you careen from side to side, dodging as many of the boulders as you can.

Eventually, slowly, tenderly, you push past the final part of the rapids and find yourself in the next lake.

You and the team congregate a few metres away from the rapids and raise your oars in the air to celebrate making it through without too much damage.

Recharged with the adrenaline, you all re-double your efforts and absolutely steam across the lake. When you reach the far shore, the lawyers kayak splits off and takes another route along the river so they can start drafting the paperwork.

Meanwhile, the financial neutral and mental health professional also take their leave, hopping out of their kayaks and waving to you as you, your ex and the case manager steam into the last stretch of your journey.

Part Seven – Paths Not Taken

Your case manager is determined now, sitting at the front of the kayak and powering their paddle into the water along this straight, calm stretch of water.

In the distance, you can see the break in the hills where the river meets the sea.

There’s the slightest sniff of sea air on the breeze now, and the sound of gulls in the distance.

Your shoes are soaked. Your clothes are drenched. Your arms are tired.

But you’re not hurt. You’re not bruised. You’re not exhausted. You didn’t need that helmet.


So you paddle onwards. Until you join the final lake, with every other raft spitting out of the other tributaries you didn’t take.

And as you float along to the far shore, where your lawyers are waiting, you and your ex glance around at the other rafts.

It’s a grim scene.

Most of them are damaged. There are very few of the cobbled together vessels in the water, though there are plenty of barrels and driftwood wreckage littering the shore.

There are more 12-seaters, but many of them only have the couples in them; the other passengers long gone.

They are uniformly deflated too, sitting very low in the water, and being slowly paddled by people in bedraggled clothes and stunned eyes.

You and your ex look at each other and they raise an eyebrow, before dipping their paddle back into the water.

You both just want this finished now.

Until you come across one person on what’s left of their boogie board. They’re completely exhausted, clinging to the board with white knuckles, fingers wrinkled by too much time in the water.

Their eyes are red, and the board is scratched. It’s missing a corner, you notice as you cruise past, and isn’t floating all that well anymore.

You want to help them to the shore, but you know there’s not really anything you can do. So you glance back over your shoulder as you paddle away, feeling thankful for the choices that got you here – but guilty that your path seems to have been so much easier.

The kayak slides up the sandy bank, where your lawyers are waiting for you.

Part Eight – To the Sea

You and your lawyer take a few steps away to review the forms they’ve prepared for you. You agree it’s what was agreed, and you can see your ex nodding with their lawyer as well.

Out come the pens, papers are signed, hands are shaken and you look at your ex one last time.

You still can’t stand them and don’t regret the choice to sail down this winding, bumpy, cold and confusing river.

But as you look at them, you’re glad they’re ok and you’re ok and you’re both able to do the next bit relatively intact.

You try not to think about the paths you didn’t take. About the boogie boarder, or the barrel rafts that you haven’t seen, or the deflated inflatables.

And you’re stunned to find yourself reaching out to give your ex one final hug.

Then you turn back to the water, and the third and final gatekeeper takes you to your own, single-seater, kayak. They pass you a paddle and point to where the river cleaves the hills and flows out to the sea.

You hop in, stick your paddle in the firm clay on the bank and push off back into the river.

As the sun glints off the breaking waves, you square your shoulders, take a deep breath and set off for the big, wide, open sea.

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