Have you ever thought about living a better life? A life without conflict or stress? A life without bickering and squabbling over money, chores, children? A life where you feel like you have your freedom and your self back?

Of course you have. But this would mean divorce. And divorce is the "C" word for families. Besides, it's expensive, and too big a change. Plus divorces are nasty. You tell yourself "it's not that bad -- no one is really happy anyway." Feeling a little more hopeless, you tough it out another day, month, year.

What if there is an alternative? What if there is a way to divorce nicely? You have heard of a beautiful wedding. What if there is a beautiful divorce?

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First of a new column "Law Matters," a new column that will examine common legal issues in plain language, debuts today. Written by Westport lawyer Susan F. Filan, it will appear every other Wednesday.

Family law is trending in this direction because people are becoming aware that they have a choice. There may be a better way. They can choose to minimize the financial and emotional cost of a happier family life.

The alternative is divorce mediation.

In divorce mediation, a divorcing couple work together to create a parenting plan with appropriate access to and care for the children, as well as share the family's financial resources so that both parties can live a life that makes sense and fits the family budget. Divorce is tough math- it is hard to make one go into two. But one house must turn into two houses. Now there are double the utility bills, food bills, and when there is one income, to cover two homes, divorce can be a challenge. While the emotional reasons to fight are tempting -- hurt feelings, betrayal, mistrust, disappointment; when the cost of fighting over assets and children is calculated, couples are beginning to realize it is not emotionally or financially smart to war.

Divorce mediation is becoming more popular. A mediator can be an attorney but does not have to be. The mediator can be a mental health professional, financial analyst or any combination. A good mediator must be neutral, fair, experienced, familiar with family law in Connecticut and willing to listen to all parties to find a creative solution to meet each family members needs. When selecting a family mediator, do your homework. Learn as much as you can about their practice, their approach, their cost, and their experience.

Another benefit of mediation is that it takes place in a private setting, as opposed to the public corridors of crowded courthouses. Some of the most important decisions that you will ever have to make will involve how to co-parent your children and how to divide your marital estate. What you decide today will shape your future.

Change is a constant in life -- we move, loved ones die, we change jobs and we change partners. Yet we fear change.

A good way to minimize the pain of divorce is for a couple to join forces and work together for the good of the family than to square off, oppose and fight. While it may sound Utopian, a good mediator can facilitate this.

While private divorce mediation works well for many families, it is not right for every family. Investigate. See if it can help your family.

Susan F. Filan is a lawyer with a practice in Westport. She is a former state prosecutor and has been a legal analyst for NBC News, MSNBC and CNN.