We’ve all heard about at least one nightmare divorce. But yours doesn’t have to be one of them. Here are some tips for getting through the process that will save you money, time and a lot of heartache.
1) Think of this as a journey you are embarking on. You are transitioning from one household to two. Like any journey, you will do well to be prepared. You are becoming more independent.
2) Define your goals. What would success look like? How do you want to feel at the end of this process? What kinds of relationships would you like to have with your children? With your in-laws? With your ex? Focus on your underlying needs. Act with dignity and self-respect. Act in a way you will be proud of in 10 years.
3) Take extra good care of yourself emotionally, spiritually, physically and intellectually. Eat well, rest, exercise, get together with your friends. Be healthy. Even in the best of circumstances, transitions are stressful. You must attend to your own needs before you can attend to others.
4) Stay positive. It may seem that the world is falling down around you, but trust that you will get through this, and that you will be okay. It will take some work, of course, and a lot of adjustments.
5) Get emotional support. Use a counselor (or a pillow!) to vent your anger and frustration. Don’t expect your lawyer to provide emotional support. Remember that time with your lawyer is precious – and by that, I mean, very expensive. Be practical!
6) Learn a little family law. Educate yourself to know what the basic laws are in your state, so you know what questions to ask, and what to expect. Make a budget so you know what you realistically need financially.
7) Choose your divorce process carefully. Consider mediation or collaborative practice to work out a financial settlement and parenting plan. Both processes are designed to keep you and your spouse in the driver’s seat, to keep things as amicable as possible, and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of you and your family. Consult with a caring, experienced lawyer who listens.
8) Hug the kids. Kids are loyal to both parents. They don’t see things the way you do, and they don’t have to. Don’t put them in the middle. Explain things in an age-appropriate way. Give them extra support, and keep their schedule as regular as you can. This is stressful for them, too.
9) Educate yourself. Perhaps you need to learn to pay the bills, or to manage your finances, or to cook. When this feels overwhelming, focus on the fact that you will develop competence in new areas, and will learn to be more self-sufficient.
10) Celebrate your milestones. You are learning and growing every day, and crisis brings opportunity. Make the most of your new life, and your new self.
Whether you were the one to initiate the divorce or it was thrust upon you, you will get through this. With the right tools and the right mental attitude, you can come out of the transition stronger, healthier, and more determined – a better you!