Coping with Divorce
- 2001 7 May
A divorce is a legal untangling of the ties between a husband and wife. The legal divorce will settle the financial and custodial requirements, including division of property. The emotional divorce will force the partners to admit they aren't the ones who fulfill all their hopes and dreams, and move the partners beyond dependency on each other. The community divorce will redefine how each of the spouses relates to their friends, family, and community. The co-parental divorce will deal with each parent's loss of control over the children and the time the other parent spends with the children.
None of these is easy, but here are some tips to make it a bit easier:
- Divorce is not an event - it's a process. Whether it takes three weeks, three months, or three years, nothing will be solved immediately.
- There are steps most people go through in the process of a separation and divorce, similar to the steps in the grieving process after a death: denial, anger, grief, acceptance. Often partners do not progress through these steps at the same speed or same time. A spouse who has been secretly planning to leave the marriage for some time may have gone through all four stages before the spouse who's left behind becomes aware there's a problem.
- There is no reason to rush to get a divorce. You should first work on saving the marriage. Marriage counseling, if both parties put their hearts into it, often helps.
- Mediation of custody matters is a good choice. It takes the power from the judge and the attorneys and gives it back to you - who cares most about the children.
- If your child enjoys a good relationship with both parents, be grateful. Even if you and your spouse can't get along with each other, the love bond your child forms with each of you will help shape future relationships for the rest of the child's life.
- Visit your children, even if the custodial parent makes it difficult. Your absence gives the message: You are not loved. You can't wait to rebuild the relationship after the children turn 18 because the damage is done.
- Children are intimately involved in your divorce. Assure them the breakup is not their fault.
- Never lie to the children about what's going on. You don't have to tell them everything but let them know that they can ask you anything. It is appropriate to include older children in some discussions about what's happening or what might happen, and in some decision-making that will affect them.
- Don't put the children in the middle. Don't make them carry bills or other communications back and forth between the parents.
- Keep a journal or notebook where you can document conversations, list expenses, and record observations and experiences. Get the rest of your paperwork in order: old bank statements, IRS returns, bills, etc.
- Because the legal system can work slowly, it's important to find positive ways to work off the stress that inevitably will occur. Walk. Bike. Paint. Sculpt. Involve your kids in some of these activities.
- Your attorney is not your friend or your mental health counselor. Attorneys are legal professionals skilled in the ways of dissolving relationship through the court system. Use their time appropriately.
- Because you're paying for an attorney's time by the hour, be prepared. Take time to think of the topics you'd like to discuss, and prepare a list of questions. Bring documents which might be useful.
- Don't be afraid to shop around for a lawyer who views the legal process the way you do and is willing to pursue your goals, not his or her own agenda. Expect to find a range of hourly rates and retainers among counsel in your area. Be up front about costs.
Taken from 101 Little Instructions for Surviving Your Divorce by Barbara J. Walton, © 2000. Used by permission of Impact Publishers, Inc. Atascadero, Calif. 1-800-246-7228.