This year is coming to a close. If you are in the middle of a divorce – or if you are getting ready to go through one – the next twelve months could be tough. So, here are some simple guidelines to make the journey less difficult.
1. Keep your children out of the middle of your dispute
When a marriage comes apart and emotions are at a boiling point, it is easy for a parent to make the mistake of voicing his or her displeasure with the other parent to the children. Sometimes this leads to a war of words, with each parent feeling the need to “defend” himself / herself by badmouthing the other. But here’s a warning: Clinical research shows that this type of behavior can cause serious emotional problems for children. They need to be able to love both of their parents. So give them your permission. You would probably place your life on the line to protect your children from a stranger who tried to hurt them. Then why wouldn’t you make every effort to protect your children from your own anger and toxic feelings toward their other parent?
Of course, it is important to be honest with your children – but giving them information that is not age-appropriate, or talking to them about details of your divorce that they are incapable of emotionally processing, can be harmful and destructive. Don’t talk to your children about the legal issues of your divorce. Don’t show them your court paperwork. Don’t share adult information with young children. If you need to vent or get your feelings off your chest, turn to a trusted friend, a family member, or a therapist. Keep your children out of the loop. Let them be children.
6. Choose a lawyer wisely
One of the most important decisions you will ever make is finding the right attorney. Many people who are embroiled in a family law dispute say, “I’m going to hire the meanest, most aggressive, attorney I can find.” That usually works – for the lawyer. If the lawyer is only mean, or only aggressive, then the result will probably be a long, contentious, and expensive litigation. That means more money for the lawyer. Your money! What you really want is a highly qualified attorney, one who is looking out for your interests. The best attorney is someone who is skilled and experienced; someone who will fight for your rights — but who is also looking for ways to resolve the matter peacefully, if at all possible. Most importantly, you should select an attorney who is a good match for you, and who makes you feel comfortable and confident.
Court litigation is, by nature, an adversarial process. It can take a long time and cost a lot of money – and in the end, the final decision will be made by a judge who is a stranger to both parties. Therefore, in any divorce or custody litigation, your goal should be to negotiate a solution that meets your needs and the needs of the children. You can save yourself a great deal of time and money, and avoid much stress, by being willing to make reasonable compromises. People who are able to negotiate a fair resolution of their dispute tend to be much happier with the arrangement in the long run.
8. Talk to someone you can trust
A person going through the turmoil of divorce or custody case can benefit from a strong support system. If you are struggling with a divorce, or if you are caught in a highly contested custody case, find someone to talk to. Whether it is with a family member, a friend, someone from your church, or a therapist, talking about your feelings is a healthy outlet. There are also many divorce and single-parent support groups in your community that will welcome you and help you understand that you are not alone.
It may not seem like it now, but rest assured that there is, indeed, life after divorce – and it can be great. It will certainly be an adjustment, and it will take a commitment on your part, but getting out of an unhappy marriage, making new friends, and taking control of your physical and mental health, can give you a new perspective and lead to a happier life.