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
Research shows that children of divorce can grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults. However, the research also shows that children of high-conflict divorces can develop emotional problems that last a lifetime. It can be devastating for a child to be caught in the middle of a dispute between parents. You love your children. That’s a given. But loving your children is not enough. You need to protect them from the emotional turmoil that you, as parents, may be going through. This is an enormous challenge. The key is to keep the children out of the middle of your dispute. Don’t use them as messengers. Don’t make them witness angry arguments between the parents. Let them know the divorce is not their fault, and that both parents will continue to love them and take care of them, even after the divorce.
2. Allow your child to love the other parent
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?
3. Don’t give your child too much information
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.
4. Try to be flexible
Parenting-time disputes can be the cause of much stress, especially during the holidays. You can save yourself a lot of grief by trying to be flexible. Being flexible is not a sign of weakness. It sends a message that you are willing to compromise. Extending an olive branch often leads to the other parenting being willing to compromise, too. Parents who refuse to be flexible can find themselves locked in a never-ending battle; and instead of being able to solve their own problems they tend to return to court over-and-over again, putting their fate in the hands of lawyers and judges.
5. Don’t rely on “legal advice” from your friends
Don’t believe everything your hear, especially when it comes from a friend or family member who is trying to give you advice about legal matters. Everyone knows a friend whose own divorce was a nightmare and promises that your outcome will be terrible, too; or one who insists that your judge will give you everything you want because your custody case is a “slam-dunk.” Receiving legal advice from a friend or family member can be a huge mistake, since tends to give you false expectations. If you want good, solid legal advice about your divorce or custody case, talk to a lawyer who specializes in Family Law.
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.
7. Be willing to compromise
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.
9. Take care of yourself
You can’t take proper care of your family if you don’t take care of yourself. So take time to exercise. Join a yoga class. Meet a friend for dinner. Or just spend some “down-time” relaxing at home. — Good nutrition, vigorous exercise, plenty of sleep and relaxation, lots of love and laughter — these are the keys to surviving a divorce and thriving. Taking care of yourself will help you get through this tough time in your life. It’s a wise investment.
10. Know that there is life after divorce
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.
Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year!
The law firm of Gary J. Frank P.C. offers strong advocacy for clients involved in all areas of Family Law, including disputes involving divorce, custody (legal decision-making), parenting time, interstate custody or visitation, grandparent and non-parent custody and visitation, division of property and businesses, spousal and child support, modification of existing orders, enforcement of orders, relocation / move-away cases, paternity, guardianships, and other matters involving children and families. Gary Frank is also an experienced Family Law Mediator who can help you resolve your dispute without the need for fighting in court. With more than thirty years of experience as a courtroom litigator, as well as a mediator and a former Judge Pro Tem, Mr. Frank brings skill, compassion, and a depth of understanding to each matter he handles, and each client that he represents. Our office is located in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona, and we have satellite office in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley to more conveniently serve our clients. You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610 or by email at [email protected]. You can also check us out on our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.