“Divorce is a fire exit. When a house is burning, it doesn’t matter who set the fire. If there is no fire exit, everyone in the house will be burned!” Mehmet Murat ildan
It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of a burning house (ie. your marriage) but keep these five thoughts handy as you head towards the fire exit.
1) DIVORCE IS A PROCESS.
That seems like a simple concept but all too often we see (former) couples struggling through their new reality. Be patient with yourself and the process. If you are not like Brittney Spears its likely that you have been married for more than 55 hours, you guys have assets to divide and living arrangements to figure out. If you have children this division becomes more complex. Even divorces in which both parties agree on everything (see: unicorn of family law) can take up to six months to complete. Take this time to adjust and get to know your unmarried self.
2) DIVORCE ISN’T THE SILVER BULLET.
The thing is, the problems you had in your marriage don’t magically disappear because you have filed for divorce. Truth is the process of divorce can sometimes amplify the issues couples struggled with during marriage.
Be prepared to work through those problems as your divorce progresses. For example, If you had communication problems in your marriage be prepared to address how best to communicate about the children and discuss the division of property in writing so you both have a point of reference as things get hectic. Even after your divorce, you may have to tackle issues from the past. Be ready to choose which battles are worth fighting.
3) YOUR CHILDREN ARE NOT WEAPONS.
Do not use your children against one another. Going through a divorce is hard enough on children, without the added pressure of having to choose sides. Don’t make them choose a side. Reassure them that they don’t have to take sides. Remind them that whatever disagreements you all are having does not involve them. The problem with using children to as the go-between is that it makes children feel responsible for what is happening. The success or failure of the family becomes their burden to bare and it is simply not fair to place that burden on a child.
If you notice your child taking a side, even if it is yours, encourage them to remain neutral. Outside of accusations of child abuse, there is no reason why the break down of your marriage should spell the destruction of the parent-child relationship between your (former) spouse and child.
4) CHILD SUPPORT AND PARENTING TIME ARE NOT THE SAME THINGS.
This is a big one. No parent may deny or grant parenting time based on the payment or lack thereof, of child support. If there is a court order in place that demands parenting time, honor it, no matter what. Timely let the court know of delinquency and work with your attorney to get child support for your child. Denying parenting time will only hurt your child and your case, especially if parenting time is a contested issue.
Do talk to your attorney as soon as you begin the notice a pattern of non-payment. Seek the help of an attorney to modify a current child support order if your circumstance has changed and or you are unable to make a payment due to job loss or injury. Talk to your attorney if you are being denied parenting time.
5) DIVORCE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE UGLY.
Remember you choose how you want your divorce to look. Be clear about your intentions with your attorney and make sure they are on the same page. Attorneys deal in conflict all the time, so we’ve got you covered in a dogfight. However, it’s equally important to make sure you have an attorney who is also willing to work collaboratively with your spouse and/ or his attorney. If you are still on speaking terms with your spouse (barring a history of abuse) communicate to him/her clearly that you don’t want to drag out the process and you hope to resolve it as peacefully as possible. Realize you only have control over your behavior, but you can influence your spouse’s choices.
Even if the process starts off highly contentious, you can work with your attorney to change the trajectory of the most contentious divorces. Remember agreements can be made pretty much anytime during the process and the family judicial system is set up to encourage and support agreements.