For some adversarial couples, their divorce is going to be ugly and there’s no way around it. Sometimes, it’s just because of the personality traits of one of the spouses and there’s nothing the innocent spouse can do but seek protection from divorce court. But for the majority of couples, splitting is a grief-filled experience. The couple had some really good times and now they’re both feeling the loss but at the same time, they know the future is filled with opportunities.
Is this where you are? If you are both good people who simply aren’t meant to be married anymore and you’re trying to treat each other with decency, here are 7 tips on how to achieve a great divorce:
1. Don’t get too close too soon.
Maybe you’ve moved out of the master bedroom and into the “friend zone” but be careful of getting too close too soon. If you are too friendly, you can end up back in bed together and things can get very confusing. You need to keep a safe distance for now. If you get too attached or if your spouse does and one of you realizes that you’re not getting back together, a collaborative divorce can suddenly get ugly when feelings get hurt. Set rules and boundaries and focus on a parenting partnership. After the divorce is final and you’ve both gotten some space from each other, then see if your co-parenting blossoms into a healthy friendship.
2. Work with a divorce attorney-mediator.
A Pit Bull divorce lawyer will prepare you for the worst, while a divorce attorney-mediator will help you bring out your best. If your life does not resemble the 1989 movie The War of the Roses, then stay away from a sharky lawyer who can put your spouse on the defense. If you have a decent relationship, similar goals, and no major issues, our advice is to hire a divorce attorney who also practices divorce mediation. You’ll save money and protect the good working relationship you still have with your spouse.
3. Get it all in writing.
Things may be friendly, but you don’t want to go off of verbal agreements alone. No matter how amicable your divorce is, things can be forgotten or misunderstood. Get everything in writing and we mean everything. This is why a divorce lawyer who is also an experienced mediator is such an important choice.
When it comes to issues regarding property division and parenting, the more details in writing the better. For example, if you’ll be the non-custodial parent and you’ll be living in the same area and your spouse is comfortable with you taking the kids during non-visiting times, make sure you get it in writing.
4. Agree on how to handle future challenges.
Realize that things are going to come up. Plans might fail. Things might blow up. One of you might remarry and want to move across the country with the kids. When your child becomes a teenager, he or she may want to live with the other parent. Someone may get a better job and their income may change by a lot.
What if one parent thinks they’ll be able to pay for college but when the time comes, they can’t afford it? What if the dependent spouse ends up tripling their income? What will be your process? See the mediator again or go to court for a post-judgement modification? Write down the process for handling hiccups so both of you are clear on your Plan B.
5. Release yourself from old patterns.
While you were married, you probably played the role of your spouse’s confident and counselor, but once you file for divorce, you need to release yourself from that duty. You want to resist old patterns. If your former spouse runs to you with every work problem, and unloads on you about their romantic life, it’s like you’re still married.
If he or she talks to you about their insecurities, problems with their boss, self-hatred, and other life disappointments, it’s time to set boundaries. You are released from your marriage so stay that way. Beware of falling back into the same patterns and seeking your ex for support as well. To have a healthy divorce, seek comfort in your own friends and family and keep your ex a safe distance.
6. Arrange family get-togethers.
If you and your ex can be on good terms, make time to get together as a family. See a movie. Go out to dinner. Show your kids that you love them and can all enjoy each other’s company. The best way to reduce the impact of your divorce on your kids is to get along with your spouse.
If one or both of you remarry down the road, welcome the new spouse into the equation and do as many family things together as possible. This behavior says to the kids, “You have two parents who love and adore you. We value each other as co-parents and will always love you no matter what.”
7. No one new at first.
If someone cheated and their boyfriend or girlfriend is still in the picture, you probably cannot take any of this advice because someone made a big mistake and the innocent spouse is hurt and feels deeply betrayed. If for some reason another person is involved, do NOT involve this person with the kids.
If someone gets involved shortly after the separation or divorce, you still don’t want to involve the new partner with the kids for some time. Even if the kids are mature for their age or teenagers, the children’s emotions are still raw and you want to respect that. Instead, focus on the family and wait until the divorce has been over for a good six to twelve months before introducing a new partner to the kids. You may want to wait even longer depending on your children’s personalities.
Related: Divorce & the Road to Rising Above