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How to Have a “Good” Divorce

No one wants to get a divorce, and it is an event no one expects to happen to him or her. Unfortunately, people change, things happen, and the decision to divorce must be made in some cases. However, divorce does not always have to be a horrible, drawn-out, hostile and expensive ordeal. Don’t get me wrong; divorce is ALWAYS hard, especially with children. But there are ways to go about it that can be less painful and have more positive outcomes. Here’s how to get a “good divorce”:

  1. Mediate; don’t litigate. Litigating a divorce is the best way to spend all the money you are trying to prevent your spouse from getting. Both parties will end up spending more than they are comfortable with, adding financial stress on top of the emotional turmoil of divorce. Mediation is a lower-cost, friendlier way to untie the knot. A mediator is a neutral person who will sit down with the two people and help them resolve issues such as who gets what, what the custody arrangement should be, and how the divorce will play out. Mediators are often trained therapists as well, so they can help temper the emotions in the room. Remember however that mediation is a choice, and that one spouse can withdraw at any time and for any reason. You can even hire lawyers and take them to mediation with you if that would make you feel more comfortable.
  2. If you must litigate, find a lawyer you like. It is important that you feel comfortable with your lawyer, as well as trust them to advise you of the best decisions to make. You want to feel that your lawyer is on your side and has your best interests in mind, not just your money. In addition, you should feel like you can ask questions of your lawyer, and as many as you need, because it is important to know your rights if you are litigating a divorce.
  3. Follow the rules of your prenup, if you have one. Prenuptual agreements were traditionally thought of as ways for rich people to protect their assets from a less wealthy spouse. However these days prenups are becoming much more common and are recommended for anyone with assets such as property or money, a business, debts, or an inheritance. If you have a prenup, you have basically already decided how your assets will be divided in the case of divorce, making it an easier process. However you may find that your prenup is unfair, in which case this can be debated in court.
  4. Communicate and be honest. The truth will come out eventually in the divorce process, so you might as well be honest with your spouse about everything. If you had an affair, were hiding money, had a secret addiction, etc. now is the time to come clean about it. If this comes out in the middle of a mediation session or in court, that could have quite negative consequences.
  5. Beware of the paper trail. It is understandable in a divorce that you may be angry with your ex and feeling quite emotional. But be smart: do not ever text, email or leave a voicemail threatening, cursing, yelling, or defaming your spouse. Try to be as polite and amicable as possible throughout the proceedings, and if you feel upset, talk to a close friend or relative about it before letting yourself blow up.
  6. Make your kids the priority. Studies have shown that divorce often has a negative impact on children (see previous blog post). You should make it your mission to reduce this impact as much as possible. Talk to your kids and help them process their feelings of loss about the separation of their parents. Explain to them as best as possible, and with discretion depending on their age, what is going on and why.
  7. Remember that the non-custodial spouse is important, too. It used to be that when a couple got divorced, it was automatically assumed that the mother would get the kids. However nowadays joint custody is much more common. Research shows that keeping both parents equally involved in the children’s lives has positive effects on them and helps in the adjustment to divorce. It is very hard on children when one parent moves to a different city, and this should be avoided if at all possible.
  8. Go to therapy. Divorce is an emotional event for everyone involved, and you NEED to talk about it. Family therapy or individual therapy is highly recommended to help you and the kids deal with the plethora of feelings that come with reaching the decision to divorce, the actual divorce process, and the adjustment period after. Symmetry Counseling is here to help.

Author: Grace Norberg, AMFT

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