Can divorce be the best part of your marriage? 10 tips for staying sane and humane. You can divorce in a way that honors your marriage. In this first of a 2 part post, I will discuss some of the “truths” I have learned in handling divorces for people.
Don’t get me wrong. For some people, divorce inevitably will be ugly, ugly, ugly. But for others while splitting up is a grief-filled experience full of genuine loss, regret and hardship it also offers remarkable opportunities to redefine, remake and dramatically improve your relationship with your ex.
You are candidates for this kind of transformation if you were good parents but lousy partners; if your married life was essentially two solid and happy separate lives; if you both tried hard to make it work; if nobody did anybody really, really wrong; if you don’t have obvious wedge issues like an impending custody battle, adultery, big (or small) money divides.
If you two simply were not meant to be married anymore and you are both people of good will, trying to be decent to each other, putting the children first, here are 10 ways to protect and insulate your fragile peace, and nurture your emerging new relationship:
1. Don’t try to be friends too soon.
Your reactions, impulses, needs and interests will cycle differently. You need a safe, professional distance from each other to conduct the business, set the rules and boundaries that will allow you to move into a parenting partnership and to see if a new friendship might flourish.
2. Lawyers prepare for the worst. Mediators can bring out your best.
Depending on your state laws and the state of your relationship, it’s great if you can start with a terrific mediator who is also a lawyer. (Some states don’t allow this double duty.) I also know of people who have worked successfully with a mediator who is also a licensed clinical social worker. If you’re not at war already, heading to a sharky lawyer out of fear will certainly start one. If you have a working relationship, similar goals and no huge wedge issues up front, try an experienced mediator first. You’ll save oodles of money and are more likely to come out of it with the good parts of your relationship intact.
This will not work if either of you gets bullied by your partner or is unable to advocate for yourself. I will write another post on this topic this week because there are very good reasons why some couples simply should not have one advocate, as one partner will take over in damaging ways.*****
3. Write a Parenting Plan that speaks directly to your children.
If you start out with “To Adam and Ella,” you are more likely to write a plan with your kids’ best interests in clear focus. Picture them reading it. If they are old enough, share it with them. Show them you are working as a team, from the beginning, on their behalf.
4. Trust But Verify: Write everything down
Do not assume either of you will remember or abide by the agreement no matter how friendly things are. Get it all in writing in a coherent plan and agreement so nobody ‘forgets’ or acts out. This is why a mediator who is also a lawyer is such a strong choice. Especially with issues of money and parenting, the more details are in writing the better. For example, if you live in the same area and are comfortable with the non-custodial spouse or co-parent visiting during non-visiting times or if you are agreeing to a degree of flexibility, write it down.
5. Agree on how to disagree
Failure is inevitable. Things will zig when you thought they’d zag. Minefields will blow in areas you had no idea were even tender. Have a plan for that. What’s your process for when you hit a snag? What if somebody gets a better job and the money changes, or if somebody wants to relocate or if you think parents should pay for graduate school but he doesn’t? What is your process? Head back to mediation? Write down the precise process so everybody is clear.