Five tips for a healthy divorce
This past year has been traumatic and stressful for millions of Americans and in many cases this stress has taken its toll on marriages. The confines of the foreclosure, fear of loss of income and other challenges related to this public health crisis have increased marital tensions for many. In fact, a recent article from Institute of Family Studies notes a survey which found that among adults aged 18 to 55, 34% of married men and women said the pandemic increased stress in their marriages.
As a licensed divorce lawyer who has run my own practice since 2014, I know firsthand how overwhelming the whole divorce process can be for everyone involved, from former spouses to children. But I also know that when both parties want it is possible to maintain a healthy and inexpensive divorce process. Below are five “Dos” and “Don’ts” if you yourself are in the process of a divorce and want to come to an amicable resolution.
Consider all the long-term ramifications.
I have seen many clients put their children first in divorce proceedings, but they don’t think about their own financial security. I have seen people hire lawyers to represent them in a custody dispute, but then proceed without a lawyer to distribute marital property and debts. I’ve also seen clients agree on how much each parent will spend on their children’s school fees while still in elementary school, but fail to get their rightful share of a 401K.
All of these actions are shortsighted. The decisions you make right now in the midst of a divorce can impact many aspects of your life in the long run. For example, loans are available for your children’s college tuition, but similar loans will not be available if you need home care or assisted living later. As a parent, you naturally think it’s best to put children first in divorce cases, but if you don’t make sound decisions for your own long-term safety, those financial burdens will end up being imposed on you. children to adulthood.
Be completely transparent about finances.
When it comes to financial allowance and planning, if you want an amicable and affordable divorce, you must commit to being transparent about all financial assets, as well as the debts you have accumulated. Money disputes are among the five most frequently cited reasons for divorce, according to a study by INSIDER data, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a point of contention in a divorce as well.
Forcing your spouse to search for financial records or hiring a lawyer to collect this information for you is both a long and expensive process. Not only is financial transparency the ethical line of conduct, but failure to disclose everything could invalidate the agreements made by both parties in the divorce proceedings.
Put aside your feelings of pain and anger.
Another way to stay engaged in a peaceful and courteous divorce is to separate your personal emotions from the logistical process itself. No matter how justified you might feel, make a constant, intentional effort to avoid blame shifting, pointing, and all the other reasons your marriage wasn’t healthy to begin with. It’s human nature to be hurt or angry in this situation, but I advise dealing with these emotions with a counselor or therapist and keeping them away from divorce settlement conversations.
Focusing on personal grievances will prevent you both from working together to reach a compromise on finances, custody, and the commons. Even if one spouse is “more at fault” than the other, that does not mean that a judge will still not grant that spouse half of all assets or joint custody of the children. Thus, it is in everyone’s interest to manage emotions and maintain civic behavior throughout this process.
Don’t put children in the middle of this ordeal.
If not treated properly, divorce and separation can have a huge impact on the mental and emotional well-being of your children. According to World Journal of Psychiatry, depression, feelings of instability, school problems and disruptive behaviors are all common in children of newly divorced and separated parents. With this in mind, it is important not to increase their stress or anxiety levels more than is necessary under the circumstances. They need to be reassured, but they don’t need to participate in decision making.
Don’t ask your kids where they want to live or how much time they want to spend with each of their parents. These are mature decisions that put too much pressure on a child who might feel conflicted or worried about hurting a parent’s feelings. Children shouldn’t have to bear the emotional burden of divorce logistics. The transition to a new normal family is stressful enough. As two adults, you need to sit down with your spouse and choose an arrangement that will ensure that each parent has a strong relationship with the children, and then discuss with your children what this plan will involve.
Don’t try to navigate without a lawyer.
I have seen this happen with those who want to avoid the fees of a lawyer, but I can tell you that the results are often unsuccessful. Each state has its own specific requirements for couples seeking divorce, and the information available online is often incomplete or incorrect. If you try to use an online form for a separation agreement without understanding the legal requirements in your state, it may result in an invalid agreement.
It often becomes more expensive to hire a lawyer to fix an incorrect divorce petition or invalid agreement than to hire a lawyer in the first place and make sure this process is done correctly. The initial investment is well worth it to avoid costly mistakes down the line. After all, one of the main job descriptions of a divorce lawyer is to help provide a quick and easy solution to an otherwise difficult time in your life.
Yes, divorces are painful and difficult, but a healthy outcome can be within reach if you keep these tips in mind.