We view divorce as an event. As if one day you announce, “I’m getting a divorce,” and the next day your marriage is over. The truth is, it’s a journey. It’s a process. It’s a method by which you transition out of your marriage and re-prioritize your relationships, especially your relationship with yourself. Sometimes there is still love. Sometimes the love that once was has long been extinguished.
But one thing is certain, hardly anyone leaves their marriage hoping for a nightmare, never-ending, high conflict, and expensive divorce that never ends. They breed animosity, undermine already broken relationships, and drain precious resources of time, energy, and money from the family. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If your divorce is headed down the (legal) rabbit hole, there are things you can do to stop it from barreling out of control there are things you can do to stop it from barreling out of control, or at least slow it down significantly before the court becomes the only option.
As the founder of Hello Divorce and a 15 year veteran of the divorce legal industry (I’m a Certified Family Law Specialist), I work every day to make divorce more understandable and more affordable so the process can work better, faster, and easier for everyone. We know that information and transparency help neutralize conflict, so we are constantly working to help our clients understand all of their options and build a strategy that best suits their goals and the restructuring of their family. Sure, there are complex issues to work through in divorce and decisions can sometimes be painful. But my goal is always to resolve issues outside of court, through sound strategy and a commitment to helping our clients understand where they have leverage and how to use it, to the benefit of both parties — because divorce doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.
These are my best tips for fostering a peaceful divorce and co-parenting strategy:
1. Knowledge is power
There is nothing scarier than starting a divorce without understanding the basics. Without a ‘plan’ or for some of us, a ‘list,’ we can feel really out of control. Divorce is both procedure and substance. The procedure includes all of the divorce paperwork that must be completed and understanding when and why you may have to “appear” online or in-person at court. Start with reviewing our divorce process flow chart to understand what the legal process looks like. We’ve got loads of information-packed resources on Hello Divorce that will help you get a handle on all things “Divorce,” including this shared parenting worksheet. You’ll feel so much better once you have a better understanding of the tasks at hand.
2. Get a strategy in place
That sounds bad. Like I’m encouraging you to trick your ex. I’m not. A strategy will actually help both of you (especially if you are the ‘do-er’ spouse). You don’t have to know or do everything – you just need to have the right information, support, and resources. By developing a strategy at the start of your divorce, you will feel so much more comfortable living in transition and facing the unknown. It doesn’t mean your strategy won’t change throughout the course of your divorce. It might. And that’s ok. But let’s get you started on the right foot.
3. Get the party started before tackling the hard(er) stuff
Do yourself a favor, don’t start talking settlement at the start of your divorce when emotions are most heated and often feelings are most hurt. Remember the procedural stuff I discussed above? Start with that. There are three main steps to every divorce. It isn’t until the third step that the two of you need to have an agreement. And often, handling the first couple of steps sets the stage for peaceful (but still grueling) settlement discussion(s). And of course, you can’t really discuss substance until you have what you need. If you don’t know the marital interest in your spouse’s retirement account (for example), how can you decide if it’s better to take your share of the pension or keep the house?
4. Don’t delay any longer
Did you know that 70% of divorces are filed by women after they’ve been thinking about it for 5-8 years? You, and only you know if your marriage is worth saving. If it truly isn’t, move forward. And if you think there may be a legal issue that would justify a delay, schedule a meeting with a lawyer. Almost always, delaying is a bad idea. It could put you at financial risk, ruin your credit, and let’s face it, emotional baggage gets very heavy after a while.
5. Choose (wisely) your legal help
It used to be that you had two options – hiring a traditional divorce attorney (which in most states costs on average $20,000 per person) or navigating the process on your own through a DIY service. Fortunately, you now have options and I urge you to do a little investigating of your own. At Hello Divorce, we offer several options – ranging from a modified “DIY” Divorce (you follow a secure guided interview that auto-populates your divorce forms and we file and process them for you) to a “Divorce with Benefits” that includes legal coaching from an experienced (and kind) divorce lawyer or mediator. Regardless of your choice, you can always sign up for a free membership to access loads of tools, worksheets, and resources we share to support you.
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