This article is not “How to Avoid Getting a Divorce.” I’m not a relationship expert and I’d never be so bold as to say I know how to save a marriage. Rather, this post is for you if divorce is in the cards and you want to do everything possible to keep the cost and conflict in check. In other words, you don’t want to pay (on average) $27,000 to hire a divorce lawyer or air all of your dirty laundry in open (and sometimes online) court. Even if you didn’t want to break up or your STBX* is a nightmare and the picture-perfect “conscious uncoupling” is not going to happen — there are still so many things you can do to have a productive divorce and a ton of things you should avoid to prevent an all-out war.
Some of this is common sense advice but hey, who’s using their common sense right now? With divorce, Coronavirus, fires, hurricanes, remote learning — sometimes we all need a good reminder of how to keep on keeping on.
*STBX = soon-to-be-ex (spouse)
- If you are the initiator, be mindful of how you break the news to your ex of the divorce. You might be angry. And that’s ok. But your ex is still a human being who has feelings and EGO. Swallowing your pride and being kind is one step in the right direction.
- Be prepared with options. “If we are both committed to resolving our divorce peacefully, we can use Hello Divorce.” Or, “I know we have some complicated issues to resolve, let’s consider working with a mutually agreeable divorce financial planner before we start the legal forms.” Letting your spouse know that there are other options besides lawyering up in the traditional sense – not only is educational, it shows your commitment to staying out of court.
- Make the focus about you, not your ex. We can find a million+ reasons why our relationship fell apart because of our ex’s actions (or inactions). What if we channeled all those negative thoughts into what we want for ourselves and our relationships going forward? S/he doesn’t deserve all of your energy, time, and attention.
- Find a lawyer who will care about your needs and wants and not on what they think you need. If DIY is not your thing, I get it. We offer legal coaching in Colorado and California (more states coming soon) to help give you strategic guidance without ramping up conflict.
- Set ground rules. Many separating couples (successfully) choose to meet together or with a third party such as a wellness coach or therapist to discuss the “ground rules” they will follow while navigating their breakup and transitioning into divorced life. If you can make this happen, do it. Work together to answer questions like, when, how, and where will you discuss divorce-related topics. Will the end game be an agreement that you both can live with? What types of professionals will you hire to help you through (see below)? How and when will you tell the kids? Separating couples who start with these basics before moving on to the more complicated stuff often fare much better.
- Swallow your pride. ͞”Thank you for clarifying that for me. That makes so much more sense.” So what if s/he recited to you exactly the point you’ve been trying to get across for months. The point is to make the settlement conversations productive. If that means complimenting him/her or patting his/her back, so be it. Then grab a glass of wine, get a massage or do some other form of self-care to recover.
- Expect your STBX to move as quickly as you want them to. You had months (maybe years?) to think about divorce – to plan, to manage your emotions, to basically just wrap your head around it. The “D” news might come as a surprise to your ex (even if it shouldn’t) and forcing them into the legal process (unless their is a safety or financial emergency), might only ramp things up.
- Threaten to hire the most aggressive lawyer in town. Why not? Because they might just hire the most aggressive lawyer in town. “Aggressive” doesn’t mean better. It usually is code for “I will run up the biggest bill you have ever seen – I might even make more money on this case than you receive in a settlement.”
- Prioritize Facts over Feelings. It’s brutal but to the extent possible, you have to separate emotion from the business part of divorce. You are negotiating the dissolving of a big contract (the marital contract) and you are bound to feel the emotional weight of ending a relationship. BUT when you let your emotions drive negotiations, well… do I even need to tell you?
- Withhold info (aka: lie). I know what you’re thinking. I got this bonus waaaaay after we separated. It’s mine and s/he doesn’t need to know about it. I’m sorry to report that you are wrong. Divorce law = transparency. Just because you disclose an asset doesn’t mean you have to share it equally (or at all). But your spouse gets to know. Being transparent with finances is not only the law, it’s a way to build trust in the divorce process and usually leads to settlement early on.
- Expect that the communication issues you had in marriage, will magically disappear at divorce. You know what triggers your spouse. There are ways to be persuasive without hitting each one of them. And, if you can’t seem to communicate without each convo spiraling into hell and chaos, maybe it’s time to have a lawyer write a settlement offer or venture into mediation.
You may feel like there’s no way in hell that you and your ex can stay out of court. And maybe that’s true. But I’m absolutely certain there is at least few things you two can agree on. And for everything you agree on, that’s one less trip to the courthouse. An “amicable” split doesn’t mean easy. It just means that you are focused on resolution as opposed to amplifying all that went wrong or is wrong about your ex. Remember, all of our tools, products and resources are designed to help you get to that finish line as peacefully as possible – so that you can move on to that next (awesome) chapter of your life.