The First Steps You Should Take
Oftentimes, when clients come to my office seeking a divorce, they have already committed to the idea that they and their partners are going to be splitting up. They already flew through days filled with fights and tears, rode the waves of resentment and traveled down the marriage counseling pathway. At the end of their journey, the two parties acknowledge that this marriage has now come to an end.
Many of my clients are very upfront about the feelings of sorrow, resentment – and sometimes guilt. Love and trust have a lot to do with sustaining a marriage.
But really, marriage is the ability to come together over and over again. When you and your spouse cannot come together, that is when it is time to divorce. And that is ok.
Know that marriage is hard. Marriage with children, especially little ones, is hard. It is ok to acknowledge that your relationship just ran its course without assigning blame. Yet it is important to note that if you are in a relationship with an abusive spouse, do not hesitate to leave.
But unless you are J. Lo and have been divorced countless times, you are likely in the dark about how the divorce process works. There are ways to make this process a peaceful one. Know that there are ways to navigate through divorce in such a way that will leave you in a better place, giving you the energy to commit to a new expression of your relationship with your soon- to- be former spouse. With that said, we will explore the first steps that you need to take once you have made the decision to get a divorce.
The first step is to find a divorce process that compatible with your goals.
It’s incredibly helpful to take some time to write out how do you, ideally, want to live your life post-divorce. How will you know that the outcome to the process was a successful one? Try to focus on the big picture without assigning any blame. If you have children, remember that your conduct and decisions will affect them for years to come. Review what you wrote and revisit these notes that you made to yourself. It will be especially helpful in maintaining a measured perspective going forward.
Litigation, which involves the court’s involvement in making decisions for your children and the division of marital assets, can be costly. Know that your marital history, the skeletons in the closet topics, are aired out on public record, exposing the pain and wounding those involved. The feelings of resentment that linger after court hearing can seriously impair the co-parenting relationship post-divorce. The court may also make decisions that affect your family for the long term with little knowledge of your family history or dynamic.
The Collaborative Divorce path ushers parties into the next stage of their relationship in a dignified way. Unlike litigation, the approach is not adversarial, and is more team-oriented. The sessions involve family law attorneys and other Collaborative Law experts from other disciplines, working as neutral professionals together to create a sustainable solution for the parties.
There are also hybrid approaches that involve both processes described above. An experienced, licensed family law attorney can fully explain all the options available.
Also retain a family law attorney who is committed to your goals.
Contact your local Bar association and talk to family as well as friends for a trusted referral. Make sure you are able to clearly communicate your goals to your attorney early in the case. The attorney that you hire should advocate for your interests but should also be able to tell you what the reality is. He or she should be upfront about whether you goals are realistic and if not, offer an alternate option that is aligned with your interests.
With that said, have realistic expectations.
Please know that there will still be bad days. There will be times where you feel like you can speak freely to your spouse, and times where you unable to be in the same room. But again, keep in mind the goals you wrote down in the beginning. Ask yourself whether your current actions and attitudes are helpful towards attaining those goals.
Find a way to navigate through this sea of emotions by finding a good therapist.
Rely on your intuition and pick a counselor you feel like you can trust and speak openly to without reservation.
By identifying your goals and interests early, finding emotional support, and selecting the process as well as a trusted attorney, it is possible to have a peaceful divorce. It may not be a fairy-tale, but you can indeed have a happy, sustainable “ever-after.”