Anybody involved professionally in the divorce process will explain that getting back at your soon to be ex-spouse is not a good idea and it could come back to bite you. Approximately 3 out of 10 divorces keep things clean and amicable; so what happens to the other 7 out of 10?
When emotions run high, rational people go through great lengths to get even, fight unfair and to punish a soon to be ex-spouse. At this time in your life, when you are the least equipped to make good, solid, fair, equitable decisions for you and your family, how can one be expected to make life altering decisions when you are in foreign territory?
Family members and trusted friends offer loving and supportive advice; whether they have gone through the process or not. What’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander. Nobody’s walked a mile in your shoes. These clichés hold a lot of weight during this time in your life. One person might fight till the death for more money. Another person might want to end the divorce sooner and get on with their life, giving up more money. Same scenario, different people; different outcome. For you, one of those outcomes would be perfect; for the next person a mistake.
So, what should and shouldn’t we do during the divorce process to assist in making the right choice for ourselves as the unique individuals we are.
- Don’t assume your attorney is the only person needed to get you through this process. Attorneys do the legal stuff. Accountants do accounting. Financial planners plan your finances. Divorce is extremely stressful, painful and racked with emotion. Other challenges are lack of sleep and proper nutrition. The word CALM has not been a part of life for quite some time. Do enlist the services of a good therapist or certified divorce coach. These professionals work with you to understand and ensure that your needs are met with fairness for all involved. They gently move you out of the emotion and into the business of divorce, thereby saving you time and money.
- Don’t fight over who gets the sofa. Are you really going to give your attorney $ 5,000 in legal fees when you can purchase another piece of furniture just to be spiteful? Do stop, pause and ask yourself, “What am I really doing here?” “When I look back on this, was this the smartest use of resources (time, money and emotion spent)?” If you can’t get out of the emotion, here is another reason to call your divorce coach or therapist. Do you really want to have yet another conversation at $ 400 per hour with your attorney?
- Don’t leave joint credit cards open. Even if one spouse offers to take responsibility, the other spouse can be held liable for the debt. Do close joint bank accounts, loans and credit cards. Remove authorized users and transfer debt to new accounts or loans in the responsible party’s name only.
- Don’t petition the court for primary custody when you know you are fine with joint custody.Don’t refuse to speak with your ex-spouse about parenting time, visiting arrangements, etc.These are tactics used to bully your soon to be ex-spouse into giving up something financial. The only ones that win are the attorneys as you deplete your bank accounts. Do be fair. While you will not be husband and wife anymore, you will always be the parents to the same children. Retain your dignity.
- Don’t tell your kiddos or speak within earshot of your little angels negatively about the other parent. Whether true or not, there are some things the children never need to hear about their parents.Do resist the temptation to over-share, especially when emotions are raw. Remember that your children are products of both of you and you hurt them tremendously when you bad mouth the other parent. Take the high road.
- Don’t brag on social media. If you are negotiating your settlement claiming you don’t have money for certain things, don’t be on an expensive vacation boasting photos.
Do keep your social media pages simple, quiet, serene and non-braggadocious.
- Don’t make a budget or fill out financial forms for the court based on rounding out numbers or what you remember or think your income and expenses are. These turn out to be major mistakes.
Do take the time to verify through bank statements, tax returns, mortgage statements, equity lines, loan and lease agreements, credit card statements, etc., exactly what your finances are. While it is a major pain, accuracy will save you from making detrimental financial mistakes.
- Don’t withdraw large sums of money or clean out the joint accounts without your spouse’s consent or knowledge. Playing financial games is the quickest way to begin the process on a losing note with the judge or trying to negotiate a fair settlement. Do understand that even if you are doing this is to prevent your spouse from cleaning out the joint account(s), do things the right way. If you can’t talk to your spouse, then contact your attorney.
- Don’t change locks on the marital home. Do find a temporary place to stay or contact the police if there is domestic violence involved.
- Don’t lie during divorce proceedings about anything. If you get caught, the court will not believe anything you say going forward.
Do be the person you want your children, family and friends to remember that while going through this rough process you retained your dignity and self-respect.
While I just touched on a few areas of concern as to how to navigate the divorce process in the best way possible, the ultimate choice and final decision on how you want to end your marriage and begin your new life is up to you. You are a unique individual with your own journey behind you and moving forward. These are solid tips on what you should be doing to make the right decision for you and your family.
Jacqui Atcheson is a Certified Divorce Coach ® and Certified Divorce Mediator that specializes in working with her clients starting at the earliest stages of divorce. She helps them get certainty about what they want, control over their future and peace of mind knowing they made the best possible decisions. Her passion for helping others through divorce began as a personal mission in 1979 and became her profession in 1996.