successful in producing a desired or intended result.
Once you, your partner or the two of you together have decided it’s time to divorce, there are steps you can take to make the process as effective and least stressful as possible. Below are some tips:
- Use a trained third party to help you maneuver difficult conversations. There are many different areas to consider in divorce. Having third-party professionals help you navigate those areas can be an invaluable resource. For example: a mental health professional can help navigate parenting plans or child custody issues. A trained mediator or certified divorce financial analyst (link to member directory) can walk you through different financial settlement options.
- Take time to take care of yourself. Divorce is a difficult process, no matter what the circumstances. If you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the divorce process, it’s important to stop and check-in with how you are taking care of your own health and wellbeing. Set aside time for self-care or seek out a support system to help recharge you for difficult conversations.
- Educate yourself about the divorce process and the timeline for divorcing in your state. The more you know, the more you can tailor your questions and expectations. For instance, get familiar with paperwork to be filed, the overall timeline and when you can expect your divorce to be finalized.
- Have a clear understanding of the outcomes you expect from your divorce. Take time to write down your goals for the short and long term. These goals can include or exclude your soon to be former spouse, depending on what you may need. Goals may include starting to or continuing to co-parent respectfully, sharing information around vacations and holidays, or peacefully taking turns with furry family members. Having these goals will help you stay focused and grounded and can help you when emotions become overwhelming.
- Minimize negative language. Even though you may feel hurt or angry, using words and phrases that ignite strong emotions can derail productive conversations. Using phrases such as “I hate when you..”, “You never…” , or “You always..” sets a tone that can be hard to overcome, even in the best of circumstances.
- Gather your team. Your team is what will get you through the divorce process. For a collaborative divorce, your team will consist of, at a minimum, having an attorney, a financial neutral and mental health professional. Having a solid team of professionals will allow you to get support legally, financially, and emotionally while navigating all aspects of your divorce. Other team members that could be helpful are a CPA, divorce coach and transition coach.
- Find a lawyer that can support your desired way of divorcing. If you decide that you want a collaborative divorce (link to definition), mediation or a litigated divorce make sure that you are on the same page with your attorney. You may find yourself frustrated if you want to try to mediate your divorce and your attorney feels like it may be better to litigate.
- Organize, organize, organize. During the divorce process you will be asked for numerous documents: tax returns, pay stubs, investment statements, your budget. Having a system in place will reduce stress and allow you to access this information in a timely manner. One of the easiest ways to organize is to create a folder on your computer or in the cloud where all your information is stored digitally and securely. This way you can easily call up anything you need.
- Understand your boundaries. I recently heard on a podcast that the most certain boundary you will ever set is telling your partner that you want a divorce. In essence you are stating that the marriage is over, and your separate lives are beginning. In addition to setting this boundary, you may also need to set boundaries around what you will allow as you go through your divorce such as making sure you maintain your privacy or keeping conversations outside of negotiations limited to issues about your children.
- Consider Mediation or Collaborative Divorce: A recent study among many others in the last 20 years) have consistently found strong associations between divorce and adverse health outcomes among adults. Generally, divorcees report poorer physical and mental health and more symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and social isolation than the general population.1 Many of these outcomes stem from a contentious litigated process. Choosing to mediate or to use the collaborative process allows for couples to lay a foundation that is based on effective and respectful communication in addition to allowing for more privacy and support during the divorce process.
How you experience divorce and its aftermath doesn’t have to be negative. Having an effective divorce will mean something different to everyone. For some, it means ending a marriage in a respectful way and for others it might mean leaving the process feeling as if they have been heard. In all cases, there are some steps you can take to be proactive while meeting your personal goals.
1 Hewitt and Turrell, 2011; Hewitt et al., 2012; Hald et al., 2020b