Managing the Uncomfortable Business of Divorce

Divorce has largely shed its stigma, unfortunately, it’s kept a lot of its complications. Often, the best way to deal with these complications is to treat the details of divorce as a business transaction. Here are some tips to help.

Focus on self-care

Hopefully, this is well-understood by now, but, as a reminder, self-care is not selfish. Self-care is what keeps you in your best shape to navigate your way through a challenging negotiation. This is important even if you don’t have children. It’s absolutely vital if you do because you can only look after them if you’ve taken good care of yourself.

Your focus on self-care needs to continue right through the post-divorce period and beyond. Remember, you’re not necessarily going to be able to rely on your partner the way you maybe did in the past. You therefore, need to build your own resources, including your own independent social support network.

Check the simple options first

If your marriage has been short and you don’t have children, always check and see if you can get an annulment of marriage. Generally, this is fairly easy to find out and if you do qualify, it can make your decoupling process much quicker and easier.

If, by contrast, you have had a long marriage with children, then you might want to look into legal separation. This essentially divides your everyday lives but maintains the financial link between you. It therefore buys you time to “unscramble” your finances at your leisure. This can be a very useful solution for older people without any immediate plans to remarry.

If it turns out that divorce is really the only way to go, then, again, look at all your options. Remember that going through a divorce can be one of life’s biggest events. It’s therefore in everyone’s best interests for you to get it right the first time. Then you can focus on moving on with your lives.

Start with mediation rather than lawyers

Most people will need, or at least benefit from, third-party guidance during the divorce process. It’s best to get this from professionals who thoroughly understand the divorce system in your area. You can go straight to a lawyer. This is, however, an expensive option and can lead to friction with your ex-partner. It’s therefore often better to start with mediation.

Mediation is essentially a moderated debate on the practicalities of your divorce. The key word in that sentence is “practicalities”. Mediation sessions can get emotional and mediators are trained to deal with that. The purpose of mediation, however, is to look at how you go forwards into the future. It does not concern itself with how you got to where you are now.

A mediator is basically a neutral and knowledgeable guide along the path to divorce. They can help couples reach agreements on issues such as asset division, financial support, and child custody arrangements. What’s more, couples have the option to test any agreements to make sure that they actually work in practice before committing to them in court.

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Choose your lawyer with care

Agreeing on everything in advance makes the legal process quicker and simpler (and more affordable). It is, however, still important for each of you to get a high-quality divorce lawyer. Firstly, you’ll want an actual legal professional to check whatever you’ve agreed. Secondly, you’ll want the actual divorce proceedings to progress with the minimum of hassle.

Keep in mind that courts can reject divorce agreements. This is highly unusual, but it can and does happen. There are two main reasons why they would do so. The first is that there is an issue with a point of law. The second is that they believe that the proposed settlement is unfair to one (or both) of the parties.

This has two implications. Firstly, you need to make sure that your paperwork is filed 100% correctly. Secondly, you need to make sure that it clearly demonstrates why the settlement is reasonable. Remember that all a court will know about your situation is what they see presented to them in the divorce papers.

Never be afraid of a court appearance

You may not even have to appear in court to get a divorce. If you do, however, then forget anything you’ve ever seen on TV. Family courts are places to deal with often difficult issues as gently as possible. They are not places for the aggressive cross-examinations you see on courtroom dramas.

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In fact, if you do have to go to court, there’s a good chance you’ll spend most of the time in a waiting room. Make sure you have a way to relax and pass the time. When you do get in front of a judge, you’ll be standing for as long as it takes for your case to be heard. Think about this when you choose your footwear.

You don’t have to “dress to impress”. Just make sure that your clothing is clean, formal, and ideally neutral. Keep colors and bold patterns for another occasion.

Managing your post-divorce relationship

If you have minor children, then you’re going to have a post-divorce relationship with your ex-partner. The younger they are, the longer that post-divorce relationship is going to last. The longer a relationship has to last, the more likely it is to need to be updated from time to time. This is particularly true where children are involved because their needs can change rapidly.

It’s therefore a good idea to schedule periodic review sessions. This can help you both to catch any issues before they become problems. Again, mediation can be extremely useful here. You don’t need to go over old ground. In fact, that’s the opposite of what mediation is meant to do. Instead, you can discuss the present and future and see what change, if any, need to be made.

The rest of the time, you and your ex-partner need to focus on maintaining effective communication with each other. Ideally, you’ll have regular verbal catch-ups and then make sure all agreements are captured in writing. This doesn’t have to be tedious. It can be something as simple as a shared calendar and task list to keep you both working to an agreed schedule.

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