7 Steps to Having a Positive Divorce

It’s possible to have a positive divorce even when you’re angry with your spouse. The key is not to let your feelings dictate your behavior. Here are 7 steps to help you end your marriage in ways that lessen conflict and establish an amicable co-parenting relationship.

Exit gracefully. How you leave your marriage sets the tone for your divorce. Infidelity, financial mismanagement, and serving your spouse with divorce papers with no warning are all extreme behaviors that create chaos and ill will. Although you cannot control how your spouse responds to the divorce process, you can and should choreograph an exit in the least dramatic way possible.

Ideally, this would mean that you don’t start a romantic relationship before filing for divorce. You don’t engage in financial shenanigans such as taking out a line of credit in your spouse’s name or moving funds from joint accounts into separate ones. And you tell your spouse you no longer wish to be married at an appropriate time instead of serving him or her on Valentine’s Day.

Unless absolutely necessary, do not hire a shark attorney. As a rule, you should retain an attorney who will be only as aggressive as the situation calls for. For instance, if there has been financial transparency in your marriage and your spouse is overall a responsible parent, there is a good chance you can mediate or use collaborative divorce to dissolve your marital partnership. Ending your relationship this way is much cheaper and better for your entire family’s mental health. Hiring a shark attorney will be exponentially more expensive and emotionally wrenching. The only reasons to hire a super-aggressive lawyer is if your spouse has hired one and you need a suitable match, or if your spouse is involved in illegal activities and/or poses a safety risk to you and your children.

Support your child’s relationship with your ex. It is imperative that you put aside your personal grievances with your spouse so you can establish a good co-parenting relationship. Your job as a co-parent is to facilitate your children’s relationship with their other parent. This means that you don’t speak ill of your spouse in front of the kids; you respect your spouse’s right to run their home as they see fit; you adhere to the terms of visitation and child support as set forth in the court order. The only justifiable reason to insert yourself in your spouse’s relationship with your children is if their safety is in jeopardy.

Follow your agreement. One of the simplest ways to keep your divorce amicable is to adhere to the temporary agreements you both decided on upon separation, or the court orders. Pay temporary child support on time and in full. Follow the custody schedule. Don’t obstruct your kids’ time with your ex by calling and texting repeatedly. Respecting these legal tenets will create an atmosphere of safety and consistency for all involved as you proceed through the divorce process.

Practice effective communication strategies. Establishing and maintaining appropriate communication is crucial. It’s easy to let loose on your spouse via email and text so make sure you don’t write when you’re gripped by anger or fear. Keep your correspondence concise and factual; leave out opinions, feelings, parenting advice, criticism, and snarky comments. If your ex sends you an incendiary email, wait until you’ve calmed down before responding. Meeting your ex’s volatile emotions with your own will only inflame conflict.

Manage your emotional and physical health. If you’re not sleeping and eating properly, you have a higher chance of becoming clinically depressed and anxious. That means that you may misinterpret events and respond to circumstances in ways that invite conflict. This is not the time to white-knuckle things. See the appropriate physical and mental health professionals to help get you back on track so you can improve your baseline functioning.

Use your divorce as an opportunity for personal growth. If you see your divorce simply as a pointless loss, you are more likely to stay angry, scared, and resentful. Even if you were more the “innocent party,” remaining in the victim stance is not going to serve you or solve any problems. While you may not have been able to control what happened to you, it is your job as a grown-up to control your actions.

Viewing your divorce as an opportunity for growth will shift your mindset from bitter to better. Figure out what behaviors and thought patterns no longer serve you and commit to mindful choices. Your divorce, and your life, will improve when you do.

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