When getting a divorce, the worst thing you can do is to let emotion cloud reason. The decisions you make now will reverberate for decades to come, so you must do your homework and be prepared to make choices that may not be to your heart’s desire, but are the most practical.
Feeling overwhelmed by what’s ahead? A critical first step is learning what NOT to do when you end your marriage.
Don’t be more aggressive than you need to be. How you exit your marriage will set the tone for the divorce. If you serve your spouse in public on Valentine’s Day, hire a pitbull lawyer, or threaten to take the kids and all the money, you will invite a long, needlessly expensive high conflict battle. Acting out of anger will profoundly impact relatives, friend circles, and children for years to come. It will make the already difficult endeavor of co-parenting even harder. Takeaway: Don’t let the short-term satisfaction of revenge make you do things you’ll regret.
Don’t put your kids in the middle. Unless you have evidence that your spouse truly cannot provide a safe home for the children, you must support their right to parent as they see fit. Letting your kids know, either directly or indirectly, that you believe their other parent is inferior will not change your ex. It will only make your kids anxious, wonder whom they should trust, and feel forced into the lose-lose position of having to choose sides. Similarly, turning a child into your therapist by sharing too many details about your marriage, or leaning on them for support, gives them an emotional burden that they should not have to carry. Takeaway: your number #1 job as a divorced parent is to co-parent respectfully and efficiently.
Don’t make uninformed financial decisions. Divorce is one of the biggest financial transactions of your life, so proceed with caution to avoid costly divorce mistakes. If you’ve let your spouse manage the money, now is the time to hone your financial literacy skills. One of the biggest mistakes people make in divorce is keeping the family home when they can’t afford to. Another is entering single life without understanding how to budget, invest, and save for retirement. And perhaps the most grievous error is to litigate away your nestegg and your children’s college money. Takeaway: consult a financial planner before you file for divorce.
Don’t take legal advice from family and friends. Your cousin’s divorce five years ago, or your BFF’s layperson opinion about your attorney, have absolutely nothing to do with your situation! People that love you have the best intentions when they weigh in but they’re neither objective nor qualified. Takeaway: The only people you should let guide you through the minefield that is divorce are family law professionals.
Finally, do your best not to let the dissolution process take over your life. Thinking and talking about your divorce 24/7 will burn you out, as well as those around you. Gathering a sound legal and financial team, practicing divorce self-care, and focusing on making the very best decisions you can will allow you to make this critical transition as smoothly as possible.
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