Divorce is brutal. Unless the two of you are parting as friends and are 100% in agreement about everything, it’s painful, difficult, exasperating, exhausting, and just brutal. Surviving the divorce process is a challenge, but it can be done – if you keep a few things in mind.
1. Find a great attorney.
Go to consults. You need to not only have faith in your attorney’s legal capabilities, but you need to be able to get along with your attorney. An attorney that you can talk to and who listens to you is critical. You need to be able to communicate effectively with each other. They need to be able to communicate to you in a way you can hear, and they need to listen to you. So find an attorney that you not only have faith in, but one that you can deal with. Surviving the divorce process is much easier when you have a partner you can work with.
2. Remember that your attorney is not your friend.
They are your attorney. So, keep the conversation to the legal issues. Your attorney is a professional, being paid by you. So every minute that you spend gabbing with your attorney is a minute that you are paying for. Venting to your attorney, and using them to calm you down and support you will just run up the bill. If it’s not directly related to the legal issue at hand, then it’s social conversation. And that’s what your friends are for – not your attorney. Don’t use your attorney to survive the divorce process, that’s what good friends are for.
3. Put together a support system.
You need a circle that you can depend on. The friends that will let you vent. The ones that will take your call in the wee hours. The ones that will let you rage about what’s going on – even when it’s the tenth time you’ve said it. Surviving the divorce process will absolutely depend on your support system. You NEED supportive people around you.
4. Do your homework and know what a reasonable divorce settlement looks like in your area.
Laws vary from state to state, and even county to county within a state. Know what a reasonable settlement looks like, and work towards a resolution. One attorney I interviewed gave me the best advice: treat it like a business deal. Negotiate a deal, then sign and walk away. Dragging it out or fighting over little things just drives up the costs, and frequently isn’t worth it in the end. The paralegal on my case would remind me often: they will fight for what I want, but (BUT!) is what you’re fighting for really worth it? Is the $100 item you’re fighting over worth the $10,000 in legal fees?
5. A good deal means both sides win some and lose some.
If you’re fighting to win every point, win on every item, you’re going to end up paying a hefty legal fee. Understand that good deal-makers know where they can give and where they can’t. Know where your hard lines are, and where you can give some. Also understand that you’re likely going to have to compromise on some of your hard lines. This can be a very hard pill to swallow.
And, if like me, you’re dealing with someone who has to negotiate on every item and has to “win” on every item, it’s going to be a long, ugly road. There are attorneys out there who will take advantage of one party’s need to fight. It costs both parties a fortune. Don’t be that person. As time passes, very few of those victories will mean anything of significance. It’s just more money into the lawyers’ pockets. It’s money that you could have used for your post-divorce life. Part of surviving the divorce process is looking forward to what your life can be afterward. And having more money to work with helps.
6. Let go of how you got there.
I hate to break it to you, but, the court doesn’t care. In most states, and definitely in Colorado, the court does not care how you came to be in family court. They don’t care who cheated, who was an unsupportive spouse or who did what. They just want to get the deal done. So you are just wasting time and resources with trying to show the court who is to blame. Because they don’t care. It just wastes your time and your money. Fall back on your support team to complain about how you got there. They will support you in how awful your soon-to-be-ex is, but leave the court out of it. You’re wasting your time. They don’t care.
7. Accept that things are going to be 50/50.
Colorado is a state that very much advocates for parents to have 50/50 custody, as are most states these days. Unless you can prove that the other parent poses a current danger to the children, the odds are that you are going to be sharing custody. Don’t waste your time and money fighting against something that is most likely going to happen.
Obviously, if the other parent is a danger to your children, then you need to discuss your options with your attorney. But if you’re angry because your ex cheated on you and you don’t think this makes him/her a very good parent, well, see the above item. Let it go. The court doesn’t care. 50/50 also applies, for the most part, to your assets and debts. They’re going to be split down the middle. Unless there are extreme circumstances, the court is going to want everything divided in half. Surviving the divorce process does require that you understand what the outcome is likely to look like.
8. Start thinking about post-divorce life.
I think that the longer you were married, the harder it is to see that picture. But it’s okay to start thinking about what kind of life you want to create, what you want it to look like. Grieve for the loss of the future that you thought you were going to have. Yes, I said grieve. It is a loss. It’s a loss of a dream that you had. It’s like a death. Your plans for what the future was going to be with the partner you had, with the family and the life you were creating and building – those are gone.
It’s okay to grieve the loss of those dreams, of those plans. And when you have grieved, then start to rebuild. Start by envisioning what you want your life to look like. Your goals, your dreams, what are they? This is when you start to move from surviving the divorce process to thriving after the divorce.
Divorce is not an easy thing. It is painful. It is brutal. It’s a death. It’s the death of the dreams and plans that you had for the future you shared with someone else, the life and family you were building. From one day to the next you go from building this life, this future, to tearing it all apart. But it is possible to survive the divorce process. This is a process, it’s something you go through. It doesn’t define you. It is a change.
Life is Change
We go through a lot of changes in life. Not all of them are good ones. Not all of them are ones that we want. But it goes into creating who we are. But it doesn’t define you. Not if you don’t let it. You get to create a new life, one that is about you and what you want. It is painful, for sure. But if you work at surviving the divorce process, coming out on the other side can find you thriving.