Divorce is stressful enough on its own, but add parenting to the mix and things are bound to feel overwhelming. While every divorce is different, there are some considerations you can make as a parent that can result in an easier process and transition.
Prioritize Your Children
Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you are any less frustrated or angry with your spouse—in fact, it is probably just the opposite. But, being a parent means that your own anger must come second to your number one priority: maintaining your child’s well-being.
Except in extreme, abusive, situations, this priority means it is crucial to keep the relationship with your spouse as cordial as possible, so that you maintain the ability to co-parent effectively after a divorce. Choose which fights are worth it, and don’t let your emotions get the best of you or dictate what you push for in legal negotiations. Standing up for yourself in financial settlement negotiations is essential, but fighting over who gets the sofa is probably more costly in financial, emotional, and co-parenting terms than it’s worth.
Take all possible steps to protect your children from conflict between the two of you, and resist the urge to speak badly about the other parent to your child. Pitting a child against the other parent will only make the process more difficult, and it will make life harder for your child in the transition to co-parenting after divorce. Finally, be vocal in reminding your children that they are not responsible for the separation. While this fact might be obvious to you, children frequently feel that they are to blame for problems between their parents.
Build a Great Support Team
The first part of your support team will help you with the legal process of actually getting divorced. When you hire a lawyer, there are several aspects to consider. It is important to find a lawyer who fits your individual needs rather than just hiring someone who “got a good deal” for a friend.
While an aggressive approach might be appropriate in some cases, as parents you should consider the collaborative law options. Litigation pits two parents against each other, and can go on for long periods of time. This can make it much harder to co-parent after the ink is dry on a settlement agreement (or, more rarely, on a court order). When possible, choosing instead to collaborate to come up with a fair settlement and child custody agreement will make things far easier on your children, and on you, in the long run.
Get Financial Advice
Aside from child custody, the most important part of your divorce settlement will be your finances. Because divorce finances are unique, there are qualified specialists, such as Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA’s), who are experts in financial planning for divorce. Having an expert help you with financial planning is crucial. They can show you the implications of different settlements, both in the near and long term. A solid understanding of your financial situation and future needs is necessary before you enter any settlement negotiations, as a number that sounds okay at first might not go as far as you had thought when you see the long term projections.
Your finances are sure to look drastically different after your divorce than they did during marriage, so getting your financial plan in order early not only helps you with the settlement process, it also helps you plan for a smoother transition in the years following separation.
Seek Out Help
Dealing with the emotions of a divorce, while trying to handle the myriad practical changes, is overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to try therapy for the first time, or to send your child to a therapist. The importance of having an outlet to deal with your emotions cannot be overstated. A professional will help you so that you can take care of yourself and be a good parent in the most challenging of circumstances, and therapy will be more beneficial than solely relying on friends and family.
Having an experienced professional can be especially helpful for your children, giving them a safe space to discuss their emotions with a neutral third party. There are also local programs, like Kid’s Turn, that offer professional support to groups of children experiencing the same thing. Finding this kind of help early on to reduce stress, both for you and your children, is sure to make the very difficult process and transition that follows easier.
In short: to make your divorce process and life through the transition easier, make sure to:
- Prioritize your children and your ability to effectively co-parent after divorce
- Hire a lawyer who fits your individual needs
- Enlist the help of a certified divorce financial expert to understand your options
- Seek out help to reduce stress both for yourself and your children