So, you’re getting divorced. Or, maybe you’re contemplating divorce. Wherever you find yourself in the process, the decisions you make now help define what will follow. Although you may be overwhelmed, it’s important that you get the support to make decisions that will serve you well into your future. How, you may wonder, can you do that when there is so much to be done, and decided, that will impact your future, and likely the lives of your children, so substantially?
The very best way to ensure that you are acting in the best interest of yourself and those who depend on you is to create a framework for decision-making. The process you develop now will allow you to know, with some certainty, that you have made the best decisions you can and also allow changes, as circumstances require, without introducing chaos and upheaval. The professionals you allow to serve you during this time can impact your future. Get it right and feel confidence and freedom later. By following three simple guidelines, you can make certain your values align with your decision-making and create resources that will serve you creatively and efficiently throughout the process. If you find yourself faltering, return to these simple steps, remind yourself of your framework, and modify action accordingly. It is up to you to thrive and not just survive your divorce.
First, spend some time thinking about what you want for yourself and your children, if you have them, in your divorce. Even if you are angry or upset about choices your spouse has made, how do you want the future to look? If you have children, it’s likely the other parent will be in your life for a very long time. Can you create a relationship, during and post-divorce, that is both neutral and productive? If this is your goal, create a list of words, a mantra of sorts, that allows you to recall, instantly, what behavior will achieve that result -- no matter the provocation. For example, if you find your STBX (soon-to-be ex) triggers emotions within you that often result in responses that you regret in hindsight, address how you can respond immediately. The words low, slow, and steady can remind you, in the most heated moments, to lower your voice, slow down your breath and reactions, and to move forward in a steady fashion. This simple process can reduce the immediate threat of almost any encounter and return you to the place of the higher self you envision for your future.
Next, use your values to decide what sort of professionals you need in your separation and divorce. If you want to lower cost and minimize conflict, consider interviewing legal professionals with a reputation for doing just that. Whether you decide a lawyer or mediator is best, or the collaborative process is right for you, return to your values to assess if the professional you are considering can help you achieve your goals. If you recognize you need an assertive legal professional to help your STBX understand that you will respond unfavorably to their attempts to take advantage, just be sure you are “driving” the bus, that is, do not let the legal professional make every action and response more aggressive than needed. If your true aim is to achieve a fair result, even in the face of what you may perceive as the injustice of your STBX’s behavior, remember that it is likely only the professionals you hire who will likely benefit from spending more time putting out the fires. If you need help deciding who to hire, talk to people and consider hiring a divorce coach, a thinking partner who can help you sort out the many options that exist.
Once you settle upon who you hire, utilize the resources they offer. Don’t ask your lawyer to make judgments about the best interests of your kids, for example. If you have consulted with a parenting coordinator, ask them about what works, in their experience, and what doesn’t. Re-creating the wheel in your divorce only costs you time and money. Although you likely have many questions about what may happen, your lawyer may not be the one to best answer questions about the marital home or hold your hand about the emotions you are experiencing in separation and divorce. Find a realtor who has experience with divorce and find out what matters in the sale of your home. Ask a CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) what financial options you may have when it comes to keeping or selling your home. Turn to your therapist if you are struggling with serious emotional distress. Who you ask to help you face the complexity in your separation and divorce is often as important as deciding how to proceed. Stay organized by keeping a list of questions as they arise and decide, in advance, which of your professional resources to utilize to resolve it. Spending time asking the wrong professional will cost you time and money.
In sum, it is important to establish your values at the beginning of your divorce. Make decisions about who you hire based on an understanding that making decisions in line with your values will likely lead to better long-term results for you and your children, if you have them, post-divorce. By thinking through, and perhaps even writing out, who you are and what you want, you will have a guide when faced with any challenge in divorce. As bumps inevitably arise, you can minimize the turbulence by recalling who you decided you are and, therefore, how you will respond.
Hire divorce professionals in line with those values: lawyer or mediator, financial planner, parenting professional, therapist, and even a realtor may mean you can proceed with a steady hand. Often, a divorce coach, acting as an objective thinking partner, can help you on each of these fronts, too, and make recommendations about each category of professionals. They can provide a gentle reminder of your values, too, established at the beginning of your work together, so that you can remain as constant and steady as you hope to be during this time of change. You understand that your plan, in line with your values, can mostly proceed even when not everything you hope for occurs without some compromise.