Navigating your divorce may seem like an impossible task as you start to go through it, but you can and will overcome it.
Here are some tips to keep in mind while going through your divorce. These tips are based on research and my many years of experience in divorce cases. As a clinical psychologist, a large part of my practice is focused on divorce and child custody cases. Following these tips can make your divorce process easier and less stressful.
Here Are 20 Tips for Navigating Your Divorce
1. Do everything you can to keep the tension and conflict with your ex-spouse to a minimum. Don’t look for things to be mad about. Be firm but reasonable. Be determined but amicable.
2. Do not put your child in the middle of any conflict with your ex-spouse. Communicate directly with your ex, not through your child. Do not fight through your child. Do not let your child hear verbal hostilities. Do not talk to your child about court.
3. Interview several attorneys before you hire one. Pick an attorney who is simpatico with your needs and desires. Ask a lot of tough questions. Be active, not passive.
4. Ask around for referrals for an attorney. Word of mouth is a great way to find experts. Don’t just select names randomly online.
5. Make sure your child feels loved, safe, and heard. Communicate with your child. Encourage your child to talk. The expression of feelings is healthy. Be a model for open feelings.
6. A collaborative divorce is best, if possible. The divorce is quicker, smoother, less adversarial, and with a cooperative attitude by the parties. A jointly-arrived agreement without a trial is the best.
7. Do not sign a divorce agreement that you cannot live with happily. Once an agreement is in place, it is extremely difficult to change. Don’t let an attorney tell you otherwise. Don’t agree to something that you think you can change at a later date. That’s simply not true.
8. The divorce process can take many months or longer. If you avoid conflict and an adversarial situation, the process can go much faster. Don’t fight just to fight. Don’t let the attorneys fight just to fight.
9. Divorce can be expensive. But if the process is shorter, the expense is less.
10. Ask around and find a good therapist for yourself. That will help you as you struggle with feelings such as guilt, fear, and anger. Being in therapy is a strength, not a weakness.
11. Make sure grandparents, teachers, and other adults do not stoke negative feelings and behaviors during the divorce process. Talk to them and help them maintain a caring but neutral stance.
12. Talk and then talk some more with family members and friends. Talking helps us feel better. It also helps us not make rash decisions and engage in problem behaviors. Do not feel guilty about talking.
13. Have fun and relax. Laugh. Smile. Don’t obsess about your divorce. Don’t make your divorce a full-time job. Enjoy life.
14. Do not start a new romantic relationship while your divorce is ongoing. It’s a bad idea on several levels. It will just complicate things.
15. It’s more likely your child will be happy if you are happy. Your child will respond to your positive vibes. Be optimistic. Look ahead. See a bright future.
16. Co-parenting is a great arrangement, but it takes reasonableness and commitment by both parents to make it work. It is the ideal parenting for kids if done right. It requires both parents talking to each other.
17. Parallel parenting can work well too. This is where each adult parents separately with little or no interaction with each other. This can be hard for a child if each household’s rules and expectations are vastly different from each other. If parents are similar, this parenting style can work just fine.
18. Do not be a selfish or jealous parent. Do not say or do things to put your ex on the defensive or offensive. Don’t make up allegations against your ex. Your child wants to love both parents. Encourage that to happen. Do not undermine it. When you try to hurt your ex, you are hurting your child too.
19. Effective parenting takes calmness and maturity. This is another good reason to seek out therapy.
20. The divorce process will be over at some point. Don’t say and do things that you will regret. Make the process as easy and reasonable as possible for you, your child, and your ex.
Not all tips apply to every person. I think of these tips as rules of thumb. I offer them to you to help you think about your particular situation.
Divorce is a terribly stressful and lonely time, but certain proactive steps can help you as you navigate the obstacle course of a divorce. These tips will help as you go forward.
Alan D. Blotcky, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Birmingham, Alabama.