Few would dispute that if a couple has to divorce, it’s in the best interests of everyone involved that they’re able to agree and keep things civil. Sadly, divorce is an event that carries such emotional gravitas that maintaining goodwill and equilibrium is no easy task.
Any number of seemingly minor events are more than capable of turning calm seas into choppy, destructive waters capable of causing irreparable damage to the wellbeing of anyone caught in its midst.
Thanks to eleven years of experience within the divorce-sphere, though, I know what’s most likely to transform a harmonious divorce into one capable of hurting spouses, their children, their extended family, and even their friends.
Follow these dos & don’ts to make sure you have a low-conflict divorce:
Be willing to communicate with each other.
Staying in touch with one another and ensuring that you’re both aware of what’s happening next is a vital part of keeping a divorce harmonious. I’ve found that people are more reactive and somewhat suspicious during proceedings but communicating will help you avoid negative ramifications.
Don’t pull any surprises on your spouse.
As I’ve said, suspicions tend to be heightened during divorce (even when things have been previously agreed). In turn, this makes people more reactive and defensive than usual and, if documents contain something they didn’t expect or arrangements are changed without notice, the recipient could well choose to seek legal advice and the situation can quickly snowball.
So, stay in touch with your spouse and let them know about anything that might cause a problem in advance. Even if you think something is benign or superfluous, let them know as soon as possible.
Work together toward a final agreement.
Undoubtedly one of the hardest things a couple has to do after they’ve made the decision to end their marriage is to decide who gets to keep what. If you’ve been fortunate enough to work out an agreement together, it’s worth getting legal advice and transforming it into something legally binding.
Once done, this will further ease any concerns either party may have and will significantly improve the chances of your divorce remaining civil.
Don’t dwell on what you deserve (too much.)
Divorce negotiations are difficult because they tend to get emotional. After all, you’re dividing things that you’ve worked hard to accumulate and, in order to establish a new life, you’re going to need to get your fair share – it’s understandable that this can easily result in a dispute.
So, try to think more about what you need rather than what you deserve. Once both parties know they’ll have what they’ll need to live comfortably following the conclusion of their divorce, dividing what remains will become a much easier task.
Don’t take this advice too far, though: you want to be reasonable but you don’t want to be taken for a ride!
Do put your children first.
When you’re deciding child custody arrangements, it’s imperative that you put your children’s needs before your own. Yes, we know you have other responsibilities and that it’s going to be tough to fit them around your children, but trying to get your former spouse and your children to work around your life is just going to get everyone’s back up. Most important of all, though, is that by putting your children first, you’re going to help maintain your relationship with your soon-to-be former spouse and prevent your divorce from having a significant adverse effect on your children.
Don’t involve the children.
In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to ask your children how they feel about potential contact arrangements, but this is usually only the case when they’re well into their teenage years and have lives of their own. More often than not, the best course of action is to simply agree on these terms between you. By involving your children, you’re almost suggesting that you and your spouse can no longer work as a team, and this can leave them feeling less secure.
Equally important is that you do everything you can to conduct any necessary negotiations or discussions when your children aren’t present – the last thing you want is for them to overhear you.
Whilst this list is far from exhaustive, it does address what have been, in my experience, the most common reasons that amicable divorces turn sour.
Remember that it’s nearly always in everyone’s best interests that an uncontested divorce stays that way so, if it’s possible, do your best to be reasonable and maintain a good relationship with your former spouse – it’s in both your and your children’s best interests.
Jay Williams works for Quickie Divorce, an online provider offering solutions to couples looking to divorce in the UK.