I assume you mean emotionally better as well as financially workable. In order to avoid the “War of the Roses”, consider the following:
- Stay out of adversarial litigation, which will make living together unbearable. Consider Collaborative Divorce, in which you each hire attorneys who commit to settlement instead of a battle, or mediation, in which you jointly hire a neutral attorney/mediator to facilitate problem-solving and a peaceful resolution.
- Create a family budget of your commingled income and joint bank accounts. Use online banking to help you determine what your family expenses are, and then set up expenses that each of you need (hair salon, clothing, classes, etc.). Once you have addressed the mandatory expenses, you can also allocate equal amounts of “discretionary funds” if there is any money left over each month. Commit to your budget, and you will deflect conflict.
- Don’t start dating while you are living together. If you already have someone new, be discreet — but be honest. Cool the relationship until you move out.
- Prepare a written commitment to each other to refrain from accusations; disparagement (especially in front of the kids); and harassment by e-mail, phone, etc. Your mediator or family counselor can help you set up a mutually respectful behavioral agreement to help you set forth boundaries.
- Sleep in separate rooms and be respectful of each other’s physical boundaries.
- Create a co-parenting schedule and cooperative parenting agreement for both parents to share in the care and responsibility of the kids and the chores of the home.
Specific written agreements regarding who will do what, when, and how, and a commitment to be respectful of each other, will foster a more positive home-sharing experience. Who knows — with a commitment to be respectful, you may find that the divorce won’t even be necessary!
Mari Frank is an Orange County divorce attorney, mediator, collaborative lawyer and Certified Privacy Professional. She teaches negotiation and mediation at the University of California in Irvine and is a Certified Trainer of lawyers for the State Bar of California.