Though U.S. divorce rates have fallen dramatically in the last 35 years (from 50% in the 1980s to 39% today), those stats provide little comfort to those mid-divorce right now.
Aside from a loved one’s death, it’s the most traumatic experience you’ll face in life. I hear stories on a near-daily basis about lives torn apart by the pain and disillusionment of divorce.
Experiences often mirror divorces in the news – drawn-out child custody battles akin to what Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are going through, public outbursts around the infidelity of a spouse similar to Wendy Williams’s recent comments, and even fights over the family pet.
If you’re going through a divorce, you should seek to minimize the drama and pain that is engulfing your life.
Here are five steps to help take the sting out of the divorce process:
Consider a prenuptial agreement
First thing’s first: If you haven’t gotten married yet, now’s the time to start planning your divorce. That may sound counterintuitive and unromantic, but the best way to protect yourself from the pain of divorce is to secure a solid prenup. Prenups, however, are about more than protecting assets. They honor your current love for one another and your commitment to integrity by ensuring you treat each other fairly, even under the worst of circumstances.
In this way, they help to avoid future litigation stemming from emotion or spite. Hammering out all the details on the front end is the best way to protect everyone involved and ensure fairness. Thoroughly going through the prenup process with your attorney will help you understand all the potential hazards of divorce and will alleviate the “what ifs.” You could potentially be saving yourself thousands of dollars in legal fees and years of litigation with the benefit of a comprehensive and thorough prenup.
Learn to be patient
Settle in. Things will not happen overnight. If you decide to litigate your divorce that means you have agreed to the court’s schedule. It can easily take 12 months to get to trial (that’s still faster than some countries – Ireland, for example, requires couples to be separated for four years before divorcing, though a recent referendum vote will reduce the wait time to two years). The system allows for delays, some more legitimate than others.
However, if you try to rush the process, mistakes will be made, details can be overlooked and pressure can mount, leading to agreements that ultimately result in “signer’s remorse.” Accept the fact that this will not be over quickly, but be comforted by the idea that it will be done right.
Love your child more than you hate your spouse
It’s understandable that you can get caught up in the emotion and pain of divorce. The other side may have done some terrible things to you, but are they a good parent to your child? Does your child want to maintain that relationship with their mother/father? Interfering in relationships between parent and child can lead to long-term emotional issues for the child and create unnecessary challenges in settling your divorce.
Be sure to foster as healthy a relationship as possible between your children and their other parent. Those who take the “high road” in a divorce are usually more successful in the end.
Use an attorney who will “tell it to you straight”
If your marriage is failing and you’ve decided to call it quits, you need to find an attorney who will be clear and honest with you about the process and won’t sugarcoat things. You need to be walked through each step of the divorce process and given all the information you need to make informed decisions related to custody, child support and/or division of property.
More importantly, you need an attorney who will speak frankly. A good divorce attorney will prepare you for the bumpy road ahead, so there aren’t any surprises. Your attorney should understand that you’re dealing with a flurry of emotions and changes, and he/she should provide you with honest advice based on the attorney’s past experiences. This will allow you to preserve your energy, confident that your matter is being managed properly.
Block out the noise
It’s not uncommon for family and friends to foist relationship and legal advice on those going through a divorce. Emotions are running high and what worked well in another person’s divorce may not translate well to yours. Also, too many opinions can leave you even more confused than when you started. While it may feel good to commiserate with others about shared experiences, every divorce is different and must be handled as such.
Be sure to run all your questions and concerns by your attorneys to get expert advice that is tailored to your individual circumstances. Together you should form a plan of action and then let your attorneys execute it. This way you can rest easier and save yourself from much of the day-to-day drama and headaches caused by second-guessing whether you’re handling things correctly.
Danielle Montalto-Bly is a family law attorney and partner at Cohen Montalto P.C., which is headquartered in Valley Stream on Long Island. Montalto-Bly practice areas include family and matrimonial law, with a focus on high-net-worth divorces, as well as child custody and child support disputes. www.cohenmontalto.com