January is a busy month for divorce. As the start of the year is often a time to embark on life-changing resolutions, this should come as no surprise.
It’s the start of divorce season. If you are one of those people that are starting the new year thinking about whether divorce is a change you want to make, here are some things for you to consider.
The Start of Divorce Season
Make sure this is what you want.
One thing about the divorce process is that once it starts, it can take on a life of its own. An initial call to a divorce lawyer for a consultation can quickly escalate if both parties “lawyer up.” With that in mind, you should be certain that divorce is the path you want to pursue before you start.
One option to help you achieve that level of certainty is discernment counseling. This is very structured, short-term therapy that helps couples determine the future of their relationship with clarity and confidence. To be clear, this isn’t couples therapy. Instead, it’s a process to help couples decide if they want to separate or do the work of couples therapy. In situations where one or both parties are contemplating divorce, discernment counseling is a better choice than couples therapy, as couples therapy only works if both partners are fully engaged and committed to the relationship.
Start the process in the best way possible.
If one person realizes he/she wants a divorce, the first step is telling your partner. While this will likely be a painful and difficult experience, in many ways, it can set the tone for the process that will follow. Some spouses only realize that a divorce is coming when they are served with divorce. Please don’t go this route! It only sets up the divorce process for more pain and struggle.
Find a time and place that will allow you to have a focused discussion with your spouse. Let them know that you want a divorce in clear language. At all times, try to remain civil and empathetic, while avoiding assignment of blame. When you accept your role in the breakdown of the marriage, it will benefit both the divorce process and your future relationships. If there is the potential for domestic violence, seek professional help to tell your partner and keep yourself safe.
Choose a divorce process before you choose a lawyer.
There are three types of divorce processes: Traditional/litigated, Mediation, and Collaborative Divorce. The latter two give divorcing parties more control over both the process and the outcome to create settlements that fit the unique needs of each family. The litigated model relies more heavily on the court system. Read about all three processes first to see which feels like the best fit and then look for lawyers who specialize in that area.
Don’t automatically tell your kids right away.
Divorces can take a long time to complete and couples often have to live together during part of the process. This can be confusing to young children. Do some reading or work with a therapist to determine when and what to tell the kids. A general rule of thumb is to answer questions honestly, but age-appropriately. You cannot take back something that is said. So, don’t reveal the sordid details about an affair to a ten-year-old; instead, just say, “We had grown-up problems.” The other key piece is to make sure to tell your kids they didn’t cause the divorce and they couldn’t have prevented it. Telling them is only the beginning of many conversations you are likely to have moving forward.
Evaluate your support system.
Going through a divorce is emotionally, physically, and financially exhausting, and requires a great deal of self-care. Whom you choose for your support system is critical. Find people who are supportive and non-judgmental. Often, well-intentioned people want to tell you how to go through your divorce or to bash your partner – but that just pours fuel on the fire. Many people often go into therapy or utilize divorce support groups during the process to receive additional support. Consider what you will need to stay healthy before, during, and after the process, and put it in place.
If this is the year you are considering divorce, then consider the above-mentioned advice as you get organized. No divorce is easy, but some are harder than they need to be. Set yourself up for the healthiest process possible and you will experience those benefits long after the divorce is final.