During a divorce, it can be tempting to allow our emotions to run rampant. Divorce rates behind only the death of a loved one as one of the most stressful events in our lives. We know that divorce is not easy and that it can be an incredibly challenging time. But what is already difficult can be made all the harder when someone chooses to do something that they should not do during a divorce. There are some seemingly obvious things you shouldn’t do (although apparently they’re not always obvious to everyone) and then there are considerations which don’t make much of a blip on your radar unless someone points them out to you.
Some of these suggestions seem self-evident, but believe it or not, they’re on the list because someone has done these during a divorce.
What Not To Do During A Divorce
Don’t take it out on the kids. This can come in many forms. It’s not their fault that you’re getting a divorce, so don’t help them to facilitate feeling this way. Even though you may be angry and hurting, as much as you can allow them a continued, unhindered relationship with your ex. This means being flexible in visits and not bad-mouthing your ex in front of the children. Give them a safe space to talk about the divorce, without being railroaded by you. Keep an eye on their behaviour and try to gauge their mental well-being, seeking the help of a professional if you think that they need care from outside of the family. Take your children’s feelings into account when making decisions because we can be blinded by our own when emotions are raw. Don’t forget that during a divorce, your children need you to be their strength.
Don’t blame your spouse for everything. There’s a good chance that some of your actions and attitudes contributed to the relationship breakdown. The blame game never goes well. You become so focused on pointing the finger when really that energy is wasted. Even if your ex has been incredibly hurtful and deceitful, do yourself a favour and use that energy on something positive for yourself and your children. During a divorce, bitterness only breeds bitterness.
Don’t have your heart set on going to court. In Australia, you are usually required to attend mediation before commencing court proceedings concerning children. This is referred to as Family Dispute Resolution. Mediation or collaborative mediation is not conflict driven the way that court battles often are. Court can be long and costly and even then you still may not get the outcome you were hoping for. Mediation is your best choice for settlement without too much conflict, unless of course there is domestic violence. In this case it is not compulsory for you to attend mediation.
Don’t settle too quickly. Neither do you want it to be dragged out, but just ‘wanting to get it over with’ will not usually be in your best interests. Being considered about the decisions being made and what and how to settle are not just important now, but for you and your children’s future as well. It’s important to seek legal advice during divorce. You may not be aware of your legal rights and responsibilities, and it’s important to settle armed with as much knowledge as possible. A common myth is that the spouse who has stayed home to raise children isn’t entitled to any of the assets. But the court views financial contributions and non-financial contributions equally.
Don’t think in terms of ‘winners and losers’. This is not helpful to you or your children. Don’t set out to ‘beat‘ your ex in the settlement. Having as clear a head as possible to make good decisions involves not being driven by your emotions. Thinking and speaking in terms of winners and losers is highly emotive. During a divorce, try to think of an outcome that is in the best interests of everyone involved, if possible.
Don’t get pregnant. Really. Just don’t. Although this seems obvious, it’s particularly pertinent when trying to establish the date of separation. In Australia, couples must be separated for a year before they will be granted a divorce. Ongoing intimacy can make this process more difficult than it needs to be.
Don’t increase your debt. Until settlement, keep a wise reign on your expenses. Now is not the time to buy that new Chanel handbag or deck out the dinghy with a new motor. Going to two households will be expensive, so get your budgeting under control before making any unnecessary purchases or financial investments. Also hold off on any long-term contracts that require regular payments so you’re not caught out.
Don’t forget to change your will. Changing your will is not something everyone immediately thinks of when they get a divorce. Any serious life changes should be the catalyst for a will revision and this is certainly one of those times. If you don’t have a will, then get one – especially if your divorce is not yet finalised and you don’t want everything to go to your former partner. Don’t forget that a subsequent remarriage will render a previous will void.
Don’t empty the joint bank accounts or sell your ex’s possessions. This could land you in some serious trouble. If you need to withdraw a larger than usual amount for something then it’s much wiser to go through your solicitors. Keep track of everything spent during a divorce.
Don’t accept every piece of advice from your friends who have not had amicable separations. They may be biased. They are probably not a law professional with accurate guidance. Sometimes they may have experiences they can share with you that you can learn from, but be wary of how their own experiences may colour those stories. Let you shape your own story rather than being moulded into somebody else’s.
Don’t post about the divorce on Facebook. Social media is not the best place to discuss your divorce.
Don’t refuse therapy if you’re offered it. Even seek it out to ‘check-in’ with someone who is not in the middle of your craziness. You don’t have to hit rock bottom before you decide to speak to someone who is familiar with those hurting and grieving during a divorce (and afterwards).
Many of these ‘don’ts’ are born out of a time of extreme emotions. Be kind to yourself and surround yourself with a few wise friends who will help and allow you to share what you feel, but will care enough to point out when your actions are destructive or unreasonable.
If you’d like to speak to one of our experienced family lawyers, then please contact us today for a free, 10-minute phone consultation.