If you, or a friend, find yourself about to be separated or divorced, I want to share some advice that might help you through this difficult time.
(Hopefully you’re not in this situation, so perhaps pin this post so that you can share it with a friend one day. Or please consider tweeting or sharing on Facebook… Chances are high, at least one of your friends will go through a separation or divorce.)
First of all, I have to say, I don’t like talking about divorce.
Even the sound of the word makes me just not want to talk about it.
It’s been 5 years since my separation/divorce process started and I’ve hardly talked about it online.
But recently, I did share brief insights into my story in this blog post:
And I’ve decided that as much as I don’t like to utter or even type the “D” word, I have traveled a winding road where many others will find themselves and the right thing to do is set up a few signs along the path alerting others to dangers and pointing them in easier directions.
If you’d like, I’m here today to reach out my hand and guide you along the early steps of this unfortunate road.
10 Things You Need To Know Before Going Through A Divorce
- Don’t Listen to Everyone’s Advice
It’s ironic that I’m starting off a post about advice for getting divorced by saying don’t listen to everyone’s advice.
But it’s true… you are going to get so. much. advice.
And you’ll have friends trying to make you feel better by commiserating but might end up fuelling your anger and negative feelings.
Close friends and family may share your hurt and anger and end up making the situation worse.
Some people may refer you to “top-notch”, bull-dog lawyers.
Other people may inadvertently project their own issues on to you.
If a friend has gone through an expensive divorce they may tell you that it’s normal and expected to waste HUGE amounts of money in lawyer fees.
- Go to a Mediator – Avoid Divorce Lawyers
The divorce process and the family legal system is critically flawed and families going through divorces become the victims.
Divorce lawyers make more money the more you and your spouse disagree and fight over everything from big issues to minor details. As soon as you sign on with a lawyer and pay them a chunk of money for their retainer, you have lost control.
The lawyers for the two parties will email, call and fight between themselves over legal details and at the same time both make huge demands that the other party can’t afford anyway.
The process extends on for months sometimes years with your hard earned money — that you need to support yourself and your children — being completely wasted.
The worst part is that you can’t easily stop this process once it’s started. If one party starts the process with a lawyer, you have no choice but to get a lawyer too.
This divorce legal process enrages me and it will likely waste enormous amounts of your money that you will need to support your kids.
The fact is for most couples facing divorce, money is going to be tight afterwards.
It’s hard enough to make ends meet as a two income household, but now you’re going to have those two incomes pay for two households. And it’s even harder if one of you was a stay-at-home parent.
The only solution is mediation. Try as hard as you can to agree to go to a mediator and save yourselves a ton of money.
I truly hope you’re able avoid divorce lawyers and go to a mediator.
Sadly, because of advice my ex was given, we were sucked into the wasteful process of divorce lawyers and had to pay disgusting amounts of money to those lawyers.
Whereas, my sister, who saw what happened to me, went through a divorce a year later and paid a tiny amount to a mediator and settled with almost exactly the same agreement.
- The Process Is Broken – Make Your Own
So much about the process of getting separated and divorced is broken, so make the process your own.
Find ways that work for your family to create the happiest future possible.
I remember people saying to me that “it’s a process” and “you can’t expect everyone to just get along.”
Well, I don’t buy that… you make your own process and yes, you can “get along”. You may be angry, you might even HATE each other. But you can still “get along”.
One of the older accepted standards was kids going to their dad’s on the weekends or on every other weekend. That evolved to a more common every-other-week schedule where kids go back and forth from one house to the other every other week.
But that doesn’t mean YOUR schedule has to be either of those two options.
Put your kids needs first and look at what would work best for them.
In our situation, I knew that my girls aged 3 and 5 at the time, would really struggle being away from me for a week at a time.
We worked out a unique schedule like this…
- Sunday, Monday, Tuesday nights the girls sleep at my place.
- Wednesday, Thursday nights they sleep at their dad’s.
- Friday and Saturday nights we alternate.
This means one weekend is a Mommy weekend and the next is a Daddy weekend. In our schedule the maximum the girls are away from me is 4 nights and the minimum is 2 nights.
We are very flexible about this schedule and we’ll swap weekends if we have to or cover each other if the need arises. It has worked well for us for 5 years and Janice’s family adopted the same schedule so that our kids are usually on the same routine.
If you wanted a similar schedule but with equal nights per parent, you could just alternate Saturday nights.
One benefit of splitting up the week this way is that it’s easier to set up a regular routine for pick-up and drop-off at after school activities.
- Stay Off Social Media
Again more irony.
My business is social media, and so NO, I could NOT just stay OFF social media. I’m always on social media.
But I did keep news about my separation and divorce completely OFF of social media.
In the last 5 years, I have never once vented online about my divorce. Even as much as I hated divorce lawyers and how I feel the divorce legal system basically steals money from innocent families… this is the FIRST time I’ve ever typed those words.
I feel like now after 5 years, my personal story and emotions over my situation have settled completely down and I can now share some bits of what I’ve learned to help other people.
But I will still never say anything negative about the father of my children or the details of our relationship or divorce.
(My rage over the legal divorce process extends beyond my personal situation and most of my anger is for all the other families who I know are also wasting money that should be going to raising their children.
And the more I can help encourage couples to seek mediation, the better.)
But I recommend you try to minimize your time on social media – Facebook especially – because you may be tempted to vent to what feels like only your friends but ends up being the whole world. Also you may get jealous and depressed from seeing all the “happy couples” and “perfect families” throughout your feed.
You may be more likely to interpret your friends’ photos as representation of perfect, happy lives, when in reality, we all have our own struggles and challenges.
- Talk to Trusted Friends Only
Instead of venting and talking to “friends” on Facebook, find a few trusted friends in real life.
But again… be careful of the advice you’re receiving.
Close friends and family may feed your hurt and anger.
For actual advice, you may be better off seeking advice from a third party such as a counsellor.
When you’re with friends, try to have fun and not talk about your separation or divorce. Go to movies, go swimming, go to the gym, go hiking… try to get as much exercise and distraction as you can.
- Stay Positive with Your Kids
The most important thing is to stay positive around your kids.
They will look to you and follow your model.
You might even have to fake it till you make it around your kids… but that’s okay. By forcing yourself to be upbeat as much as you can, you’ll end up making yourself feel better.
You and your kids ARE going to be OKAY.
Your voice and body language need to signal to your kids that YOU are okay and that THEY will be okay.
Of course, you need to ensure they know this is NOT they’re fault. But I’d venture to say that even more important than you telling them that (which of course you should), is showing them.
Show them through your behaviour that this is nobody’s fault and everyone is going to be okay.
We create our own happiness and we build our own futures.
Let them know through your confidence that you’re all working together to create an awesome, happy future.
- Never, Ever, Ever Put Down Your Spouse In Front Of Your Kids
Like it or not, the father (or mother) of your children is part of your children forever. Even if he (or she) stops being part of their lives, he (or she) is still part of who they are as human beings.
So please don’t put your children down by putting down their father (or mother).
If their father (or mother) has done hurtful things, your kids will be hurt enough as it is. Don’t make it worse by talking badly about their other parent.
- If Possible, Try to Keep Living in the Same Neighborhood
The logistics of divorce can be complicated.
If it is possible, I suggest trying to keep your kids living in the same neighborhood and going to the same school as they did before the separation or divorce.
It’s ideal (but often not possible), if one parent can stay living in the original house so that there is even less disruption for the kids.
- Try to Live Close to Each Other
And to take that further… if possible try to have the other parent move to a home close to the other house that is in the same neighborhood and close to the kids’ schools and friends. Co-parenting is much easier when you don’t have to drive long distances to drop off forgotten homework.
The less you can disrupt your kids’ routines and friendships, the better it will be for everyone.
For instance, in my situation, I stayed in the townhouse we lived in and my girls’ dad moved into a townhouse a couple blocks away. The finances for this can be very tough and are a real struggle for us. (I “bought-out” the townhouse from him so that he could purchase another townhouse. But the truth is it is very difficult financially.)
Janice’s kids’ dad also did the same thing… he bought a townhouse a couple blocks away too, so now all four of us live on four corners of a two block square. It’s so convenient. We all can help each other out and easily walk the kids from one house to the other.
It wasn’t easy to make the close distance to each other happen because of the costs. Again, this is another reason to avoid divorce lawyers and figure out what is best for your kids first.
If you can both truly put your kids first, you’ll end up making all your lives better.
- Take Care of Yourself
I used to say I was taking “extreme self-care”. In the early days of my separation/divorce, I made sure I went for a “power walk” almost every day.
For me, walking was the best medicine.
For you, find some form of exercise that makes you happy and do it every day.
Go to the movies. Read books. Watch TV and laugh.
Go out with friends and don’t talk about yourself and your separation or divorce. Talk about what’s happening in the world.
Volunteer somewhere… with animals or kids or the less fortunate.
Take your mind off your problems and keep telling yourself you’re building a happy future.
You create your own happiness. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your kids and create a fabulous life and fulfill your dreams.
Ultimately, it does not matter who is “more to blame” for the separation or divorce.
Perhaps, you were wronged. Or perhaps, you feel like you are guilty of letting down your partner. Or perhaps, you both just couldn’t stop fighting.
It does NOT matter who is to blame for what.
The fact is that the marriage is over and it is time to move on to make the next season of your life the best it can be.
Refuse to let yourself dwell in the past. Instead build the future you want.
Help Your Friends
This is an uncomfortable topic. I didn’t even want to write this post. But I sincerely believe the divorce process can be made a little easier if people get the right advice early on.
Please share this post on your social channels… you’ll never know which friend or follower on one of your social accounts really needs to hear it.