A divorcing client proclaimed, “Divorce is so ironic: I feel awful, anxious, and angry, but everyone tells me I have to do my best decision-making and negotiating, now. How on earth am I supposed to do that?” according to a Huffington Post article, “The Perfect Divorce Toolkit.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. I have long maintained that you cannot hide your head in the sand while going through the divorce process. Even if choosing to divorce through mediation, while a more cooperative process, both participants must participate fully. You will be making decisions for yourself and your family that you will be living with for years to come. Now is not the time to shy away from your decision making responsibilities.
The suggested toolkit presents some helpful categories, but I have added my recommendations:
1. Skilled divorce professionals–It is very important to engage a well versed, experienced professional. It’s also equally important to hire a legal professional who reflects your position and attitude toward your divorce and soon to be ex-spouse. If you feel adversarial, then hire a litigator. If you want to resolve your legal issues more quickly and inexpensively (and your spouse will cooperate with the process), then hire an experienced mediator or investigate whether the collaborative law process would meet your needs. Make sure that you hire a legal professional who will take the time to make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities without sloughing off your questions.
2. A strong support system–Your friends and family will be a great source of support while you transition into a strong single individual, but be careful. Many well-intentioned confidants can cause undue worry and concern by sharing divorce horror stories that may or may not apply to you. That is why tool #1 is so important. You need to be able to rely on the information provided by your legal professional.
3. Negotiation skills to identify and ask for what you need and to get it–”While years of a “not so great marriage” can dull the senses, the ability to be diplomatic, negotiate, and communicate well are needed more than ever during the divorce process and beyond.” If this tool seems easier said then done, don’t feel alone. A lack of communications skill with your soon to be ex-spouse is almost required in a divorce. Communication issues go with the territory during divorce. It can’t hurt to see a counselor to help you navigate this transitory period in your life, however, should you choose to go it alone at least cut yourself a break and recognize that a break down in communication is understandable, but remember your goal is to make wise decisions for your future.
4. Skills to meet new people and develop friendships–”Find new connections by joining a support group, getting involved in a charity, trying new activities (rock climbing, quilting, cycling, running — each of these has a club to join), taking a class or joining a religious organization. Many find themselves in unknown territory since married life may have provided an easy social circle of neighbors and friends.” It is helpful to begin developing new friends outside your married circle. Join in activities that you enjoy, enlarge your world and your new friendships will develop.
5. A “how to” on co-parenting–For your children’s sake, take advantage of any help you can get to guide you through the next steps of co-parenting on the other side of divorce. You may want to read books or see an expert in co-parenting. You may have begun the education process through mediation or a collaborative law divorce coach, but don’t ignore this essential tool necessary to support your family’s best future under your current circumstances.
6. A “how to” on dating after divorce–Everyone has their own strong opinions on this topic. One individual may adamantly believe that he or she is mature and trustworthy enough to make his or her own decisions about dating post-divorce when it comes to the kids. Others are equally convinced that there should be strict guidelines for introduction to the children. When in doubt opt to go slow, with children or without, and you and your children are better off for delaying combining your social life with your newly formed family structure. “Divorce is a life transition and a process. You can choose your own divorce, one that fits you and your family based on the tools you use. You can build your own “team” to help you through the divorce process — skillful divorce professionals, good friends, and a strong community — and you can sharpen old skills and learn new ones (for meeting people and making friends, for negotiating, for making good choices).”