By Rachel Lankester
It pays to try to have a good divorce
Let’s face it, divorce is horrible. It’s the end of something precious which once brought enough joy to want to commit a lifetime to the other person. It can be a stressful time of great loss, hurt, anger and you will both need time to process and grieve. Having a good divorce may seem impossible at first.
It certainly seemed that way to me and I can’t admit to having had a good divorce myself. But I learnt through that process how to have a better one! So here’s my advice on how to get through it in the least harmful way possible.
No matter how much you may hate your ex now, hopefully at one time you felt very differently about them. There may be no love left, but you probably started out with love. In most cases, the person you once loved is still there underneath. However hard it is, that’s what you need to try to remember, to help you have as good a divorce as possible. This will be just as important if you are dissolving a civil partnership or even a long term committed relationship.
Even if there are no children involved, being able to graciously say goodbye allows both of you to move on in a healthy, non-destructive way. But if you have children together, it is crucial to be as civilised as possible in divorce.
When you share children, you will always be family with your ex. You will share all the major life events of your offspring. Marriage may not be forever, but divorce certainly is – unless you remarry your ex that is!
My top tips for how to have a good divorce
- Keep the lines of communication open as much as possible no matter how hard it may be.
- Do some research and take legal advice so you know exactly what your legal position is.
- But, once you have the legal advice, explore working together and/or mediation before lawyers if at all possible – it keeps emotions much more manageable.
- If possible, discuss together how you are both going to proceed before retaining any lawyers. The appointment of lawyers in a divorce immediately raises the temperature (I can attest to that) and can put both parties on the defensive. The more you need lawyers to sort out your differences, the less there will be in the pot you may be fighting over.
- If you can, try to come to a settlement on split of assets and sharing support and care of children by working together. If you have children, you will have to continue to communicate. You might as well try to get better at it through your divorce.
- If you can’t come to an agreement, retain a mediator in the first instance rather than a lawyer.
- If you really need a lawyer, find one that is trained in collaborative law. Such a specialist will be more committed to reaching a settlement quickly and with minimal conflict, rather than upping the tension which only results in a higher fee for them.
- Pick your battles and don’t let anger guide how much you fight over particular assets – in five years time it will all be water under the bridge anyway.
- Don’t involve your children in the process. They have enough to deal with getting used to their parents no longer living together. Make it your problem not theirs. But if they ask questions be honest without being spiteful.
- Do reassure your children that the divorce is not their fault, you both love them and will both continue to be committed to raising them.
- DO NOT speak ill of your ex to your children. Moan to your best friend maybe but NOT to your kids. Your children are half you and half your ex. If you bad-mouth your children’s other parent, you are effectively bad-mouthing the half of your children that is your ex. Not good for any child to be encouraged to think half of them is bad.
- DO NOT expect your children to take sides. That is immature and negates their own self-esteem. Just don’t!
- When you’re planning shared parenting, consider what is really best for your children not what works best for your schedule and emotions. For example, splitting parental time 50:50 may be good for you, but a nightmare for your children carrying their lives backwards and forwards.
- Take your time introducing your children to any new partner. It is bound to be a sensitive issue and their needs should come first.
- Remember that every situation is temporary. However bad things are now, they WILL get better. Who knows, when the dust has settled, you might be able to invite your ex to dinner. India Knight has written of having Christmas lunch every year with the father of her sons, the father of her daughter, her two former mothers-in-law and sundry other extended family. How civilized is that!
Rights of Women (UK)
Providing free legal advice for women over the phone including:
- domestic violence and abuse
- divorce, finances and property on relationship breakdown
- cohabitation, finances and property on relationship breakdown
- parental responsibility and arrangement for children
- lesbian parenting
Family law: 020 7251 6577
The largest provider of family mediation in England and Wales. To find your local service call 0300 4000 636 or use your postcode here.
Formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association, Resolution is an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales, who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters. Resolution campaigns for improvements to the family justice system and provides training and accreditation for collaborative lawyers in England and Wales.
Check out our articles on divorce in midlife and splitting assets on divorce.