Marriage Separation Advice
Tips for Living During Separation and Divorce
Beyond the mechanics of filing divorce in Georgia (paperwork, meetings, etc.) lies the personal side of divorce. Learn how you can facilitate an easier and make things easier on yourself.
Good marriage separation advice is invaluable. In a recent article by Mental Health America1 stated, "Going through a separation or divorce can be very difficult, no matter the reason for it. It can turn your world upside down and make it hard to get through the work day and stay productive." Consider the following tips and ideas to get through this difficult life-changing event.
You will hear and read a lot of advice about getting a divorce. Take all such advice with a grain of salt. There are scores of articles with divorce tips on "how to win in your divorce". Many of these articles assume winning means walking away with more property or money – with no regard to the harm caused to others. This approach typically drives a high-conflict divorce, which in-turn increases the stress and cost of a divorce. The secret to having a faster, low-conflict divorce is working together and avoiding selfish pursuits. Here’s what you can do to make that reality.
Always Strive to Take the High Road
Yes, most divorces will tax your patience and your ability to not get drawn into the emotional drama. It is extremely important for you to muster the inner-strength to maintain a logical pursuit of resolutions to disagreements. When you learn to respond, not react1 your communications will always be better.
It’s very likely that, like you, your soon-to-be ex is experiencing anxiety about the uncertainty life after divorce2. Uncertainty can cause fear, aggression and drive actions that are based in a need to feel safe and secure. Assuming your ex is at least somewhat rational when you take the high road tension and conflict can be minimized.
Don’t Make Common Mistakes that Can Cause Problems
Beware of the potential pitfalls that await in your new-found freedom. Acting inappropriately, verbally or physically, can cause problems in the divorce process. Acting in an uncivil or profane manner can affect child custody and visitation decisions. If you lose control of your temper you may find yourself in jail or under the restraints of a temporary protective order (restraining order). You could potentially alienate people in your life and seriously demean your reputation. Focus on maintaining self-control and always acting in a responsible manner. Here are some tips for living during your separation and divorce:
1) Let It Out, Let It Go
Divorce can fill you with confusing and conflicting emotions. You may feel as if your whole life is coming apart. You no longer have a true sense of security. You may feel hurt, angry, sad, depressed and lonely. It’s normal to have these feelings. These feelings and concerns are part of the natural healing process. The trick is finding a way out of the misery. Embrace healthy ways to let go and move forward. Seeking a little professional guidance can help you sort things out. It might also be time to take up a new hobby or sport to keep your mind off of things. A rebound relationship is probably not a good idea for you and might have a negative effect on your children.
As you cease looking back and look forward, you can fill your mind with hope and optimism. Enjoy what you may now be overlooking such as having a calmer home environment without constant fighting. When you focus on the positives it’s easier to not get drawn into conflicts and drama. Rule number one must be, let it out, and let it go.
2) Let Decency and Dignity Become Your New Best Friends
Divorcing with grace isn’t always easy but it’s the well worth the effort to do so. Never allow yourself get out of control, and certainly not in public. During your divorce, you should always conduct yourself with honor, decency, and dignity. If you have cause to visit your ex’s workplace or home, do so with a very pleasant demeanor. Do not let your emotions get the best of you and act-out in front of people. Sometimes it is a good idea to have a friend go with you to help you stay calm, and be a witness to any issues that arise.
3) Be Mindful of What You Say
You may have legitimate reasons to complain about your ex. He or she could have lied, manipulated, neglected and or otherwise hurt you or your children. No matter how you feel, try to be somewhat business-like in your communications. Being brief, to the point, and not getting off-topic are the best ways to handle communications. Here are some specific tips for communicating with your estranged spouse:
- In Person conversations should be done in a public place. Maintain a distance of several feet from your ex, keep a pleasant look on your face, and avoid negative body language. If an argument starts you should politely disengage and walk away.
- Phone Calls should be done only to discuss specific things, and not for casual conversation. A phone call can be recorded so be very mindful of your words and tone of voice. Avoid being baited into an argument.
- Texting presents unique challenges for keeping a conversation calm and in context. Texts are usually choppy, and you do not have the benefit of your voice to assist in the context your words are received. Before you send a text, read it over to think whether or not it may sound uncivil. Ask yourself, “if somebody read my text aloud in court, how would it sound to other people?”. Keep in mind, text messages are often saved and a single bad text could cause problems. Yes, you should save text messages as confirmations and for documentation.
- Emails should be treated in the same manner as text messages.
- Third Person messages, such as those sent via a child or friend, should be used for only simple information. Never use an intermediary (other than your divorce lawyer) for messages that may generate a negative reaction.
4) Your Child is a Child, Not a Weapon of Mass Destruction
People often (and wrongly!) use their children to conduct proxy battles with their ex. You should never put your child in the position of having to choose sides. Do not use your children to get information about your ex unless it relates directly to the welfare of your child. Do not use your children as a messenger in arguments. Keep in mind that your children are already under a tremendous amount of stress. Don’t make it worse on them.
Per an article published on VeryWellFamily.com3, " Divorce creates emotional turmoil for the entire family, but for kids, the situation can be quite scary, confusing, and frustrating… ".
As much as possible, try to not say negative things about the other parent. If you and your estranged spouse speak ill of one another in front of your children it will result in bad behaviors. Your children will have a diminished self-image and resent both of you. Let kids be kids, and don’t drag them through the mud which is divorce.
5) Maintain Control of Your Lifestyle
Honestly, at the beginning of your divorce, you may feel an urge to let loose, party and be, well, a little promiscuous. Don’t do it. Just one morning of waking up and realizing what you did the night before is a bad experience. It’s even worse when your children are exposed to it.
Make a promise to yourself to get through your divorce without becoming reckless. You have everything to lose and absolutely nothing to gain by handing over your personal stability to temporary, instant gratification.
6) Acquire your Property Without Problems
When you move out you should take as much of your prized possessions as possible. You may want a close family member or friend to hold your items until the divorce is over. This includes jewelry, pictures, heirloom items, personal mementos and anything else you cherish. In a fit of anger, your ex might give-away, sell or destroy your property. Avoid this potential problem by securing your property as soon as possible.
Don’t get arrested for criminal trespass, illegal entry, or breaking-and-entering. If your property is still in your marital home, and you live elsewhere, you cannot enter your old home without permission. Either ask your spouse to plan for you to get your property, or go through your lawyer to regain possession of your property.
7) Create a Budget and Financial Plan
Divorce almost always causes a person to re-evaluate their financial circumstances. Almost every separation ends with a lowered monthly income for both parties involved. You need to create a household budget and short-term financial plan as soon as possible. Make an honest assessment of your income, expenses, and savings. Be certain to keep in mind any changes from paying or receiving child support or spousal support.
Obviously your first objective is to find a way to live within your means. This might mean taking on a part-time job, cutting back on impulse purchases, or even taking your lunch to work with you instead of going out to eat every day. Per USA Today44 creating a budget can help you avoid overspending. The sacrifices you make now will be rewarded later when you find that you can financially take care of yourself and your children without anyone’s assistance.
8) Keep Meticulous Communication Records
One of the wisest things you can do during your divorce is to keep meticulous communication records. Every time that you talk to your spouse about your children, community property or other personal effects is a time worth documenting. Record child visitation punctuality, and payments that you make or receive. Write down anything out of the ordinary that occurs in full detail to ensure that you augment your memory with a play-by-play of who, what, how, when and where. Protect yourself with documentation and you will protect yourself from mental anguish later.
9) Trust and Help Your Attorney
A divorce takes time, and your attorney has a lot to do. Don’t expect your divorce lawyer to call you with daily updates – things don’t happen that fast. Basically, let your attorney do their job, trust your attorney and be patient.
An uninformed attorney cannot provide optimal service. Keep your attorney informed of significant happenings but don’t overload your attorney with non-essential information. Be honest with your attorney, even if your information is about something embarrassing or illegal. Give your attorney all of the information they need to help you.
10) Assure Personal Safety
As you go through your divorce you need to do your part to preserve personal safety. Domestic violence is an unwelcome visitor to many families going through a divorce. Sometimes it is between divorcing spouses, sometimes it happens between parents and angry children. During the divorce, and even after, stress can lead to physical confrontations. Here are some suggestions to mitigate and deal with potential and actual domestic violence.
- Temporary Protective Order (TPO) is appropriate when someone has made threats of violence, is stalking you or has already committed domestic violence. A TPO (Temporary Protective Order), which is commonly called a Restraint Order which is a formal court order that limits the type of contact that your estranged spouse can have with you. Violating a TPO can result in arrest so most people understand that compliance is a good idea.
- Divorce Counseling is especially helpful for learning how to deal with children who may act out physically. Counseling can also help children to understand their emotions, and learn coping methods to deal with their negative emotions.
- Security Measures are a preventative step to protect yourself. You should rekey or change locks on your home. If you’ve had to get a TPO, installing security lighting or an alarm system may be a good idea.
We invite you to call us for a pre-divorce consultation, planning your divorce, or filing your divorce. We can guide you through the challenges of divorce. Call us to discuss our low-conflict approach to divorce in Georgia.
FOOTNOTES & CREDITS
- 1 Mental Health America, " Coping With Separation and Divorce ", November 1, 2013, Available from Mental Health America
- 2 Leo Babauta, "Learn to Respond, Not React", DATE, Available from Zen Habits
- 3 Amy Morin, LCSW, " The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children ", August 24, 2018, Available from VeryWellFamily.com
- 4 Josh Smith, "Getting a divorce? Here are 20 tips for maintaining financial sanity", May 30, 1018, Available from USA Today