Going through a divorce or legal separation is a complicated and overwhelming ordeal.
So if you’ve made the decision to divorce or are facing divorce proceedings because your spouse has stated their intention to end the marriage, you might be wondering what first steps you should take to get through this difficult process as quickly and amicably as you can.
I asked 53 experts (in addition to me) to reveal their best and most insightful tips on preparing for divorce so you can make this as peaceful and stress-free as possible.
I hope you find them helpful during your own divorce preparation!
"If you could offer your best tips on how to prepare for a divorce that's peaceful, what would they be?"
Divorce Coach / Mediator / PC-DM - Since My Divorce
Divorce Tip #1: Take Your Time.
This applies to many of the aspects of getting divorced from making the decision to divorce to all the logistical aspects of separating from your spouse to the legal process itself.
Most of the time there isn’t an urgent pressing need so beware of arbitrary deadlines that create unnecessary pressure to make decisions.
Divorce Tip #2: Do Your Research.
Don’t make any assumptions and certainly don’t base your decisions on what happened to a friend or family member. That’s how you end up with agreements that aren’t in your best interests or worse yet, simply can’t be executed.
It’s never too soon to start researching and researching doesn’t mean that’s what’s going to happen. It just means you’re gathering more information.
Divorce Tip #3: Understand the Legal Process.
The legal process varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but these days there are a number of options for working through that process.
Understanding the basic process and how it will apply to your situation, understanding your specific complications will help you to choose the path that is going to work best for you.
The first tip I would offer would be to do some real soul searching to understand why the marriage is ending.
It’s easy to put all the blame on your spouse, but that’s not fair to either of you. When you assign all the blame to the other person, you are making yourself a victim. Having a victim mentality gives you a sense of powerlessness.
To have a peaceful divorce, both people need to feel like they are on even ground.
Also important is to keep the lines of communication open.
Having an open, rational dialogue with your spouse will go a long way to maintaining the peace. I remember when I was growing up, my mother always told me, “It’s not necessarily what you say, it’s how you say it.” Often we don’t realize how people are affected by the things we say, so think before speaking.
Using the services of a good mediator can help keep the lines of communication open.
Sometimes a couple that had communication problems during the marriage will learn from the mediator how to have an open and honest exchange of information, while expressing their needs and expectations in a positive way.
Finally, try to avoid “knee jerk” reactions.
Let’s face it, divorce is stressful. When we’re under stress we don’t always think before we act - add to that your spouse pushing your buttons and it’s easy to see why that happens. In my personal experience, most of my knee jerk reactions didn’t go so well for me.
When confronted with an issue, stop for a minute, take a deep breath and think about the best way to handle the situation. It’s ok to say, “Let me get back to you on that” or “Can we talk about that later?” so you have time to think the situation through.
Using these three tips for getting a divorce will help make what could be a hostile situation much more amicable.
Justin L. Kelsey, Esq.
Mediator, Collaboratively trained lawyer and Owner, Skylark Law & Mediation, P.C.
The experience of a peaceful divorce does not happen by chance or by accident. It is a choice that you make and the good news, even in divorce, is that you have a choice.
Here are a few tips to help you choose peace over war when getting divorced:
1. Choose a process, don't let the process choose you.
While many people think litigation is the only option in divorce proceedings, there are many process options that can be tailored to your family's needs. Mediation, collaborative law, and outside of court attorney negotiation are all more flexible options than court.
Learn about all the options before you choose one.
2. Preferences before positions.
It is a common mistake to jump to conclusions about what you want before you have all the information. Instead of saying "I want the house" or "I think this much support is the right amount," consider all the options before you make a decision.
Many times your favorite option on day 1 is not the best option when all the information is gathered.
3. Use a "timeout."
Language can be hurtful, demeaning, and misunderstood or it can be uplifting, freeing and create peace. It's very easy to react when faced with a divorce and the fears that are natural when splitting time with children or dividing finances.
Don't be afraid to pause, call a "timeout" and gather your thoughts before responding.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
3 Steps for How to Prepare for Divorce Emotionally and Keep it Peaceful:
1. Set an Intention.
Setting an intention requires you to think about how you want the process of you divorce to go and what you want the outcome to look like. This intention can serve as your guide along the way.
It will keep you focused as you navigate the decisions you’ll make and the way you interact with your partner and/or your children.
2. Learn to Manage Your Feelings.
Divorce can be an emotional roller coaster, lots of feelings come up and at times they may overwhelm you.
Find someone to emotionally support you – a friend, a therapist – so you can stay connected to the person you want to be even in the face of intense divorce emotions and tough decisions.
3. Invest in the Process.
One day the conflict will be over and you will think of your marriage as something in the past. Do your best to be thoughtful and patient.
Every step of the way, take into consideration your own well-being and the well-being of your children as well as the impact on your partner. Meanwhile, focus on your life today and make time for some fun and meaningful connections with loved ones in your life.
Mediator / Mediation-Minded Attorney / Mediation-Friendly Consulting Attorney / Collaborative Law Practitioner / Conflict Resolution Coach
1. Don’t assume that your divorce case cannot be handled through the mediation or collaborative divorce process because the two of you aren’t amicable and have trust issues.
Well-trained mediators and collaborative divorce practitioners have acquired skills to de-escalate conflicts and rebuild trust.
Litigation is an adversarial (combative) process that inherently escalates conflict and breeds paranoia and litigators haven’t typically learned the skills taught to mediators and collaborative law practitioners.
2. Don’t consult with or retain a litigator, unless they also happen to be a well-trained facilitative and/or transformative mediator and/or a collaborative divorce practitioner.
Otherwise, it’s like going to a surgeon and expecting them not to recommend, or at least be biased toward surgery. You can only give what you have and teach what you know.
3. Don’t assume that your spouse won’t be amenable to the mediation or collaborative divorce process, even if they have already retained litigation counsel and possibly served you with adversarial pleadings.
People convince themselves that their spouse wouldn't agree to something about which they never even asked. Ask and you may receive.
Let me rephrase that as follows: You can’t expect to receive that which you didn’t request.
Clinical Psychologist / Mediator
My best tip is to have a plan.
How many times do couples try to ‘wing it’ – especially when it comes to discussing some of the challenging aspects of divorce – telling the children, finances, home, boundaries. You cannot wing a divorce.
Discuss together beforehand how you will tell your children and what this will look like, what will be said, etc.
Are they different ages? Depending on the age, will determine what you say. Be prepared for different questions. Be prepared for no questions as children might mull over this huge change in their life.
But, what will be said and how the living situation will change/remain the same should be discussed before any discussion with the children. This will demonstrate that parents can still provide a united front (making children feel safer) as their relationship changes.
What is the best financial situation you can create?
What will the finances look like, who will pay for what.
People often believe they can afford 2 of everything – but often cannot. What can each person compromise on? Will this change in the future?
Where can concessions be made?
Examine what your post marriage life will look like in terms of coming and going.
What I mean by this is when a parent is dropping off a child/children, what are the boundaries? Do they come into the home? If one person is staying in the marital home, what are the boundaries?
Sometimes in the beginning there is more leeway, but as people move on and adjust to impending divorce, expectations around this very topic need to be addressed – proactively.
Moné Ardura and Danny Burk
Attorneys, Mediators, CDFAs and Founders, Resolution Point, LLC
1. Play the Cards YOU Dealt Yourself.
Many clients express frustration about the difficulty of mediating with their spouses who “just won’t change!” They often say to us things like, “You’d think of all times, he/she would be trying to get along!” or “My spouse was always [pick one: controlling, demanding, greedy, etc.]. Isn’t it time for her/him to change so we can get through this?!”
We encourage you to consider the circumstances you are in when you’re wondering why you’re finding yourself fighting the same battles.
If your soon-to-be ex was controlling or unresponsive to conflict before beginning the divorce process, there’s very little about the divorce process that would cause that to change. Indeed, it is perhaps one of the most stressful times you each might have ever experienced.
Under stress, we all tend to revert to what we know best, even if it’s difficult or nonproductive behaviors. In fact, there may be some consolation in knowing that you too are under pressure and are likely to be resorting to your behaviors and styles that have been with you the longest. You might wonder how knowing this could make the process more peaceful for you.
Understanding how your soon-to-be ex actually deals with conflict will allow you to better prepare to negotiate because your expectations will be based in reality, not on wishful thinking.
By the way, sometimes a mediating spouse will suddenly get this point and say with some resignation: “I guess I have to play the cards I was dealt.” But we then remind the mediating spouse that he/she picked the other spouse. “You have to play the cards YOU dealt yourself when you decided to marry the person you are now divorcing!”
2. “Here Comes Da Judge”: Your Spouse IS Da Judge!
When mediating with your spouse, picture yourself in a courtroom, and then imagine that whenever you’re speaking to your spouse, you’re also talking to your judge. If you were in court, would you be disrespectful, aggressive, unreasonable, or manipulative with the judge when presenting your wishes? Of course not! You want the judge to understand your situation from your perspective, and you want the judge to agree with you.
In divorce mediation, there are exactly two decision-makers: you and your spouse. The mediator has no vote and can’t break ties. Ultimately, you’ll need a unanimous vote for every decision, so if you approach your soon-to-be ex as you would a judge such as with respect, reasonableness, and thoughtfulness, you are more likely to be able to negotiate successfully. You may be able to avoid the side arguments that often happen when we are disrespectful, aggressive, unreasonable, and manipulative.
3. What are Friends for? Seek out Reliable Information from Professionals.
In today’s world with so much access to information, it can be hard to decipher which information is accurate.
If you begin your mediation process having read or heard something that might relate to your situation, you may build false expectations on how things “should” come out. Equally, you may have unnecessary apprehensions about outcomes that you’ve heard about (with regard to parenting plan, child custody, child support, spousal support or alimony, division of marital property, etc.), but that ultimately may have nothing to do with your situation.
Additionally, there are certain things you should rely on your friends for such as support, sympathy, and psychological encouragement.
Remember that there is a reason they are your friends: they’ll be on your side whether you’re right or wrong. They will be there to support you regardless of your position and regardless of the big picture.
But for this very reason, your best friends are probably not likely to be reliable resources for facts, legal advice and objectivity. And just because your friend tells you that the “same” thing happened in his or her divorce doesn’t mean that the situations are identical and that the results will be the same in your case too.
So what’s the solution? Rely on the Internet carefully. (Ok, you can rely on this article!) Rely on friends for support. But rely on objective professionals such as divorce lawyers, financial advisors, and mediators to help you figure out where you stand and what might happen in your case.
David Klow, LMFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Founder, Skylight Counseling Center
1. Slow down.
Most couples benefit from slowing down in the divorce process.
Often they feel like they need to hurry up and get things over. They imagine that things will be much better once its complete.
Yet what I've seen is that if a couple handles the process in a mindful manner, rather than rushing, they feel much better in the end.
2. If you want a peaceful divorce then you must be at peace with the marriage.
Find a way to accept what was, understand how it got that way, and release the past. These are effective ways to find peace.
An individual counselor can be very helpful with this process.
3. Stay connected.
During a divorce, people often feel the foundation of their life change in dramatic ways. Everything that they once knew is no longer there.
In order to have a peaceful divorce, it is vital to stay to connected to friends and family. Do not isolate.
Find ways to stay in touch with people and places which make you feel at home, and know that once on the other side of the divorce, that you will find a new sense of normal.
Morghan Richardson, Esq.
Attorney and Founder, Richardson Legal PLLC
My office handles hundreds of divorces each year. Still, I’ve never had a case where the couple fully agrees on the history of their relationship problems, so avoid talking about fault and blame when you break the news about your decision to divorce because it will only lead to unnecessary arguments.
Avoid fights about the past – troubles and wrongs are all things that you can hash out with a therapist, not your spouse.
These past problems may be the reasons you are getting divorced and if you couldn’t solve them during the marriage, you won’t solve them at the end of it.
Most people are uncomfortable with conflict. But you cannot afford to “ghost” out of a marriage when you have kids and property to divide. If you haven’t told your spouse you are unhappy, the news of a divorce will be even more devastating to them.
Lessen the sting of that news gradually by setting aside several times to talk about your unhappiness and thoughts of divorce before he’s about to be handed papers.
When Janet told her husband Matt that she wanted a divorce, he ignored her. A few weeks later, a process server showed up at the door and handed him papers marked “divorce summons.” That’s when Matt realized she was serious. Despite Janet’s efforts to let Matt know her feelings, he still expressed shock and resentment.
The person who initiates the divorce generally has the advantage of time: they have moved forward in their mental and emotional process and feel more comfortable in their decision to divorce. The spouse receiving papers usually has emotional work to do before he can come to terms with the divorce.
Once you’ve made your decision to divorce, talk to your spouse about it with certainty and discuss how they want to receive the divorce papers.
Having someone jump out of the bushes to slap papers in their hands – or worse, having them served divorce papers in front of their work colleagues – can create extra conflict and stress. Most process servers are willing to coordinate a time and place of service.
Just a little information about the start of the process and filing for divorce can go a long way in establishing that you are using the divorce process as a tool, not a weapon.
Before talking to the kids about the divorce, get a few age-appropriate books that speak to them about divorce.
Work hard to make decisions together about what you are each saying to the kids. Kids hear and understand more than parents realize. Creating a unified front will let them know that even when you are apart, they can expect unified parenting from you.
Former divorce mediation client of Equitable Mediation Services
Published with permission – initials used to preserve confidentiality
I feel that a few ways to prepare for an amicable relationship during and after the divorce are to decide and agree upon what overall goals you want to have for the long-term relationship, especially if there are children involved, and then both start verbalizing (if possible) and visualizing them right away.
Decide on what specific positive parts of the relationship you want to maintain and verbalize them too.
Then, if possible, start living these principals as two separate entities right away while you're still living under the same roof, allocating money, resources, time, and effort, preferably having two separate bank accounts and budgets.
The budget prep [required for the divorce process] is absolutely horrendous and overwhelming, and can easily escalate to shock and blame, so the more attention that can be paid BEFOREHAND to having easily accessible and attentive, well-kept records, the better, faster, and smoother that process will be.
Lastly, make a huge effort to give each other compliments as often as possible, as this process is so painful, depressing, debilitating, exciting, relieving, and renewing, and everybody deserves respect, dignity and love.
Marriage and Family Therapist / Adjunct Professor at Seton Hall University, Marriage and Family Program
So, you and your spouse have reached a point where there doesn’t seem to be any way to repair your differences and have come to that dreadful place of recognizing that the only option left is to divorce. Now what?
Steps to Take When Preparing for Divorce: Here are three tips to help keep it peaceful:
1. Seek Support.
Couple’s therapy may sound counterintuitive in this phase of the relationship, however, seeking professional help for either both of you together or each of you individually, even if it’s a support group, can help sort out many of the ongoing feelings and emotional distress you may be having.
Divorce is the death of the family as you know it, so recognize that there will be a grieving process for everyone involved.
2. Maintain Civility.
There may be many things you want to tell your soon to be ex-spouse, but it is important to remember that this was once a person that you were attracted to and developed enough feelings for to create a life with.
If there are children involved, this will also be a person that you will need to have an ongoing relationship with when it comes to co-parenting so maintaining respect and not engaging the children in battle will benefit all involved.
Remembering how actions and behaviors directly impact children will help maintain respect for each other in this process.
3. Stay Focused on The Goal.
This is not the time to teach your spouse a lesson about his/her wrongdoings or, a time to make your point! There is no need to keep score since this is a process where there may be more casualties than winners.
Take a step back and gain perspective on where you want to be and how you want to see yourself after all is said and done. Don’t get caught in the nitty gritty and delay the outcome by trying to win battles.
Give yourself time to grieve the loss and find better ways of communication by staying focused on the ultimate goal without letting emotions drive the course of your actions.
Virginia L. Colin, Ph.D.
Divorce Mediator and Director, Colin Family Mediation Group, LLC
1. Don’t panic!
You probably have a good amount of time for sorting things out. Do take care of yourself. Nourish yourself, get enough sleep, and, if you feel upset often, practice meditation and/or yoga. Maybe find a divorce support group.
If anxiety or depression is a big problem, find a therapist you feel good about. Take good care of your kids.
2. Learn about family mediation.
Compared to working only with lawyers and courts, working with a mediator to help you and your spouse get everything resolved is likely to save you thousands and thousands of dollars.
It will also take much less time (measured in years), be much less distressing than litigation and enable you to have an uncontested divorce.
3. Stay safe on social media.
Do not post anything that you would not want you ex, the judge, your mom, or your kids to see. Maybe stay off of social media until the divorce is final.
Therapist / Huffington Post Blogger / Author of Contemplating Divorce, Stronger Day by Day and co-author of The New I Do
1. Do research BEFORE starting the process.
The more you know, the better the process will be for you because knowledge is power.
Most people start the process by choosing a divorce lawyer and counting on him or her to educate then on the process. This is the most expensive way to go and least effective. If you pick a litigator, you will be on their litigating path.
Likewise, if you pick a non-adversarial divorce lawyer, you will be on their path. But what is best for YOU? While mediation is a great way for many to go in that you maintain control over the process and it often costs less, if your spouse is not mediation material, you will be spinning your wheels and may spend far more trying to mediate than you would have if you were litigating.
Know your process first. Then choose the most appropriate professional.
2. Get your life lined up BEFORE you divorce.
People can actually plan their divorce rather than make a split decision and have the chips fall where they may.
This may mean going back to school now, getting a job lined up now, getting credit cards in your name now or pre-qualifying for a house now, BEFORE you split.
The more you and your spouse can work together to set things up where you both succeed, the better the process will be for everyone.
3. Get enough and the right kind of emotional support.
Divorce is primarily an emotional process but more times than not, the focus is on the legal and financial aspects.
In fact, when clients have emotional needs, they often use their untrained family law attorney or financial expert to process! Not only is this more expensive, they are not getting the best help.
Friends and family can be helpful to a point as well but the best way to go is to get group support and/or individual support. I’m a huge fan of group because it helps you come out of the isolation and marginalization. I think it has a synergistic healing effect.
President, Great Lakes Divorce Financial Solutions
Do the internal work that it takes to make peace with the decision to divorce.
It may or may not be your decision, but it's happening. Individuals clear their heads in different ways. You may want to talk to a friend or mental health professional. Maybe journaling or meditation works for you.
Regardless of what you choose, remember that you are going to make some critical decisions that will have a significant impact on your life. You need a clear head.
Use your divorce as an opportunity to design the next chapter of your life.
If you're focused on creating a life that you love, you will be less focused on any hurt or anger related to your divorce. A clear vision for your future can be your North Star as you dissolve your marriage.
One thing that creates quite a bit of angst for those faced with a divorce is feeling like there is so much you don't know. There are lots of great resources online.
Steer away from seeking advice from friends and neighbors as everyone's situation is unique. However, don't hesitate to ask them for professional recommendations.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Berkeley, CA
Tips for emotionally preparing for divorce:
Accept that even if you did everything possible you're now getting divorced.
Maybe you initiated the divorce after years of difficulty and disappointment. Maybe the divorce wasn't your idea in the first place and, like it or not, here you are. Either way, most people come to divorce with some regrets about their own actions (or actions not taken). Even if they've given it their all -- and especially if they haven't.
For many, forgiveness plays a key role in coming to peace.
While people often talk about needing to forgive one's spouse (a task that, for some, can seem just short of impossible) forgiving yourself is an essential first step. And that forgiveness begins with acknowledging that you cannot change the past. You can only learn from it.
Rather than rake yourself or your spouse over the coals, forgive your own missteps, your own blind spots, your own inability to work things out.
Know that discomfort and uncertainty is part of the process.
Nobody steps into marriage thinking they'll eventually end up in a family law attorney's office working out how to divide the sheets and towels and 401ks. When faced with divorce, many people are overwhelmed and unprepared for the roller coaster of feelings and disorientation that dramatic change brings.
Even the most peaceful divorce will be disruptive and painful.
Yes, you will eventually reach a new normal, but that may well take longer than you would like. In the meantime, your job is to find healthy and effective ways to comfort yourself.
Keep in mind that a peaceful divorce isn't the same thing as a happy divorce.
Most people have mixed feelings: loss, relief, fear, sadness, anger. And these feelings don't disappear the day you finalize the paperwork. The first anniversary not celebrated, or the first Thanksgiving at separate dinner tables can bring an upwelling of feeling that takes many people aback, sometimes rekindling old anger or regret.
The kindest thing you can do for yourself is to become increasingly able to soothe yourself during hard times.
Gillian A. Brady
Attorney Mediator at Finding Common Ground - Mediation & Law Services in Sacramento, CA
1. Don’t let your emotions about one another affect the decisions you make regarding the children.
2. Recognize and respect the wide range of emotions your child has regarding the divorce.
3. Treat your children as children, not as adults. Don’t give them information on finances or custody. Don’t depend on them to fill your emotional needs.
Here are my best tips for how to prepare children for divorce and minimize the anxiety and fear your kids will experience:
Never bad-mouth the other parent in any way.
When one parent says anything negative about their ex-spouse in front on his or her child, that child is being put in an impossible position. He suffers from guilt, divided loyalties, and fear of showing loving feelings toward the parent who is being bad-mouthed.
It's fine to share your feelings about your ex with your adult friends and any other empathic listeners, but keep them from your children at all costs.
Avoid ever forcing your child to take sides.
As one mother in my workshop reported when she was trying to get her ten year old son to decide with which parent to spend a holiday week, he said in an anguished voice: "Mom, please don't make me choose!"
An amicable divorce may sound like a contradiction in terms, but for children, it's an enormous gift. You can divorce one another, but your kids can never divorce you.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
3 Tips for a Successful Divorce:
1. Develop a Vision.
My hunch is that you are leaving your marriage because you want a better future. It’s easy to get caught up in focusing on the reasons the marriage doesn’t work and the here and now challenges of navigating the logistical and emotional upheaval of divorce.
Try to develop a vision which you are moving towards in your separate life.
Find things to look forward to. What changes are you hoping for? Also develop a vision for what you want your relationship with your former spouse to be - remember that a divorced family is still a family.
Even though it is challenging, conceiving and communicating a positive vision can be supported by being empathetic, generous, and respectful of one’s spouse.
2. Get Support and Build Community.
Surround yourself with people who can support you in a balanced way and who you can continue to have mutually giving relationships with.
It’s important to continue to be there for your friends as well as to be supported so you can be a full person. Some people will be very interested in your struggles and difficult feelings and while it can feel good to vent, try to balance this with engaging in other aspects of social engagement. Invite friends to do fun things, have family dinners, meet up at community events.
Model to your friends that divorce is only one part of your life and that you want to have a life.
3. Help your Children Give Voice to Their Needs and Feelings.
Children don’t always talk directly about how they feel about the divorce.
So listen carefully to their expressions of frustration, anger and sadness about whatever it is they can talk about. They may express more negative feelings about school, friends or life in general.
What’s important at this time is to be there to listen and to support them.
There’s a lot of grief in divorce - for everyone - and sadness can get expressed in many ways. Support them in their relationship with their other parent.
They absolutely need both of you in their lives. They need your help in getting through the difficult feelings and getting back to a secure relationship with each parent.
Maryana Kanda, LSW, APM
What to do to prepare for a divorce and keep it peaceful:
1. Educate yourself and to know your options: litigation vs. mediation.
I've found that when couples clearly understand the difference between those two options, they are able to discuss their issues in a more amicable manner. To find a mediator that couples are comfortable with and both are able to relate. Otherwise one of them will be resentful and might sabotage the process.
2. Be realistic about your goals and don’t feel entitled to the same lifestyle.
Dealing with your emotions prior to mediation, during, and after will help tremendously. Anger, resentment, blame, etc. - all are detrimental.
When couples are working with therapists, life coaches, etc. - the divorce process is so much easier.
3. Always keep the best interests of the children in mind.
When couples in divorce are able to truly follow this, the divorce process becomes a breeze.
Kate Engler, AMFT
Marriage and Family Therapist, Kate Engler Counseling
Three tips for peaceful divorce preparation:
1. Write a mission statement.
Take time to reflect on your goals for the divorce, yourself, and your life. Think about your ideal self, your vision for co-parenting (if applicable), how you want to handle disputes and resentments, and creating opportunities for self-forgiveness during setbacks.
The act of writing will provide a sense of focus, ease your decision-making, and hold you accountable. This document will likely undergo several drafts.
2. Develop emotional regulation skills.
Emotional regulation is a learned skill and, like any new skill, continued practice increases the likelihood of success.
First, you must learn to identify your emotions and default reactions to them. From there you can begin to develop methods for healthy coping such as meditation, therapy, journaling or exercise.
As you build these skills, you will become less reactive and better able to soothe yourself during difficult moments.
3. You control you.
As much as we would like our divorcing partner to be on the same page we are, sometimes that doesn’t happen.
You always have a choice to bring your best self to the table, regardless of how the other party behaves. This means detaching from the other person’s reactions, staying tuned-in to your ideal self, and operating from a place of integrity.
James Sexton, Esq.
My three best tips to prepare for a peaceful divorce would be:
1. Set Your Focus.
Whether in mediation, negotiation or litigation, your divorce process isn't the time to "work out" the injustices (real or perceived) of the marriage. It's best to begin the divorce process "with the end in mind" and your focus squarely on the specific goals you need to achieve to move forward in this next chapter: your post-divorce life.
We don't have to fear conflict: conflict is the clay from which we sculpt our future - but if conflict is necessary, let's make it productive and focused.
Do we need to resolve custody or parenting time issues: the focus should be on the children and what they need (not what each parents needs or how his or her ego reacts to what's proposed).
Do we need to resolve financial issues? Let's try to view it like a business transaction - with minimal emotional and maximum pragmatism. Only a fool would get deeply emotionally invested in haggling over the price of a used car. Why not take the same approach to your divorce. Like Don Corleone said in The Godfather: "It's not personal - it's just business."
2. Be Organized.
Keep your focus on principle-based bargaining and don't get sucked into disputes rooted in emotion rather than logic.
Have back-up documentation handy to support your positions: copies of financial records or documents that show what things really cost, notes on how many hours you each really spent per week with the children prior to the discussion of divorce.
It's a lot easier to navigate where you are going when you've got a clear and documented picture of where you've been.
3. Pick Good People and Trust Them.
Divorce is scary for a myriad of reasons, but perhaps none more so than how much trust you have to place in strangers - whether it's a judge, a divorce lawyer and mediator or a mental health professional for a custody evaluation.
But you can't successfully navigate a divorce alone.
You need the help of intelligent, experienced, intuitive and trustworthy people "in your corner." Take your time choosing who you want on your "divorce team" and once you've made your choices - do your best to get out of your own way and trust the people you've chosen.
I'm not suggesting having "blind faith" in anyone - if anything seems questionable, don't be afraid to ask questions: good professionals never fear or are offended by questions.
But trust your team. They're there to help.
Justin Tobin, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Founder, Justin Tobin & Associates
1. Be honest with yourself about how you feel about getting a divorce.
Acknowledge that whatever you are feeling may impact the divorce process itself as well as your role in the divorce process.
Pay attention to these feelings and be willing to acknowledge these difficult emotions as they occur.
2. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends.
Be aware of your tolerance level for your support.
Although they have good intentions, loved ones that give you their support may give it to you in a way that is not helpful to you – commit to either seeing their support as their way of expressing love or do not rely on these family or friends for their support.
3. Give yourself time to heal.
No matter the reason for divorce, it is a loss and needs to be treated accordingly. Negative self-talk and intense emotions will be part of the divorce process.
Remind yourself that this process is necessary to eventually recover.
Jillian Baltrukonis, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Founder, Health and Hope Counseling
Tips for Peaceful Divorce Preparation:
Seeking and utilizing healthy supports (professional and social) can make all the difference in the world.
Be aware and in control of your emotions. I see many people either suppress what are healthy and normal, albeit unpleasant, emotions which often lead to depression and anxiety, but conversely I also see people have their emotions get the best of them.
Being aware and in control of your emotions allows you to be goal-oriented in a difficult process.
The last suggestion is keeping the end goal in mind: “When I look back on this experience, will I be satisfied with my decisions and actions?”
Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Faculty, The Family Institute at Northwestern and The Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis
Here are three tips for couples preparing to divorce, from the vantage point of someone who has seen much seemingly needless suffering during that process:
1. Try to take a "business-like" approach to your soon-to-be ex-partner.
Everyone knows that you don't need to love or even like people with whom you work, but you can still work with them, make compromises, and agree not to continue to injure each other.
If you have trouble with this and are still angry, try not to act this out through lawyers or through your children.
2. Seek individual therapy to help you give up your grievances, shame, and anger.
3. Keep in mind the wisdom that (with only a few, dire exceptions), you should not criticize your ex-spouse in front of your children.
Research actually shows that doing so will cause more distance from YOU.
Kids don't want to be in the middle and shouldn't have to be. Instead, treating them well can be an incentive for divorcing couples to work together to get past the hurt and move into the future, towards what one author aptly called, "The Two House Solution." (Ricci, Isolina 1997). Mom’s house, Dad’s house, revised edition. New York: Simon & Schuster. More generally, Ricci's book is still one of the best practical guides for getting through a divorce.
Denise K. Netko, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Insightful Family Therapy
1. Reach out and surround yourself with a support system.
Whether you are in the beginning stages of a divorce or somewhere in the middle, reaching out to and surrounding yourself with a professional and personal “divorce support system” aids in the logistical, legal, and emotional decisions of a divorce.
As lonely as it may feel at times, it is important to remember that you are not alone.
Reaching out to a mediator (or attorney) will provide guidance around the legal issues of the divorce. A mental health professional can assist in the emotional issues related to the divorce. Leaning on trusted friends and/or family members can play supportive roles throughout the various stages of a divorce.
2. Take care of yourself.
Divorce is a traumatic event that most couples do not ever envision going through. The divorce process is an emotionally challenging event that affects us both physically and emotionally. What we once took comfort in now becomes filled with anxiety and stress and surrounded by chaos.
It is important to remember to try and maintain a sense of routine and establish self-care.
Trying to maintain healthy eating, sleep and exercise will help your mind and body cope with the overall stress. Additionally, incorporating activities such as meditation and yoga can help explore and increase the mind-body connection.
A better “you” will result in being better able to make sound, thought-out decisions.
3. Try to lower your emotional reactivity.
Going through a divorce is one of the top most stressful life events an individual can go through. In order to achieve a more peaceful divorce, working to maintain as much of an amicable relationship as possible with your spouse will be beneficial. Any divorce-related decision made out of anger, resentment or bitterness can lead to an increase in stress, tension, and overall emotional strain.
Try to view the divorce as though it is a business deal; keeping strong (and often negative) emotions out of the equation will lead to the ability to exert your rights and make decisions in a respectful and clear manner.
1. Let go of your anger before you start making joint decisions.
Find new ways of understanding more compassionately your partner's limitations that led to the divorce, and your limitations as well. With regard to your limitations and errors, keep reminding yourself that mistakes are for learning.
2. Consider what you feel is "fair" in divorce. Aim for just that, plus a dab of extra generosity.
Avoid giving too much, which you may later resent, or too little, which will breed resentment in your ex.
Both excessive altruism and selfishness can be mistakes. Then proceed in a mode of calm, collaborative dialogue.
Beware of making in your divorce process the same errors of being too argumentative or too quick to give in that you made in the marriage!
3. Learn to make win-win decisions.
That means no getting into a tug of war or power struggle to get you way. Instead, explain your concerns, listen to your ex-partner's concerns, and then design solutions responsive to what's important for each of you.
William Geary, Attorney & Mediator
1. Consider not doing a divorce, per se, but doing a dissolution of marriage.
Divorces concern issues upon which parties cannot agree. If the parties can agree, they can do a dissolution of marriage which is much faster to complete and much, much, less expensive.
Of course there may be some issues, or areas of disagreement even if the parties are attempting to negotiate a dissolution of marriage. Seeking help from a qualified and experienced mediator can help parties address those issues and hopefully help them resolve those issues to their mutual satisfaction.
2. Retain counsel who is respected and experienced.
If you are terminating your marriage, you need an attorney who will guide you in regard to issues where there is a disagreement and who will tell you honestly what the considerations of the court will be regarding assets, debts, child-issues, support issues and retirement allocation issues.
You do not need someone whose only reputation is that they are “mean” or that they can make lawsuits interminable. Attempting to torture your soon to be ex-spouse, will get you nowhere except further in debt.
3. Consider mediation of any and all issues involved.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain if you attempt to resolve issues through mediation before going on to “fight” in a divorce arena.
Many experienced mediators are also experienced family law attorneys and can guide you through to a successful resolution of your issues where the resolution is created by “you” and not by a judge or magistrate who really doesn’t know you, your situation or your children and their needs (assuming children are involved).
Michelle Herzog, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Center for Mindful Living
Here are some points that as a couples therapist, I find important for anyone who is preparing for a divorce:
1. Seek support.
First and foremast, we have to recognize that a divorce means we are facing a loss. Grieving any kind of loss can weigh heavily on an individual, couple or family. Therefore, proper steps towards self-care should be taken.
For example, each partner should consider individual counseling and if there are children involved, I would highly recommend family counseling.
It's also important that each partner have a support system outside of the couple/family unit, which can include 1-2 close friends to confide in.
2. Be respectful.
Emotions tend to run high in a divorce situation. This means we can lose sight of the fact that two people are going through this process and it is not one sided.
We have a natural tendency to hurt those who have hurt us and this can hold true in a divorce scenario. As you are both going through the stages of grief, try to remind yourself to be respectful of your spouse, your family and yourself.
Remember that you are not the only one going through this separation. Showing respect during this process can alleviate some of the stress and pressure one can feel while transitioning from partnered to single.
3. Operate from logical NOT emotional.
As emotions run high, do not lose sight of the responsibilities that come with separating. Whether this includes finances, co-parenting or who takes the dog, it's important that you operate from a stance of what makes the most sense.
Going through the loss of a partnership means separating from people, things and lifestyles that we may have developed an emotional or dependent attachment to.
If you are able to make decisions based on logic and not emotions, the divorce process may feel less painful and stressful.
Nurse / Hypnotherapist / NLP Practitioner / Author, Global Guide to Divorce
There are ways to prepare for a divorce when it is only a matter of when. See what resources are available where you live by calling your local United Way. When my divorce started, I felt like I was wandering around in a fog. United Way told me about a course that was given by our community college (also nationally) called “Women in Transition,” which helped tremendously.
MeetUp.com is world-wide and has various groups, including divorce-focused ones in some locales. There are divorce magazines online which are packed with articles on preparing for and getting through divorce. Some churches have divorce workshops.
If in a rocky marriage heading towards divorce, think about what personal property (yours alone) that you could sell for immediate cash. Consider opening a bank account in your name only in order to have access to funds in case community ones are frozen. Some people buy gift cards or request them as presents when their spouses seemed ready to depart.
Gather your support system around you when preparing for divorce. They can help with practical tasks, such as babysitting or listening when you need to vent.
You are not alone and people can help you every step of the way.
Erin Fisher, MSW, LSW
Therapist at IFC Counseling
Three best pointers to help prepare for a peaceful divorce that involves children:
1. Be prepared to present the divorce to your children from a united front as parents- even if that is not completely accurate.
Make a plan together and make sure you are both on the same page before any discussions with the children.
2. Encourage and leave room for questions from the children.
While making a point to reassure children that they will continue to be loved by both parents and that they as children are not to feel blamed/responsible for the divorce at all.
3. Make a conscious effort to not talk badly about the other parent in front of the children and encourage the children to talk with you but also to include the other parent in their concerns and processing.
Demonstrate continued open communication between one another as parents. Show the children that they are the priority in both of your lives and that you are going to make your relationship work as co-parents even if it did not work as spouses.
Creator, DIVORCED GIRL SMILING, Huffington Post Divorce Blogger, Features Reporter and "Love Essentially" columnist for Chicago Tribune Media Group
Although everyone undoubtedly aims for a peaceful divorce, the strong emotions present when two people decide to get divorced--resentment, bitterness, anger, jealousy, and sadness oftentimes greatly affect the chances of amicability.
That said, how does a person "prepare" for a peaceful divorce?
1. Think of your divorce as a business transaction.
It is very difficult, but if you want a smoother divorce, emotions have to stay separate from the decisions you make as you go through the process.
If he cheated, that has nothing to do with what kind of father he is and how often you want the kids seeing him. If she is the one who wanted the divorce and you are angry, hurt and resentful because of that, try to put those feelings aside when considering what is fair in a financial settlement or when deciding on a joint parenting schedule.
If you bring personal feelings into the "business" of divorce, it clouds your sense of good judgment and making decisions that are best for your children and for you in the long run.
2. Go to therapy.
I think every person going through a divorce should be legally required to see a therapist.
There is a multitude of feelings that need to be addressed, communicated and processed. In other words, your insides need a doctor! What if every person going through a divorce broke his or her leg? They would need a cast, possibly surgery, and crutches, right? Well, every person going through a divorce is broken, in a way. There is no difference.
You need some support.
This will help foster a peaceful divorce, because therapy helps with coping mechanisms that take away from making bad decisions during the divorce process.
3. Knowledge is power.
One mistake I made during my divorce 9 years ago is, I trusted my attorney and didn't really understand what I was signing. I didn't realize that I had the option of actually reading all of the documents word for word and really understanding the deals I was making. I just left it up to my attorney.
Very bad idea.
I signed certain things because my attorney said, "trust me," without explaining what I was really signing. Some of the jargon angered my ex so much, that it ruined our chances of amicability. Had I known what I was signing, I might have made little changes that were less contentious.
So, learn the language of legalese. Then, make divorce decisions based upon your attorney's recommendations plus your own opinions.
Amanda M. Jarratt
Attorney / Mediator and Founder, Jarratt Law Firm
3 pieces of advice for couples who wish to have a peaceful divorce:
1. Take a co-parenting class.
There are numbers of them online. From these classes, you will learn that there are many equally valuable ways to raise a child.
What matters most to your shared child is that you love her or him enough to accept that your child loves you both.
2. Exchange financial information cooperatively.
The pie to be divided is limited. During a divorce, you will meet a number of pie-loving professionals.
Be careful to save some pie for the people who baked it: you and your soon to be former spouse.
One of the best ways to save that pie for yourselves is to cooperate in exchanging financial information and to use joint financial experts if you need help to divide an asset.
3. Give yourself permission to mourn.
Divorce is a loss and losses must be mourned.
Join a support group, find a therapist, take an exercise class, or practice meditation. Many people find these healthy coping strategies helpful for coming to terms with divorce.
Mediator and Founder, Esrey Mediation
1. Take Your Time.
Yes, even when you want to rush through this- take your time. Don’t let others or courts dictate your divorce journey.
Be gentle on yourself. Think about what you need, make lists, sleep on them, and share them with people to whom you trust.
Make sure you’re clear about what you need.
2. Be Prudent.
Divorce is notorious among one of the top five causes for personal bankruptcy. Factor the cost of the divorce when deciding how to divorce.
Don’t let yourself lose control of the finances behind the process for the sake of “getting even” or “making him/her pay”. I’ve worked with too many parties who got what they wanted in their attorney driven divorce and couldn’t afford it (i.e. house, boat, condo).
3. Let Grace and Intelligence Prevail.
Divorce is stressful and emotional but that’s no need to fight unfairly and negatively. You will be better off on the other side if you navigate your divorce in a manner that puts your best foot forward.
Jennifer Filicky Hull, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor at Higgins & Carter, LLC
3 best tips on how to emotionally prepare for a divorce:
Many people think couples counseling is only for people who are trying to repair their marriage. Couples counseling can also be a safe space to begin to discuss the divorce process. Working with a skilled therapist can allow each party to feel heard and respected.
Individual therapy is also highly recommended during the divorce process.
My clients who are going through a divorce find therapy helpful as a space to grieve the loss of their relationship, learn ways to cope with the stress of the divorce process and start to plan for their new future and identity as a single person.
Ultimately, how your partner responds to the divorce process is outside of your control. I think this is important for people to know.
No matter how much you may want a peaceful resolution, your partner may have a different plan.
Anviksha Kalscheur, LMFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Founder, Introspective Family Therapy
Peace happens when we can accept an upcoming transition but also acknowledge the myriad of feelings that will come with it.
In divorce, regardless if it’s a mutual decision or one-sided, there is a certain amount of pain and loss that is felt in this transition no matter what. When I think about divorce, I think about two different parts. I think of the practical things that need to be “done” and “figured out” and I think about the emotional parts that need to just “be” and “acknowledged”.
Many times these two pieces come in conflict with each other or get really intertwined and is anything but peaceful. Just because we feel pain or anger does not mean we need to act or react in accordance with it.
It can be helpful to create a consistent time and space regularly where each spouse and also the children together or separately can just “be” with whatever emotions and feelings they are having. This could be in a therapeutic setting but it could also be in a more casual atmosphere.
A parent can set up a time where they sit down with their child at the same time every week and let the child know that it’s a time for them to talk about how they feel unfiltered and nothing needs to be done. They are there to just listen and hold their feelings.
Maybe a spouse meets with a friend once a week and says I just need to tell you the many feelings I’m experiencing and all I need is for you to listen.
Many times when we have feelings we think we need to act in order to feel better or make the feelings go away. The truth is we just need to acknowledge them and allow them to move as they naturally do.
When we can take the time and space to observe our own feelings and get our emotions out we can often come to a situation with peace and clarity.
Parenting Educator and Coach
My 3 best tips on how to prepare for divorce for men and women to keep it peaceful:
1. Get your support team in place.
This team could include a therapist, friends, family, financial planner, attorney, etc.
Go on record as wanting a peaceful divorce and use your team to remind you of your primary goal and provide a safe place to vent.
Even those of us with the best intentions have bad days; don’t do it alone. Having a support team in place means you always have somewhere to go to feel heard, be loved, get questions answered, and held accountable to being your best self throughout the process.
2. Do not sublimate your own needs.
I am 100% invested in the well-being of children during divorce, but when my clients fail to take care of themselves, they are UNABLE to take care of the children. Do your absolute best to eat well, get sleep, and exercise regularly.
Whatever you do that brings you joy, find time to keep doing it.
3. Keep yourself forward-focused.
The past, however challenging or disappointing, is the PAST. Focus on the future and your desire to have a peaceful divorce, to protect your children, and to be able to look in the mirror at the end of each day and know you have comported yourself with dignity and grace through this difficult time.
In life we are measured by how we manage adversity, not by how we enjoy success.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Divorce is a difficult time and the decisions you make can determine the ease and effectiveness of this experience. When making decisions during a divorce, keep these three things in mind:
1. Do not let emotions dictate your decisions.
Emotions can run high during a divorce, so it is important to make time for self-care activities to manage your emotions.
2. Make sure your decisions are well-informed.
Divorce is always more complicated than you think and new laws that affect a divorce can change all the time.
Take the time to speak with experts so you can be sure to have the most up-to-date information. For example, some areas that are important to confer with experts are mortgages, insurance, and relocating.
3. Communicate your decisions effectively.
Communicating your decisions in an effective and respectful way will decrease disagreements and misunderstandings. By articulating your core needs, you can help keep a difficult process from getting overwhelming.
A divorce is expected to be stressful, but having expert information and communicating your decisions respectfully while not letting emotions have a negative impact, is the key to making it as smooth and peaceful as possible.
Cori Dixon-Fyle, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Founder, Thriving Path, LLC
1. Choose your own narrative of the Divorce “Story”.
Divorce does not have to be stigmatized as a “failure”. It does not have to have a crippling impact on your life. Instead, divorce can often be reframed and seen as a success and a new transition to a healthier and happier life for the two of you.
Use this quote as your mantra: “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together” – Marilyn Monroe. To help promote hopefulness, healing and clarity, I recommend the book “The Good Karma Divorce”, by Michele Lowrance.
2. Ask your future self how she/he wants to remember you during the divorce process.
Write down the traits on a piece of paper that portray the person you want to be described as during the divorce process.
Does your future self want to remember you as bitter, negative and resentful? Or, would your future self rather see your divorcing self as a strong, graceful, empowered and hopeful person?
Read the list of traits every morning and use these traits as your guiding lights as you move through the process. Forgive yourself by learning from the past and then focusing on the present and future.
3. Be ready to allow yourself to grieve and recognize that it is natural to have ups and downs every day (maybe even every hour) as you go through divorce.
Know that it is OK to have a frustrating and disappointing morning, but to find yourself belly-laughing at something later that day. You may find you feel you’re on an emotional roller-coaster, but you need to allow all of the emotions to surface.
At the same time, try to come up with a few activities that can serve as grounding exercises as you may need something predictable and grounding every day to cope with the ups and downs. Examples of this might include a practice of meditation in the morning, a daily call to a friend on your lunch break, or a regularly-scheduled yoga class.
Divorce Strategist and Founder, The Divorce Men's Network
1. Get Educated.
Ask questions, understand state law for where you live. It helps a person prepare for a divorce and feel less vulnerable.
2. Get Prepared.
Think about best and worst case scenarios. You never know what happens in divorce, the true colors of someone character will come through and many times people are surprised at what they experience.
3. Get Adapted.
Change your paradigm from a romantic relationship to a business relationship. It helps take out emotion from decision making and a person can think more clearly.
And here’s a bonus 4th tip for finding peace during divorce:
Try to understand what the other person is thinking and why he/she is acting/saying what he/she is saying/doing.
Putting on the perspective of the other person can help someone become more understanding and compassionate.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Make sure you are the happiest and healthiest you can possibly be.
Do everything in your power to seek out your dreams, your health, your joy BEFORE you divorce. Don't let your partner be your excuse to not do these things.
If you achieve these things before your divorce, you will have the resources and equanimity to separate peacefully. Let your partner do the same.
Something that helped me tremendously after I divorced when I felt lots of bitterness, (but would have helped me before) was a Buddhist exercise where you imagine yourself and your partner (and everyone you know) 100 years from now; dead, gone. It really helped me put into perspective the temporal nature of these events and opened me up to more love and compassion towards my ex, who I was hating at the time.
If you have children, your relationship with your partner never ends.
This is a lifelong partnership despite divorce, moves, new marriages etc. You will always co-parent your children, if you care about your children.
Keep the long term in focus, even though this can be daunting. The #1 indicator of how well children of divorce do, is how well their parents co-parent, not fake get along, but genuine cooperation and respect.
Do everything in your power to cultivate genuine respect and compassion for your partner, no matter how impossible that seems.
There is a higher ground and it does provide more authentic rewards in the long run. Find whatever support you need to generate love and understanding for yourself and others. It is worth it!
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Best Tips for Preparing to Have a Peaceful Divorce:
1. Don’t expect your spouse to change.
The traits that have frustrated you in your marriage will likely remain during the divorce. Remember why you’re getting a divorce? Whether your spouse is passive and unable to make decisions, controlling and argumentative or distant and uncommunicative, these traits may well be evident during mediation as well.
Focusing on the maddening traits of the other person and waiting for them to change keeps you in a state of resentment and powerlessness. If you are able to accept the challenging qualities in your spouse, your focus can shift to how to negotiate and move forward in spite of these challenges.
2. Make every attempt to avoid trashing your spouse to your kids.
This can be very challenging to do when you are very angry. It’s okay to admit you’re angry and if you can’t contain it, try focusing on behavior, not name-calling. For example, say, “I am angry with your father because he arrived late to pick you up” NOT “your father is a selfish, lying jerk.”
3. When your children make you angry, never, ever tell them that they are acting just like their father or mother, even if it’s true.
This is very hurtful and confusing. Rise above that sort of interaction. Focus on their behavior, don’t attack their character.
Jessica Rothman Miro, MSMFT, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Founder, Pinnacle Counseling
1. Create boundaries around communication.
Often, if no boundaries are set, partners feel like they can bombard each other with contact which can be overwhelming, and create more conflict. Or, the opposite can happen and one partner feels that they can ignore the other because they are separating, which creates distance.
If there are times set up to communicate, and these times are segmented between logistics (what information you need to gather for lawyers/mediators, to discuss kids, budgeting, etc.) and emotions (if your divorce is not conflictual), you can feel as though things are still moving forward while still having room for the roller coaster of emotions you may face.
2. Find support systems outside of your partner.
Friends, family, co-workers, anyone that can be there just for you, and isn't emotionally affected themselves by your divorce. Your partner cannot be a support for you as they are managing their own emotions during the split, as are your children.
A good friend can ease the loneliness and keep your divorce more peaceful.
3. Engage in therapy with your partner to split amicably.
Many times couples feel they do not need to seek counseling if they've already decided to split.
However, having an objective party to help you understand what went wrong in your marriage to get you to this point, and to help you have the difficult conversations about how to move forward can help you and your partner get through this separation not just without feeling emotionally destroyed, but feeling hopeful about the future.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
The decision to divorce can be one of the most difficult and complicated processes a person will have to work through during their lifetime. This decision often comes with a series of consequences that can have long lasting implications for years or even a lifetime.
While the cause of every split is unique, I have found there are helpful emotional steps one can take to prepare for this difficult process.
As with any major loss, people who divorce go through several more or less predictable emotional stages. Resistance, grief and recovery are common stages divorcing people may experience. These stages do not always happen in this order nor does every person experience all of them. Each stage comes with a series of difficult and complicated emotions.
Anger, guilt, sadness and grief are just a few of the emotions that may show up during this process. However, in order to continue into the next stages of this complicated journey, one must be able to process the scope of emotions in a safe setting.
Confiding in friends and soliciting advice from loved one will typically work for a short period of time. However, working with a non-judgmental professional in this area can often assist the individual to process these raw emotions in an honest and open setting.
Recovery from divorce is often an ongoing process.
Most people continue to work through various stages of this very difficult journey. Nevertheless, it can be viewed as a time of hope. Those who have done the hard work of grieving can emerge from a divorce with new self-confidence and coping skills. They may have a new understanding of self that can only come from having been through such a challenging experience.
These gifts can even make it possible to establish a much more satisfying and successful relationship the next time around.
Dr. Bridget Tremblay, Psy.D., LMFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Founder, Hope, Heal and Thrive
How to Prepare for a Divorce
Either way you look at it, there’s inevitably a level of emotion and grief with divorce, even if you are the one filing or requesting for one. That said, there are a few things that should be considered for preparation for divorce (whether unfortunate or in some cases, fortunate):
This goes for both individuals in the marriage. It gives you a safe and secure opportunity to reflect and process the feelings that may be present or even unresolved from within the marriage.
Therapy in addition to other support systems is a bit different because one is contained with a professional clinician, where it allows a clinical perspective and lens to help one process through any feelings of grief, sadness, anxiety or depression. They can also build and develop skills and tools to use throughout the divorce process to help them cope and face what may lie in their future.
I feel this is broadly stated when it comes to anything, especially in divorce. Support sources can be sought through different avenues. Family members would make sense to apply this concept to, but for some, family may not be the best source of support, depending on the relationships one has with their family members.
One may seek their primary support through secure and close friendships, particular faith organizations, churches, or sometimes support groups, where the individual doesn’t have any prior relationship with the group members.
The objectivity and relatedness can not only support one’s reality but it may also give the individual a feeling of security and that they’re not alone with their experience, which ultimately can aid in their acceptance of their divorce.
Taking responsibility for one’s actions, behaviors and feelings in your marriage and during your divorce not only is humbling but strengthens one as a person.
Being able to accept humility, responsibility and fault will inevitably allow one to move through problems in their life faster and with a stronger and secure moral compass.
Especially when there are children involved. Children have tendencies to strongly absorb and sometimes adopt their parent’s energies and feelings. Even though it seems like one may not see through their divorce, they will. Just as we feel feelings, they come and go, and they eventually pass.
Setting the intention (daily!) to maintain emotional regulation as well as to staying calm will not only help ones around you, it will help you physiologically. Having emotional dysregulation and anxiety can lead to so many other symptoms. That said, look into mindfulness mediation as well as a healthy outlet (walking, yoga, deep breathing, music, etc.)
Ashley Blake, MSW, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker, PeoplePsych Therapy & Counseling
1. Give divorce counseling (i.e. couples counseling with a focus on divorcing amicably) a shot.
Many people misperceive counseling as a scenario in which the counselor takes sides with one person or another.
Of course there are times that a counselor will confront unhelpful behavior on either person's part. That is inevitable. But the overall goal of the counselor is to get the couple communicating in ways that the other person can understand.
Oftentimes, communication breaks down because people just think differently, and the therapist can act as translator. The therapist can signal to the couple when they need to stay on track with a current disagreement, and conversely when it is appropriate to step back and work through an old conflict that needs to be resolved before they can move forward.
Greater understanding of the other's point of view, as well as new language to express your own, can only be helpful.
2. If you are a parent, enter your own individual treatment, at least for a month or two.
Divorce is a painful time for everyone involved. People often don't know what to say to their children about the divorce or, in the case of very small children, why mommy or daddy are suddenly not in the home.
A therapist can coach you on ways to talk to your children and strategies to keep contact with the absent parent as consistent as possible. Children also act out in ways that can be perplexing and exhausting for the parent. A parent has to empathize and reflect their child's emotions, a difficult task when they are in already in pain.
Therapy is the place to work through that pain so that you can be fully present for your child. And remember that keeping to a routine is vital - structure makes children feel more secure.
3. Take the time to grieve.
The loss of a partner can feel like losing a limb. Don't feel like you need to quickly move on or hide your pain from friends and family.
Greg Tong, CIMA
Managing Partner, KMG Private Wealth Management
There are certain things in life that we can plan for, but as we all know, there are many life events that just happen. One of these unplanned life events is divorce.
When we enter into a marriage, we anticipate spending the rest of our life with our significant other. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Although no one plans on getting divorced, when they enter into marriage, there are several ways to prepare you without subconsciously planning for it.
Trust and communication are very important when planning your future with your significant other.
As many enter into marriage, their goal is to build an everlasting life together. With that being said, financial planning becomes a very important step in building a future. This may come in the form of saving for a house, planning for a future with children, and building your retirement savings.
When putting together a financial plan, it is important to do this together. This way, there are open lines of communication and an understanding of the goals and assets needed to build a future together.
It is all too often that this is done by one of the partners, leaving the other without any knowledge of the couple’s financial picture.
Not only is it important to meet with your financial planner together, it is also important to meet with your accountant and other professionals that help in planning for your future. This way, all assets are disclosed and each party has an understanding of where assets are.
Divorce is different for every couple, which makes it important to have an understanding before the divorce process starts.
Having knowledge of your current situation can help protect both parties involved if there is a break-up down the road. As you can see, establishing a relationship, not only with your spouse, but with those who help build your future can make things easier during what can be a very difficult time for most.
Securities and financial planning offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC. Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
Divorce Coach at Monica Garbisch Divorce Coach
Just like marriage, divorce isn’t something that we are prepared for. Often times, we have a perception of how our life should unfold and it’s something developed in us at a young age, by our society. I call it the white picket fence vision of life.
Grow up, go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, have a family, and live happily ever after. This is so deep in our psyche that when it doesn’t work out that way, we may feel like we failed.
One thing to remember, just like graduation, marriage, a child being born or any other event, divorce is not your life but a chapter of your life story.
1. Do not go through this experience alone.
Seek out support that feels positive and even uplifting when you are talking or spending time with that person. It may be someone who is a good listener but doesn’t give advice or it may be someone who has a similar interest that you have and will help you get through this period.
Time heals all and the more you can have experiences that give you relief from the conflict of the divorce process the less time you have thinking about the “what ifs” and the memories from the past. This is not avoidance but therapeutic to get through this time period.
2. Remember that your spouse is not against you, but trying to do the best they know how do to get through this experience.
At times it may look like your spouse is not grieving about the divorce the same way that you may be. Chances are, that person is not letting you see it or it hasn’t hit them the same time it is hitting you. We all experience things differently and imagining or judging the way the other person is acting will only cause more upset to yourself.
Sticking to the divorce process without constantly blaming the other person will help you to focus on other things that will not bring you down.
You can’t control other people but you have dominion over your own thoughts and actions. Choosing worry, guilt, anger, will contribute to the emotional anxiety that divorce can cause.
3. Find a divorce professional that is going to work with you in the best way that the system allows.
Seeking out the strongest expert in this field is worth the time of interviews and research.
Owner, Law office of Carolyn M. Bone, LLC; Certified Family Court Mediator
1. Focus on Solutions.
Divorce is almost always an emotionally difficult process, but at its heart, what you are really doing- as a client or an attorney- is problem solving. As much as possible, try to focus on solving problems in a workable, sustainable way that you can live with, rather than focusing on who is “right” or “wrong.” For example, regardless of who is at fault in the breakup of the marriage, you still have to figure out how to share time with children.
2. Do Your Homework.
You can minimize conflict (and save on attorney fees) by gathering all the necessary documents and information you’re going to need to put together a workable settlement agreement. That usually means gathering tax returns (past three years), bank and retirement statements, mortgage statements, and a current credit report, at a minimum. It is much easier to determine “who gets what” when you know what each person has in terms of income, assets, and debts.
3. Treat Your Children Like Children.
That is, don’t treat them like mini adults in whom you can confide your troubles or treat like “allies” against the opposing parties. Children don’t need to “know the truth” about the other parent’s role in the breakup. They need to know that their parents love them and that the divorce is not their fault – even teenagers. Seek the support of a counselor or a therapist instead of unloading to or in front of your kids.
Forgive, yourself and your spouse - holding on to anger often does more damage to you and your outcome in a divorce.
Chanel all your energy into building a new happy positive life - it lessens the pain of what you have lost during divorce.
Realize that ultimately the important things are not money and assets - it's your and your children’s health and well-being.
Denise Wade, Ph.D., CMRC
Couples Coach, Marriage Educator, and Relationship Expert
Emotional Tips When Preparing for Divorce:
Men and women learn how to love and be loved by watching their parents. So you learned about love long before you met your partner and this unconsciously influenced your relationship. Patterns of attachment, attraction, avoidance, and control were conditioned into you by age six.
To heal, we must take personal responsibility for the unproductive patterns we brought into the marriage from our family of origin or we will repeat them.
During this transition, family members and friends you have depended upon for unconditional support may challenge your choices, criticize your judgment about an ex, or judge your daily decision making abilities about your children. Don’t allow others’ fears, insecurities, and resentment cause you to doubt yourself. This is your time of detachment and healing, not theirs.
Follow your gut instinct no matter how uncomfortable or alone you may feel.
Humans tend to “shed” during major life transitions. We shed unhealthy relationships, false dependencies, identities; roles we have played for other people’s comfort. Welcome this shedding.
Although change is difficult, change is necessary for growth. Trust in and depend on yourself by one percent more each day and shed the old dependencies by one percent less each day.
Many parents hide their feelings from their children to protect them.
Be honest about the pain of divorce without blaming your partner.
Children are perceptive. Don’t assume they are too young to know what’s going on. Most children are highly attuned to their parents. They may feel responsible for your unhappiness. If you are hurting, chances are they are hurting too.
What you suppress your children may express.
Marnie Grossman, LCSW
Licensed Psychotherapist and Founder, Grossman Psychotherapy
If I could offer my 3 best tips on how to get ready for a divorce with children:
- Focus on Your Children
- Focus on Your Children
- Focus on Your Children
In other words, if you have children, then they are the most important “things” to consider when divorcing.
You as a couple have chosen to part ways; they as the children have no say in this decision, yet they will suffer the greatest consequences if not handled with love and care.
For however long your marriage lasted, it was long enough to produce children. As adults, we can manage our emotions and have civility long enough to act as a parental unit, which you will find you will need to do many more times in the interest of your children.
Sit down as a family and explain to them what is happening. This does not mean giving them the details of someone’s infidelity, but assuring them they will continue to have two parents who will work together to raise them and make sure they live full and happy lives.
This will not only save your children years on a therapist’s couch, at least not for this issue, but it will save you years on legal battles.
If you put your children and their interests’ first, solving financial and custodial issues will be all that much easier for everyone.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
1. Don't be punitive.
Seek a therapist to explore potential feelings of anger and injustice instead of seeking to punish your ex through the divorce process. It won't work. It will just leave them feeling hurt and unfairly treated.
The frustration, and later potential feelings of guilt and remorse, will cloud the process of mourning the loss and moving forwards.
2. Don't assume that, if your partner isn't suffering / hurting visibly, or in the way that you are, that he or she isn't feeling the loss.
People register intense pain differently and often unconsciously.
They defend themselves self-protectively by repressing and disavowing their emotional experience. So you often won't see their pain on the surface.
3. Don't try to manipulate or control your ex's actions or choices in the divorce process.
If there is something that you want or need, try find a kind and generous way of expressing your need.
If he or she responds dismissively, let him/her know that you feel dismissed and give him/her a second chance. If the problem persists, try having the conversation with a therapist present.
Cheryl Dillon, CPC
Divorce Coach & Co-Founder, Equitable Mediation Services
Some Useful Tips for How to Prepare for Divorce Financially and Emotionally:
1. Choose a More Peaceful Divorce Option.
When it comes to divorce, you’ve got plenty of choices.
You can litigate and battle it out in court. If you have a simple case, you can try to do it yourself. You can collaborate and pay half a dozen people to intervene in the process. Or you can mediate your divorce.
Take the time up front to do your homework and research all of the available options. Then, choose the one that’s most likely to keep your divorce as peaceful as possible.
2. Get Organized.
During the divorce process, you’ll need to make hundreds of significant decisions that will affect you and your children for years to come. And the more organized you are, the better the quality your negotiations (and resulting settlement agreement) will be.
If you choose a competent professional to guide you through your proceedings, they’ll take you through a thorough discovery process to help with how to financially prepare for divorce negotiations that will follow. But some advanced planning financially before you start your divorce can go a long way.
Work with your spouse to begin gathering copies of all financial records such as: your most recent federal and state tax returns, W2’s, pay stubs, bank statements, brokerage statements, credit card statements, insurance policies, retirement accounts, mortgage statements, car loan statements, etc.
Create a marital budget so you can get an understanding of what your current monthly expenses living together are as well as what your projected monthly expenses will be after you’re divorced and living in separate households.
It's not necessary (and can be unwise) to start negotiating the issues without the help of a qualified professional - all you're doing at this point is getting organized and preparing for divorce financially (preparing for the discovery phase of the divorce process).
3. Take responsibility.
Divorce can be so overwhelming that it might be tempting to just crawl into bed, pull the covers over your head and pretend it isn’t happening. But I'm sure you're smart to know that won’t solve or change anything.
Don’t be a passive observer of your own divorce – this is your divorce so take control of the process. Listen to your chosen divorce professional, but be prepared to make your own decisions.
The best way to get through a divorce is to take an active role in the process, even if you are not the initiator. You will reach a better settlement and your divorce will likely take less time, be less stressful and cost less money.
4. Get Support.
It’s important to remember that no matter how isolated you may feel, you are not alone.
Recognize that there are sources of divorce support that you can leverage to help you sort through the menagerie of feelings you’re experiencing and learn how to deal with them in a healthy and constructive way.
When you can control your emotions, you can better prepare yourself for your divorce negotiations and approach them with a calm, level head.
5. Stay in your integrity.
No matter how angry or betrayed you might feel or no matter how much your spouse may be pressing your buttons, do not let him/her get the best of you and take you out of your integrity.
Stay off social media and resist venting details of your divorce to anyone who will listen. Don’t badmouth your spouse to the kids or your family (even if he/she is badmouthing you to them).
Rise above, bite your tongue, take a deep breath (or a hundred of them) and be the better person.
As difficult as it might seem, you need to focus on taking care of yourself – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually so you can be in a better position to make conscious decisions about your future with a calm, clear, rational head.
Make every effort to help yourself not let your divorce ruin the rest of your life.
If you need help with how to cope with divorce, get yourself a good therapist, exercise, meditate, eat healthy, try to get enough sleep and surround yourself with positive people. You might even want to try some divorce coaching. Do whatever you can to boost your energy and stay authentic and at your best.
Be kind to yourself and don’t let yourself become a victim to your circumstances. There's no doubt divorce is a very painful event, but it will only define you if you let it.
6. Focus on The Big Picture.
The last tip on preparing for a divorce is to stay focused on the big picture.
The decisions you’ll need to make during the divorce process will affect you and your children for years to come, so don’t get bogged down in fighting over semantics or trying to be right.
Nobody wins in divorce, but if you focus on what’s most important, like the kids and your future, instead of the painful past, you’ll have a much better chance of not only divorcing amicably, but achieving a settlement you can feel comfortable with.
Joe Dillon, MBA
Divorce Mediator and Founder, Equitable Mediation Services
Many people think divorce is a legal matter.
And to a certain extent, it is. After all, a divorce must be filed with the courts in order for it to be granted.
But when you really take a closer look at what exactly happens in a divorce, you'll learn that divorce is less about the law and more about negotiation and money.
There are very few specific formulas that outline exactly who gets what in a divorce.
So it's going to be up to you and your spouse to negotiate a financial settlement you both find fair and equitable.
Given that everyone's situation is unique, it would be impossible to list every last issue you need to be thinking about. But here are five questions you should be asking yourself and thinking about before you start a divorce. This way, it will help you plan for what lies ahead.
5 Key Considerations When Preparing for Divorce Financially
Question #1: Are you currently making ends meet?
There's a common misconception that divorce creates income.
But in reality, all it does is create expense.
When you separate your lives, you'll now have two of everything. Two housing payments, two utility bills, two health insurance policies, etc.
You'll also lose those volume discounts you get when you're married such as the multi-car discount on your auto-insurance or the family share plan for your cell phones.
If you find yourself carrying credit card balances month-to-month, you need to think about how that's going to play out once you're divorced. Are the balances on your cards from a one-time expense that you just didn't have the cash on hand for?
Or are you using credit to supplement your day-to-day living expenses?
If it's the former, you may be able to simply pay that off and move on. But if you're using credit to supplement your income, moving forward with divorce is only going to make a tight situation tighter.
All of these items need to be documented and negotiated if you're going to come to any kind of agreement on alimony. And the foundation for coming to an agreement on this difficult topic is what each of your expenses are post-divorce and for how long you need support for those expenses.
There are very few formulas surrounding alimony in the United States.
It all comes down to negotiation.
While you're preparing for divorce, you'll want to be sure to choose a divorce option that emphasizes negotiation over bullying such as divorce mediation.
Question #2 to ask yourself when prepraing for divorce financially: Do you want to stay in the house?
Staying in the house for the children's sake is an emotional decision all parents grapple with. I know my mom did when I was a kid and my parents were preparing for divorce.
In addition to having to pay the mortgage utility bills, you need to think about and be honest with yourself about your ability and desire to pay for house upkeep and maintenance.
- What does it cost to maintain the yard? If you hire people to do this work for you, it can really add up.
- How old is the roof, driveway, siding and/or shingles? These are significant repairs that can cost $10,000 - $30,000 to replace.
- How old is your furnace, air conditioner, water heater, etc? These are major repairs that can run in the $2,000 - $10,000 range.
- Do any appliances need replacement any time soon? Dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, etc. can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Sure, you may be able to scrape by paying the mortgage, but what if something goes wrong?
Can you afford to stay in the house?
And what will staying the house and struggling to make ends meet do to your ability to retire or pay for your children's college education?
Once you start your divorce, be sure to enlist the help of a neutral-third party divorce mediator who can take a critical look at these expenses and help you determine if staying in the house makes sense and is a possibility in your particular situation.
Question #3: How stable is your job? How stable is your husband's (or wife's) job?
The social contract between employers and employees has changed significantly over the years.
It used to be that you could keep your job for life if you wanted to.
These days, it seems that you can be let go for any number of reasons without warning. And if you lose your job, there goes your financial safety net.
If you and your husband need both of your incomes to make ends meet, you'll want to think about the stability of both of your jobs.
If there's any fear of lay-offs for either of you, you may choose to postpone your divorce. Like the old saying goes about not being able to get blood from a stone, true also is you can't get child support or alimony from an unemployed ex-husband.
So if you'll be relying on support after the divorce, you'll want to be sure that, at least to the best of your knowledge, his job is going to be stable for the foreseeable future.
And as previously mentioned in #1 above, there are very few specific formulas around alimony.
So when it does come time to discuss this issue, not only is the amount and duration subject to negotiation, but so are the conditions by which alimony can be suspended or terminated.
An expert divorce mediation team will make sure all known possibilities are discussed and agreed upon.
Question #4 to ask yourself when preparing for divorce financially: What will your new life cost?
Whether it's you or your husband who pays the monthly bills, don't get caught off guard with the cost of living.
Say you've been living in your house for the past 10 years and have no idea what a three bedroom apartment might cost. Or that cable and Internet can run a family like yours $300+ a month. All of it adds up.
Take some time before you divorce and research what your living expenses post-divorce might be.
This will serve you well.
Many people are caught off guard when they discover that the child support and alimony they're going to receive won't fully cover their bills.
Remember item #1 above? If you're just scraping by now, you may not be able to make ends meet after you divorce unless you can increase income or reduce expenses.
Once your divorce starts, having a neutral third-party mediator look at both of your expense profiles and identify ways to save on expenses can free up income to help support yourself and your children as you embark on your lives apart.
Question #5: What will the actual divorce cost you?
While this may not seem like a financial issue, it absolutely is.
How you proceed with your divorce, and ultimately what it will cost you, is a major financial consideration when preparing for divorce.
Couples who can put their differences aside and mediate their divorce for the benefit of their children will spend far less and keep divorce costs in check than if they hired family-law attorneys and litigated.
The more you spend on your divorce, the less money you'll have to care for your children and start your new life.
Because divorce is more about negotiation and money, mediation is a far better forum to resolve these critical issues.
Instead of your divorce becoming a war with a devastating price tag, it can be a cost-effective negotiation between the very two people whose lives will be impacted by the settlement: you and your spouse.
Benefits to preparing for divorce financially.
Focusing on the financial considerations will not only help you with how to prepare for divorce, but will also help you make better choices during the process.
And increase your ability to secure your financial future.
So There You Have It! Expert Tips on How to Prepare for Divorce
I hope what you've gathered from this article is that preparing for divorce makes all the difference in how peaceful your divorce will ultimately be.
And now, thanks to our experts, you have some good ideas and great ways to do just that!
Other Useful Resources: