Everyone has heard divorce horror stories, but those stories do not have to be your story. It is possible to divorce amicably and to maintain a friendly relationship with your former spouse -- something that is particularly important if you have children together. With the right attitude and actions, you can write a divorce story with a happy ending, and one that allows your family to continue to flourish.
Below are some of the most important steps you can take to write a divorce story with a happy ending.
1. Shield your children from spousal issues. Whether your children are toddlers or teenagers, they should be shielded as much as possible from any tensions and issues that may arise between you and your spouse. They have the right to love both of you and maintain positive relationships with both of you. It is not the role of a child to act as a messenger between their parents, or to act as a sounding board while one parent airs their grievances about the other.
2. Work out a co-parenting agreement outside of court. Keep in mind that no judge knows you, your spouse and your children better than you do; therefore, no judge is in a better position to decide how you and your spouse should co-parent your children than the two of you are. Discuss issues that may come up now that you are living apart. Cover as many issues as you can, from the broad issues, such as health, religion and general welfare, to the more narrow issues such as the child’s diet, bed times, friendships and activities.
3. Work out a parenting schedule outside of court. Will the children live primarily with one parent? Will the children spend half of their time with each parent? Will the child stay in the house all the time and the parents rotate in and out of the house (“nesting”)? There are an endless variety of parenting schedules, and parents should consider what works best in their situation, taking into account their work schedules, the child’s schedule, where they will each be residing, etc. There is no “one size fits all” and cooperation is key.
4. Communicate in a civilized fashion. As you move forward in the divorce process, the better you are able to communicate with each other, the easier it will be to resolve your issues. In order for your communication to be effective, it is important to honestly set forth your needs and concerns -- without berating or verbally attacking your spouse. Similarly, it is important to listen to the needs and concerns of your spouse. As you are going through this process, try to step into your spouse’s shoes and consider how he or she may feel. This can be easier said than done, but it is almost always worth the effort.
A Collaborative Divorce Team can guide you through this process and help you achieve a result outside of court with which both you and your spouse are comfortable. Unlike a litigated divorce, where a judge, who is stranger to your family, makes a determination about how you, your spouse and your children will conduct your lives going forward, the Collaborative model allows you to both have a say in the outcome, leading to a better outcome and happier ending for all.
Written by Debra Rubin, Esq.