By Cristin Lowe
1. Don’t proceed until you have a plan.
As a kid, your mom probably told you to think before you act. It’s no different for you now as an adult. Before you decide to move forward with your divorce, make sure you have think things through carefully. Do you know where you will live during the divorce? Have you secured adequate financial resources? Who will be your emotional support during this difficult time? The more time you spend “getting your ducks in a row” prior to moving forward with your divorce, the less likely you will be cornered into a quick decision that you may regret down the line. If you are not in a dangerous situation, taking a few days or weeks to formulate a strategy will pay off in the long run.
2. Don’t be a doormat.
Now is not the time to be submissive. Make sure you stand up for yourself and your children. Don’t feed into your spouse’s mind games or bullying. Your attorney can be a great source of assistance in this area, encouraging you to ignore threats and keeping you focused on your goals.
3. Don’t predict that you’re going to win.
Bragging to anyone, especially your separated spouse, about how well you will do in your divorce will likely lead to the proverbial egg on your face. Boasting usually escalates conflict, which increases your legal costs. More problematic is that by focusing on the wrong thing, you take away valuable time and resources from your true goals.
4. Don’t get discouraged.
It’s so easy to feel as though everything is going wrong in your case, that the judge hates you, and that you don’t have a voice. Without a doubt, divorce is difficult. Learn how to channel your frustration by taking walks, journaling, or some other positive outlet.
5. Don’t use your lawyer as a therapist.
This is one of the most common mistakes people make during the divorce process. Many people want to call their attorney every time the other party does something “bad,” regardless of whether or not there is any legal relevance. Try to remember that very few attorneys are also licensed therapists. In any event, a good therapist will undoubtedly be less expensive than your attorney’s hourly rate. Let your lawyer guide you through your legal matter and don’t rely on him or her for things outside his or her area of expertise. You’ll save money, have better results, and be happier.
6. Don’t expect things to be fair.
Remember that your definition of “fair” is likely going to differ significantly from the other side. Judges make orders based on relatively little information. They review your file, try to distinguish it from the dozens of other cases they’ve reviewed that week, and then make decisions that have long-lasting implications on your life. Despite their best intentions, fair doesn’t always happen.
7. Don’t involve your children.
The worst thing you can do to your children during your divorce is to get them involved. Don’t rely on them for your emotional support during this difficult time. Don’t trash the other side in front of them. Don’t put them in the middle. Be the responsible, mature adult and protect your children, no matter what the other side does. Remember that your children didn’t choose you or your spouse for parents. Be a good example to them and show them the right way to communicate and resolve conflict.
8. Don’t allow your emotions to control your case.
Making decisions based on your emotions or the other person’s actions is a pitfall you want to avoid. Litigating your spouse’s bad behavior is a no-win battle. Turning your case into World War III will result in an explosion of legal fees, a loss of control over your life, and permanent emotional damage. Let your attorney help you keep things in perspective, and this will help you achieve your goals and maintain your dignity.
9. Don’t lose yourself.
Divorce often times makes good people behave badly. It’s easy to be petty. It is extremely difficult to rise above the temptation to lash out at the other party. Try to remember that how you conduct yourself throughout your divorce will lay the groundwork for your new life. It’s your choice whether you want your foundation based on bitterness and regret, or confidence and peace of mind. Choose to act in a way that will allow you to retain the respect of your children, your friends, and most importantly, yourself.
10. Don’t forget that this too will pass.
Your divorce can feel endless, but remember that this is going to be a very short chapter in your life. Keep looking at the big picture, remain focused on your ultimate goals, and be confident that the best is yet to come.