Achieving a “good” divorce doesn’t mean that you need to be happy about the split or that you should end up staying friends with your ex. A “good” divorce simply means that the process runs as smoothly and painlessly as possible, is respectful and civilised, and isn’t completely draining, both financially and emotionally. While every divorce is likely to be emotionally difficult, it doesn’t necessarily have to be combative. And if kids are involved, it’s important to maintain a good, cooperative relationship with your co-parent. So what are some of the best tips for how to have a “good” divorce?
1. Give it some time
If you have only just decided to divorce, allow some time for the dust to settle before making any major decisions. Initially, a breakup is usually a highly emotional time and the last thing you want is for important decisions about your future to be influenced by your emotions. If you can allow some time to let your emotions subside, as they typically do, then you’ll be less likely to make reactive decisions based on your current emotional state. Decisions you make around your divorce, whether property or child-related, can have lifetime consequences. It’s very important not to rush them.
A key part of having a good divorce is finding a way to communicate with your ex in a respectful and empathic manner. Keeping the lines of communication open is especially important if kids are involved. You don’t need to socialise with your ex or make friendly banter. What you do need is the shared commitment to resolving your disputes in a healthy way and the willingness to at least listen to your ex. If you feel that you’re not ready for in-person meetings to discuss issues, then see if you can effectively communicate via email.
3. Write a script
If you find it very hard to stay unemotional and on-topic when communicating with your ex, it can help to prepare for such interactions by writing down a list of the subjects you wish to discuss as a kind of ‘script’ for discussions. Sometimes, having something written in front of you can help focus you on the content rather than the emotions you are feeling.
4. Find ways to learn to stay calm
As mentioned, it’s important not to let your emotions cloud your rational judgment when going through a divorce. And even though the initial emotions you experience may fade in intensity as time goes on, it will still be necessary to control your emotions at times. For instance, even if you start feeling very amicable about the process, sometimes along the way things can escalate as buttons get pushed or people get triggered. It may even be that your ex tries to indulge in game-playing and try to get a reaction from you—but you don’t have to buy into their game. Remain calm and find ways to control your emotions or let them out in a healthy way prior to making contact with your ex (whether it’s a yoga class beforehand or just screaming into a pillow before you make that phone call – whatever works for you!).
5. See a counsellor
It’s a great idea to see a professional therapist to work through your emotions and learn tools for amicable negotiating with your ex.
It can also be helpful to get some advice about how to set boundaries and figure out what is going to be acceptable when it comes to communication and what should happen if the interactions veer into becoming too antagonistic to be productive.
Mediation is an excellent way of reaching an agreement with your ex about a property settlement and parenting arrangements. Working with a trained mediator, you’ll be guided towards reaching a “good” divorce, where possible, and steered away from court.
7. Agree to disagree
If you want a “good” divorce, then you’ll need to accept that you will have cooperate in some regards and let some things go. You need to accept that if you want a fair outcome, you probably both be walking away with some wins and some losses. Remember that it’s possible to disagree with civility and respect. If you act in accordance with your own ethics and rise above pettiness, you’ll find you can get to place where you are actually at peace with your ex, rather than still harboring feelings of resentment, bitterness, or even a lingering desire for revenge, down the track.
8. Pick your battles
Sometimes an apparently trivial issue can manage to disrupt an entirely amicable divorce. This can happen when we “sweat the small stuff” or become obsessed with a minor detail that isn’t important in the big scheme of things. The best advice here is to pick your battles and be prepared to concede on relatively minor issues, saving your negotiating energy for the more serious ones.
9. Show, and earn, respect
When respect is given it is typically appreciated and reciprocated. So an important aspect of the “good” divorce is to share a mutual respect for one another. Being trustworthy and transparent will go a long way towards establishing a base of respect and kindness towards each other.
10. Consider a collaborative divorce
Due to the costs involved (emotional, financial and timewise), court should always be viewed as a last resort. Make sure you consider your Alternative Dispute Resolution options, including arbitration, collaboration and mediation. A collaborative divorce is the ultimate way to achieve a “good” divorce, as it’s all about a harmonious and cooperative way of ending your marriage. At Alliance Family Law, we specialise in collaborative divorce, so give us a call if you’d like advice on whether the method is suitable for your situation.
11. Focus on the kids
Putting the children first is an excellent way to keep your divorce on an amicable footing. It ensures you dwell less on your own needs and more on those of the kids—and a shared desire to put their welfare first gives you common ground. So avoid exposing them to any conflicts between you and your ex. Let them see you model civil behaviour towards your ex. But don’t feel you need to agonise over how your divorce might affect them, and feel the need to spoil them to make up for it. Children are resilient and the research shows that most children are able to adjust well.
12. Be a united parenting front
You will find co-parenting after divorce much easier if you and your ex can stand together as united parents, despite being separated. Obviously this is easier if you share the same parenting approach. Even if you have different approaches on certain matters, you can still present a united front by each reiterating the same key messages. For instance, saying “In Daddy’s house, you follow Daddy’s rules and in Mummy’s house you follow Mummy’s rules” and vice versa. A parenting co-ordinator, family dispute resolution practitioner or therapist could also help with strategies for how to deal with differences in parenting styles. The advantage of presenting as a team with your co-parent is the children will find it harder to play the parents off against each other.
13. Be flexible
Being very rigid about plans can often exacerbate conflict, so ensure you take a more relaxed attitude towards parenting arrangements. Ultimately the courtesy goes both ways—so try not to become overly fussed if your ex wants to switch up the usual arrangement occasionally. You’ll spend less time getting yourself upset over changed plans if you go with the flow.
14. Don’t talk badly about your ex
When it comes to wanting a “good” divorce, it’s important that you don’t go around friends and family mouthing off about all the terrible things your ex has done. This is particularly important, of course, if kids are part of the equation—because badmouthing your co-parent is only going to hurt the children.
15. Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself means looking after yourself physically as well as mentally. So, it’s everything from eating properly to exercising and getting enough sleep, to looking after your mental health with informal and formal support, from professionals as well as your family and friends. It might also mean distracting yourself from your divorce, by taking up a new hobby.
16. Accept your own flaws
A relationship breakup can feel like it’s all one person’s fault, but self-awareness means accepting that it’s inevitable that you played some role in the split. A professional counsellor or therapist can really help here. Even if the breakup was almost entirely your partner’s fault, there will be some areas where you can take ownership and recognising these behaviours will help you avoid making the same mistakes in future relationships. You don’t need to forgive and forget, but you do need to accept the reality of the breakup in order to pave the way for embracing your new beginning.
17. Be kind to yourself
Finally, know that while you may be going through something painful and difficult right now, it won’t last forever and there will come a time that your emotions will subside and the future will look bright again. Transitioning from being married to divorced is also much easier if you accept that your ex is still a decent person, just not your person. Hanging on to anger, bitterness and grief makes it harder to heal and move forward.
We hope these tips on how to have a good divorce have been helpful. If you need legal advice in relation to your divorce, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.