There’s no question about it — divorce is one of the most difficult and painful decisions someone may have to make. We often listen to clients equate the pain caused by a divorce with that of the death of a close friend or relative. It can be incredibly difficult to make completely objective, emotion-free decisions when going through the process of divorce. However, it’s important to stay in control of your emotions and consider what you may give up when you rely on impulse in times of panic. If you’re in a marriage where divorce is on the horizon, there are a few steps you can take to give yourself an edge.
What to Do if a Divorce is Near
1. Obtain legal advice before taking major action — Unless you’re in a violent or unsafe environment, talk with a trusted legal adviser before making any important decisions. A lawyer can help you decide how to navigate through the difficult issues, like when to leave the household, whether or not to discuss infidelity, and how to best care for your children.
2. Talk to a therapist or counselor — While marriage counseling can be helpful in resolving difficult issues, once a divorce is imminent, having your own therapist can help you keep your stress in perspective. People often give up if counseling doesn’t work to save their marriage, and they see their own happiness as a lost cause. Taking care of your own happiness is important for you and your family, and it will help you to stay strong during difficult times. Furthermore, confiding in friends could backfire or be used as evidence.
3. Consider a collaborative divorce — Collaborative divorce is a process that allows for both parties to say balanced, positive, and productive.
4. Protect your children — If you can stay relaxed during these emotional proceedings, your children will have a much easier time. Try not to bad-mouth your spouse or unload on your children. From a legal standpoint a court will attempt to limit any act that might “alienate the child’s affection for the other party,” and a court may side with the less volatile parent. On top of the legal damages, open hostility towards a spouse promotes anger, resentment, and self-blame in children.
5. Protect your credit rating — Close any joint accounts, or block your spouses’ access. Try to spend your spouses’ income first, marital income second, and your own income last. Establish your own bank account and set up a nest egg.
6. Inventory — Make an inventory of your family possessions, spending, and budget. Copy any documents that may serve as proof during a trial. Tax returns, all banking materials, mortgage documents, monthly bills, and pay stubs will give you an advantage when negotiating your financial future.
The most important thing is finding a lawyer who will take care of you and your assets during these hectic and difficult times. Listen to his or her advice, and try your best to keep calm.