So, your relationship has deteriorated and is spiraling out of control. Supercharged emotions dominate. Conflicts have become so frequent or unbearable that remaining in the marriage is untenable, or instances of abuse or emotional pain are no longer able to be reconciled. You and your spouse are facing an inevitable split, bringing a wide range of emotions such as anger, confusion, fear and relief. But you have children together, so how do you get through this time?
Moving out and moving on
If you are ready to take those first steps, the first thing on your mind is deciding who moves out of the family residence. This is a huge decision, and its impacts should not be underestimated. Leaving the family home can taint property distribution and custody issues, so you need to discuss this with an attorney before taking action. You both have the right to stay in the home, and staying put until a judge issues a temporary order at hearing to determine who gets the exclusive use of the family residence may be the best course of action.
If neither party is leaving the residence until a judge decides, create and maintain separate spaces and put down new boundaries to lessen the confusion and pain of you and your children. Agree on a written set of rules with your spouse to help lessen conflict and create boundaries. Consider scheduling days where each of you will be solely responsible for household and parenting tasks. Designate every other day or blocks of days to pick up the kids, feed and put them bed on your own. Your children will have the opportunity to spend quality time with each of you while transitioning to life in two separate homes.
What else can you do to prepare for divorce?
Organize your finances and living expenses. Do your children attend private school or have many extracurricular activities that will be impacted by the split? Depending on the age of your child or children, keep routines in place to maintain a sense of security to the extent circumstances allow.
Learn how the divorce process works: timelines, hearings, mediation, parenting plans, child support. If you are the one leaving the family home, find a new residence with adequate space for the children when you have visitation. Combine items from the family home with new things to help ease the transition. Will the new place allow for you to bring the kids to school during the week or extracurricular activities during the weekend? How will your new living situation benefit or disadvantage them?
Interacting with your spouse and children
One of the most important skills to have during and after the divorce is to treat interactions with your soon to be former spouse as a business transaction. Just as you may not like all those you conduct business with, train yourself to treat interactions with your ex in the same way: avoid emotional pleas, approach with a goal in mind and exercise a sense of detachment. Also:
- Keep your cool. Divorce brings a whole array of emotions, which can be painful and confusing. Insulate your children by keeping them out of earshot when discussing sensitive matters with family and friends.
- Establish a new or modified support network. When a marriage ends, things change socially for both of you.
- Prepare yourself emotionally for the new changes ahead. Being divorced defines your identity. Seek out a support group or start seeing a therapist, including family group therapy to process your children’s grief.
Although it is important to shield children from disagreements, you also want to avoid keeping them in the dark. Explain and discuss changes in an age appropriate way. Spend extra time with your children, giving them needed one on one time with you as they process changes in their family identity and daily life. For those routines that are inevitably changed as a result of the split; create new traditions and routines with your children to embrace the new start in your lives.