I recently stumbled across a blog that pooled 48 divorce mediation experts about suggestions to help people best prepare to go through a divorce. Specifically, the author asked each for three things. Nobody asked me, but having done this for more than 25 years, I have a few thoughts on areas where people going through a divorce can focus to make the process easier and make it one of growth.
Managing your emotions
In going through a divorce, you will experience any number of things. Sadness, anger, frustration, desperation, depression. The list could go on and on. Perhaps that’s why a few of the experts from the article advised viewing divorce mediation as simply a business transaction. That advice reminded me of the movie The Godfather (“it’s business, not personal.”). As anyone who has seen that movie knows, business was personal. Very personal.
When going through a divorce, it’s important that you be in touch with all the emotions that come with it. But do your best to not let those emotions debilitate you. Have a support system around to help you through it. That can be a parent, a friend, a counselor, the divorce coach if you happen to be using collaborative divorce, a pet, you name it.
One of the benefits of divorce mediation is that mediators are trained to notice when negotiations are getting heated or when emotions seem to be headed in the wrong direction. Calling for a simple 10-minute break can be all that’s needed for people to gather their thoughts and emotions.
The advice here is don’t deny you have emotions regarding your divorce. You clearly will. But allow yourself to experience those emotions outside the divorce negotiations as much as you possibly can.
Educating yourself on the process
Unless you have been through a divorce before or are an attorney, you are probably unfamiliar with the process. Learning as much as you can about the process can make it a little less nerve-wracking.
In Massachusetts for example, there is a very concrete list of things that must be addressed in every divorce agreement. Learn what they are. If that list does not address all of your concerns, explore other things that can be added to customize your Agreement. In a collaborative divorce you will have an agenda before every meeting. Take the time to review the agenda in advance so that you are ready to participate.
Supporting your own research, you have some great resources, starting with your attorney and if you are involved in a collaborative divorce , your coach. In the very first meeting with clients, I walk them through the process. I also try to provide additional resources where clients can get more information. And, of course, I make myself available by phone or e-mail should they have questions.
Knowing your finances
Most married couples are not 100 percent aware of all of their finances. In many households, one spouse will pay most or all of the bills. The other may be in charge of monitoring retirement funds. It is the very rare couple where each party knows everything they have for financial assets and how to access those assets. Divorce changes all that.
Your finances are the most critical part of the divorce negotiation. You no longer have the luxury of not knowing. If you were not the one who paid the bills or managed the retirement accounts, your job as part of the divorce negotiation is to get up to speed on all your finances—mortgage payments, insurance, credit cards, piano lessons for the kids, etc.
An added part of collecting all this information is to review the financial statement prepared by your lawyer before it’s submitted to your spouse and his/her attorney and, ultimately, the court. Your attorney should be preparing drafts of your financial statement as well as other terms of your settlement. This is the time to raise comments and concerns, not on the steps of the courthouse.
So, those are the three things yours truly would recommend to best prepare for going through a divorce. The best part of these suggestions is that you have control over two of these items—learning the process and your finances. Managing your emotions may not be as easy. There may be some difficult moments before and after a meeting or proceeding, but if you have a good support team you should be able to work through them.
For some advice from the other divorce mediation experts, click here to read the blog article.