Parenting well in divorce

Thinking of divorce?  Just filed?  Mired in the process that seems endless?  Been divorced for years?  Here are some tips to be a better parent during divorce, and these tips are both to help your children and to help your case.

  1. Stop the arguing in front of the children.  There was probably enough of that when you were still together.  Now that you’re separated, cut it out.  It hurts your kids and it makes the judge mad.  Don’t make the judge mad.  Disengage.
  2. Cope how you need to cope, but if drugs or alcohol is your mechanism of choice, keep either far, far away from your children.  There’s nothing – other than domestic violence – that’s going to lose your kids for you faster than drug and alcohol abuse.  Is it a problem?  Acknowledge it and get help immediately.
  3. Move as quickly as you can past the intense emotions when dealing with your ex.  Try to think of your relationship as a business deal, and treat it as such.  This is extremely difficult, but also very valuable and will help you in the long run.
  4. Save the trash talk for a dinner out with friends.  Don’t let your children know how you are feeling about your ex.  This only causes them to be conflicted in their feelings for their other parent.  Don’t make them feel guilty for loving their parent, which is how they will feel if you tell them how awful your ex has been to you.
  5. Jump into another relationship if you must, but keep the children away from it for far longer than you want to.  The blush of infatuation – and feeling wanted again – may be something you want to shout from the rooftops, but your children will be confused and perhaps angry by it.  Give it time before introducing a new special someone.
  6. Similar to saving the trash talk, don’t think you “owe it” to your children to let them know why you are divorcing.  They don’t need to know.  What they need to know is that you and your ex love them very much, and that the divorce is *not* their fault.  This may need to be repeated again and again.
  7. Expect that your children will act out during the divorce.  Grades will slip, tantrums will intensify, and some tough love may be in order.  What you must keep in mind is that your children need you, and that the acting out is normal and not some reflection of how poorly your ex parents.  Instead of taking the bad behavior and using it as ammunition against your ex, understand that it’s your children that need love and attention, and perhaps punishment.
  8. Understand that the divorce is really tough on your children, just like it is on you.  They’re going to be confused, angry, depressed, hurt, and disoriented.  Do what you can to keep their lives as normal as possible.  Don’t move if you don’t have to, don’t change their schools or activities.  If you’re the one in a new location, try to make it as normal and comfortable as possible.  Your kids will thank you … later.

Divorce is tough on everyone.  Remember this and you can help to not make it worse than necessary for your children.

Protecting your finances in a separation or divorce

One of the most difficult aspects of divorce is the financial aspect.  Suddenly, two households need to be maintained with the same income as what maintained one household before the separation.  In addition, there are court filing fees, attorney fees, expenses for getting a new home and new ‘stuff,’ and many hidden expenses, such as the expense for taking time off work for court hearings, expenses in increased insurance, for example, and the list goes on.

One of the ways to protect yourself is to talk to both an attorney and a financial advisor.  Both should be qualified and be working to help you and not trying to get more money out of you.  If you educate yourself on the legal process and financial planning, you can make better decisions throughout the process. This will help you in the long run.

In addition, make sure you change the beneficiaries on your life insurance, retirements, and other payable-on-death accounts.  Do you really want your ex getting your money? Similarly, update your estate plan to reflect your new circumstances. Note, however, that in California, once the Petition has been filed and served, you may not change your estate plan during the divorce/separation action without permission from your spouse or a court order.

Finally, do an assessment of what you have.  Assemble your life insurance, bank/stock account documents, retirement accounts, debts, etc., and put them all in one place.  Knowing what you have can be the first step in determining where you’re going and how to get there.

February starts divorce season! Wait, what?

I’ve always told my clients, friends, family, colleagues and associates that February is the busiest time for divorce.  No one wants to file for divorce over the holidays, so starting in about the second week of November, the new client divorce work slows down (now, existing clients, that’s when they really heat up with various child visitation shenanigans concerns for the holidays).  January is frequently a little slow since everyone – including me – is busy getting back into the swing of things after the new year.  By the latter part of January, though, and really speeding up in February, though, the divorce work increases.

It’s sad and ironic that the month that also holds Valentine’s Day is also one of the busiest divorce months.  An article I read seems to explain this well, so I wanted to share it with you.

In what month did you file for divorce?

What was the cause of YOUR divorce?

Finances and money problems are often cited as the “leading” cause of divorce.  In my blogging over time, I have looked for statistics that back up this oft-quoted factoid.  I’ve not been able to find much of anything, so I am always curious about articles that discuss the various reasons for divorce.  Many studies look at the age of individuals getting married, and they show that the younger you get married, the more likely you are to divorce.  In my practice, since California is a no-fault divorce state, it doesn’t really matter WHY a couple gets divorced.  Often, though, my clients tell me, and I don’t think that I can identify any recurring pattern in the hundreds of clients I have worked with.  Often I hear from clients that the divorce had been a long time in coming, and the person was just now getting around to the actual divorce, either because the children have reached a pre-determined “appropriate” age (according to the individual), or they have left the house, or the individual has just gotten sick of living in a half-life.

I was reading a recent article about the reasons for divorce, and it put forth some interesting results, showing a more complex behavior pattern behind divorce.  Since divorces are as individual as, well, individuals, it doesn’t seem unlikely that the reasons for divorce are as varied.  What do you think?  What caused your divorce?