You’ve made the decision to divorce your spouse. Your spouse feels the same way. Understandably, you feel overwhelmed by emotion but truly want to amicably separate with your partner. What next?
Divorce is hard. There’s no denying it. But there is a light at the end of this tunnel—divorce doesn’t have to be a contentious, anger-driven experience. Done cordially, divorce can be a stepping stone to achieving your personal goals while minimizing collateral damage. Not only can your divorce be peaceful, it can be successful!
From working with divorcing couples over the last decade, I’ve extracted five fundamental principles which directly contributed to an amicable separation.
1. Be Prepared to Be Kind (to Yourself and Others)
The first step to a peaceful divorce is to come to peace with yourself. Yes, it all starts with you! To establish a strong personal foundation, you must:
- Empower yourself with information.
- Practice good mental and physical health.
- Focus on ending this relationship before finding a new one.
- Prioritize your children’s well-being.
- Respect your spouse.
Do Your Homework
You’ve already got a headstart on homework by reading this article. Continue to inform yourself by inquiring about divorce with a reputable attorney or other resources in this blog, especially as to how it works in your home state. For example, if you’re in California, ask about the basics of divorce in the state, along with other related matters like spousal support and child custody. Compare and contrast how divorce mediation is different from litigation, and what is best for you. It’s important to understand all your options, though mediation may be your best option for a peaceful divorce. (We’ll talk more about mediation later.)
Take Care of Your Mind and Body
Divorce doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you (or your spouse). Remember, you have found the courage to be honest about your relationship and are taking a step towards a new chapter of your life. To reinforce your positive thinking, you can:
- Work with a therapist
- Practice meditation
- Perform self-affirmations
- Write a gratitude list
- Read empowering books and blogs (e.g. Esther Perel blog)
- Listen to personal development podcasts and audiobooks (authors like Brené Brown)
Whether you apply one or a combination of these activities, remind yourself that the goal is for you to think clearly and positively. Through mindfulness, you can work through any thoughts that may be inhibiting your success and empower yourself to galvanize a peaceful divorce process.
You will do your mind a favor by keeping your body healthy as well. It can be easy to default to emotional eating, or fall out of your regular healthy habits. Sticking to your usual exercise routine and eating foods that nourish you, will keep your mind and body in its optimal state while navigating a challenging transition. It’s important to keep doing the things that make you feel balanced, productive and calm, so that you can avoid making decisions from a purely emotional state.
Don’t sacrifice your personal health through this process—bolster it. You are writing your own story, so continue to strengthen your mind and body to achieve the balance and equilibrium essential to accomplishing a harmonious divorce.
Work On One Relationship at a Time
Even if you’ve been separated from your spouse for over a year, don’t start dating seriously right away. If you truly want a peaceful divorce, give it the energy and time that it requires. By starting a new relationship while you are working on closing one, you’ve chosen to fragment your time, mind and heart. Yes, a peaceful divorce requires your heart! Even though you are separating, you will need to practice empathy, courage and love through the divorce process. Ensure you have the capacity for a wholehearted approach to your divorce by focusing on one relationship at a time.
Keep in mind that if you choose to date, you are adding another person to the mix. This means your new partner may influence your thoughts and actions in a way that deters you from having an amicable separation. When coming to terms peacefully with your ex-spouse it’s important to actively and consciously participate every step of the way. You need to respectfully work with your soon-to-be ex-partner and limit anyone who is not a hired professional from distracting both of you from your admirable goals.
Think About What’s Best for your Children
Show your kids the example that their parents (and people) can not only survive, but thrive through one of life’s greatest challenges. Time and time again, we have seen how divorces riddled with conflict negatively affect the mental and emotional well-being of the children. By choosing to divorce peacefully, you are allowing your children to witness the power of respect, resilience and cooperation. All the while, they have the opportunity to feel supported and loved despite having to cope with the new parenting structure that lies ahead.
Respect Your Spouse
There are countless reasons for why you are getting divorced from someone you once loved. This doesn’t mean that you should wish any ill-will upon them. On the contrary, understanding your spouse’s viewpoints and working together are absolute requirements for an amicable divorce. To collaborate effectively, you will have to respect your spouse and be reasonable in your negotiations. In the meantime, consider these tips to maintaining your resolve through the process:
- Avoid blaming or pointing fingers
- Pause, breathe and think before reacting impulsively to triggering texts or emails from your spouse
- Stay calm even if your spouse is acting up during conversations or negotiations
- Discard agreement terms that are solely based on punishing your spouse
- Don’t bad mouth your spouse to your inner circle or on social media
- Actively listen to your spouse during conversations
Just because you no longer love your partner, doesn’t mean that you can’t act in a loving way during your divorce. In essence, a peaceful divorce is a loving divorce. This is even more vital if you and your partner have children together -you will both continue to be co-parents of your children for the rest of your lives. The sooner you come to terms with this fact, and make a decision to set a good example for your them, the healthier everyone will be.
2. Identify and Adhere To Your Goals
Right from the start, it’s vital to determine and write down your goals for the divorce. Before we dive in, it’s important to establish realistic goals to achieve a cordial divorce. If you’re set out to win everything, you will most likely end up in an ill-natured battle and come away feeling negatively charged or even end up in litigation. A peaceful divorce relies on both parties using their best judgment to work towards a mutually beneficial resolution—not a one-sided one.
Break down your goals to two key categories: financial and personal.
Money is a common reason why couples break up, but it doesn’t have to be a sticking point during a peaceful divorce. That’s why it’s important to be clear and honest about your financial situation right from the start.
First, transcribe your current finances. This means you must be forthcoming, detailed and honorable about your assets and debts as they stand now. Completely avoid any legal or financial trickery like hiding assets or secretly moving funds from a joint account to your personal one. Instead, responsibly set the tone by listing all your balances in a spreadsheet as accurately and comprehensively as possible.
Next, determine what you want your financial future to look like. How much do you need to live now that your income will be separated? What assets are important to your personal estate? How long will you need or can you afford to pay spousal support? Are there any debts that were incurred as a couple that you would like to continue to pay off jointly, or can be paid off now? Think carefully through these and other questions or work with a divorce consultant or financial expert to thoroughly cover all your bases.
Now that you’ve reviewed numbers, write down the non-monetary personal goals you have for your post-divorce life. Do you want to be friends with your ex-spouse or maintain a civil yet entirely independent relationship? How often do you want to see your children? What guidelines do you wish to uphold in parenting your kids? Where do you plan to live? Do you plan to move?
Once again, a professional like a consulting divorce attorney can be imperative to making sure your rights are protected and that you have thought through all relevant questions here.
Stay Focused and Look Ahead
Now that you have identified your goals, stay focused on them. Make sure that your words and actions are aligned with these goals. For example, if you’ve come to an impasse over who will take all the houseplants and you didn’t name them as one of your material goals—let them go. Don’t get caught up on the scoreboard of who is getting more of what. Instead, review what big issues you deemed important and hone in on them. Keep your eyes on the goals that truly matter and you will be better prepared for a peaceful divorce. Remember, peace of mind and the value of moving on does not show up on that community balance sheet.
In addition, keep building towards your future instead of reopening old wounds. Past resentments will fog your judgment and impair you from thinking clearly about what is key to building your new life. Don’t “sweat the small stuff” in lieu of fulfilling core items on your agenda. Simply put, to achieve a goal, you must create a plan to go from Point A to Point B. You can’t go backwards from Point A, so stay focused and look ahead.
3. Consider Mediation over Litigation
Keep the judges and courts out of your divorce. Take control of your divorce with mediation, which is often the most cordial way of ending your marriage. In a mediation, a neutral third party facilitates productive discussions with your spouse in order to come to a resolution. The process is entirely voluntary and confidential and designed for both parties to resolve their differences amicably.
The main takeaways for you about using mediation for a peaceful divorce are:
- You typically spend less money on attorney’s fees in mediation versus litigation
- With a help of a custody professional, you (not the courts) discuss and decide with your partner on what’s best for your children
- Your conversations remain confidential
- You operate on your own timeline, not that of the courts or judges
- You mutually agree on child and spousal support terms so they are not forced upon you in a judgement
- You are encouraged to participate and communicate with your partner
If you have more questions about mediation, we cover it in detail by answering the most common questions on mediation our clients have asked us over the last decade.
4. Trust the Process
To divorce peacefully, you will have to work diligently, exercise patience and focus on your personal matters at hand. The goal here is to construct a new, healthy relationship with your ex that is often completely different from before. This takes time and can be difficult to absorb along the way, but doing so in good faith and with consistent effort kicks off a successful future for all parties involved.
It’s Going to Be Hard Work
If you did your homework and established your goals, you’ve already finished some challenging preparatory work. Now it’s time to execute your plan. Even in mediation, you will have to spend time and energy to schedule, pay for and negotiate in the mediation sessions. You may have to engage in tough conversations with your spouse which can feel like an uphill battle at times. However, if you are aware of and accept the hard work it takes from the start, your reality will line up with your expectations allowing you to be well prepared for a cordial divorce.
Don’t rush yourself or your spouse through important decisions. It’s crucial to be thorough and precise here. Even in the mediation sessions, it’s encouraged to take breaks to reset your mind and allow yourself to breathe. If you’ve come to a sticking point, take some time to step away or consult your attorney to stay aligned with your goals. Patience will permit you to remain focused and emotionally available to confidently move forward with the proceedings in a cordial manner.
Focus On Your Own Matters
Don’t compare your divorce to others because every divorce is different. Your friends and family may share anecdotes or lessons learned, but they can do more to distract you than enable you to achieve a successful divorce. Similarly, social media can be a tempting outlet to gauge opinions, rally support or vent your frustrations. In both cases, you are inviting other people’s opinions into your personal matters. Even if they truly believe they may be helping, people may incite you to act irrationally or second-guess decisions that you, your partner or your professional support team may have made.
Recall that the details of your life and marriage are specific to you and your partner. The goal of the divorce is not to win as an individual, but to succeed together. Of course you may need support along the way, but your divorce consultant or other specialized professional should be your reliable resource for strategies on what’s best for you.
5. Get Professional Support
You don’t have to do this alone. Working with compassionate, goal-driven professionals will help you attain a peaceful divorce. Between mediators, consulting divorce attorneys, coaches, therapists, and more, you have an array of options for acquiring dependable support.
The mediator is your guide to staying focused on arriving at a mutual agreement with your partner. You can learn more about the mediation process and get answers to common questions in this comprehensive guide. However, there are two important things to note about mediators with regards to achieving a peaceful divorce.
Firstly, the mediator is not a judge; therefore, do not prepare to “make your case” to the mediator as they will not be taking sides or deciding who is right or wrong. Rather, the mediator’s role is to remain impartial and empower both parties to construct solutions for their disagreements.
Secondly, the mediator cannot give you legal advice. In order to stay informed and make sure your rights are protected, hire a consulting divorce attorney, or divorce consultant. This way, you are well equipped to address legal concerns and thoroughly examine all issues pertaining to your goals.
Even though you are not going to court, you should retain an attorney, known as a divorce consultant, to help you arrive at a peaceful divorce. The great cost benefit here is that you decide when and how often to use your attorney, avoiding compounding legal fees typical to litigation cases. Please note that it’s vital to retain the consultant prior to starting your mediation to properly align your negotiations to meet your needs. This way, you can confidently arrive at an agreement by adjusting your negotiations during the process to fit your goals.
At Hekmat Law & Mediation, we have helped thousands of clients divorce amicably and effectively. Our unique approach to divorce consulting incorporates our legal expertise with the compassion and sensibility of a divorce coach or counselor.
A certified divorce coach helps you emotionally and strategically during your divorce. The coach will help you identify your issues, prioritize them and create a plan to make decisions throughout your divorce to achieve your goals. They are an integral part of a successful team to guide and empower you during this challenging time. Keep in mind that a divorce coach does not and cannot render legal advice. As a result, they may reach out to your divorce consultant when your legal matters need thorough examination from an experienced law professional.
A therapist can carefully work with you and your partner to amicably communicate while you work through the financial and legal matters of your divorce. The mental and emotional impact can be overwhelming, so working with a skillful therapist can help your personal growth and development. You can work with your therapist individually, with your partner or as a family, if you have children.
A child custody professional helps you obtain a custody solution with your children’s best interests in mind. Understandably, issues surrounding your kids can bring up deep feelings and potentially cause heated arguments. Working with a custody professional can enable you to be at peace, knowing that they will navigate through the emotional conversations and stay laser focused on developing the best possible solution for your children.
Build Your Team
We know every case is different. Your case will have its own set of requirements and need a customized plan to achieve your goals and arrive at a peaceful resolution. At Hekmat Law & Mediation, we specialize in compassionate, goal-driven divorce consulting, but also help you find and choose reliable experts who we know are well-qualified and caring like us. We would be happy to aid you in your path to a peaceful divorce. It’s what we do and why we exist. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.