The decision to divorce is life changing, for you, your families and your children. It is not something you want to come to regret later. You should prepare yourself for the reality of divorce: it will be difficult, and the adjustments will sting. Both partners will have a lower standard of living, and ideas and values the family once held about themselves will crumble.
No one wins in divorce
Remember the most important aspect of divorce: there is no winning. Compromises will be made, whether initiated by yourself, your spouse, or a judge. Life will never be the same as it was when you were married. However, you do not have to view this negatively. Yes, give yourself time to mourn and feel the pain of the loss; that is a healthy and necessary response. Instead, keep in mind that when something in your life ends, space is opened for something new to manifest.
Focus on results and your future life
If you have children, focus on possible sources of contention that may arise between you and the other parent not just now, but throughout their development. By identifying possible issues that may arise as you co-parent with your future spouse, you can have your attorney or mediator write in ways to deal with these challenges in your parenting agreement or divorce decree. Particularly if your child or children are still young (preschool or early childhood) there are aspects of parenting you may not have thought about yet, such as:
- Rebellious behavior: piercing, tattoos, curfew, time spent alone with romantic interests.
- Driving: age when the child gets their permit or license, purchasing a vehicle, paying for insurance or repairs, allowing the child to drive with friends or younger siblings in the car.
- Graduation: who will pay for a party, senior photos, standardized testing and college applications?
- Time spent with the non-custodial parent for their birthday and the child’s, or other holidays that the other parent may not celebrate. Try to think of how you can ensure both parents have access to the child’s milestones as they grow.
- Private vs. public school: who pays and how disputes will be resolved in the event of disagreement.
- Relocation and time spent during spring break and other vacations during the school year.
- Extracurricular activities: particularly those situations in which one parent does not agree or support the child’s participation, or is unable to meet the financial burdens that enrollment would present.
Never forget that ideas or visions held by you and your spouse regarding life after divorce will change. You may agree to remain friends, but that could turn when one or both of you remarry. Perhaps your ex will relocate across the country. Prepare yourself for the things you believe are not possible at this time.
Weigh the pros and cons of vague language
Also consider the costs and benefits of drafting a vague parenting plan or divorce decree. If your spouse has a tendency to fight or manipulate things, the constant need to negotiate and butter them up as a result of vague language in your agreement will be an exhausting and frustrating burden over the years.
Whatever you decide, use the parenting plan or agreement to set the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable conduct. Define it, and lay out clear ways to resolve conflict. You do not want one parent constantly working to win the other over to get a fair share of access to your children. Furthermore, if your soon to be ex-spouse drops the ball, the blame starts and ends with them when issues and expectations are clearly defined.