3 Tips for Achieving a Friendly Divorce
The end of an intimate relationship is painful. Both during and after a split, you'll experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, guilt, and bitterness. And while you may want to keep things amicable, it can be hard to think about a friendly divorce when you are still learning how to accept your marriage is over.
The problem with this all-too-common situation for people who have children together is that the kids experience the ups and downs of the split as well, especially if their parents argue or put them in the middle of their conflict. That's why so many parents try desperately to achieve an amicable divorce, as it can be vital for protecting kids from this turmoil and stress.
An amicable divorce has benefits for parents as well. Engaging in disputes may constantly remind you of the difficult time when you first began to realise that you and your partner had irreconcilable differences. But an amicable divorce can prevent you from reliving past strife with every disagreement.
While some of the pain may remain, working to build a friendlier relationship with your co-parent will help to protect both you and your children in the long-run. While there may not be a one-size-fits-all friendly divorce guidebook, a peaceful divorce is possible as long as both parents put in the work.
Don't let a rough start define your entire divorce
Depending on why you and your co-parent began the divorce process, it's possible it was a rough start. People split up for any number of reasons: poor communication, financial worries, and simply growing apart are just a few. But more likely than not, you won't begin the divorce process with a perfectly enlightened outlook and the ability to take everything in stride.
Your emotions will be raw. That's perfectly understandable when contending with something as large as divorce. But it can be damaging to let hurt feelings define your approach, as it can lead to pettiness, revenge tactics, and other poor behaviour.
If you're struggling with the temptation of tit-for-tat behaviour, try shifting your thinking from short-term gains to long-term stability. You may feel that "giving what you got" will make you feel better, but behavioural scientists studying revenge are finding increasing evidence that it prolongs emotional wounds and perpetuates the cycle of harm. But if you focus on the long-term wellbeing of your children when it comes to decisions about your divorce, your actions will be guided by safeguarding future happiness rather than addressing past grievances.
That doesn't mean you aren't entitled to complicated emotions about your divorce. It simply means you should try to not use your divorce process to work them out. Seek the help of family members, friends, or mental health professionals to grieve the end of your relationship instead.
Stand united for the kids
Regardless of how you feel about your co-parent, a part of the foundation of a friendly divorce is to stand united when it comes to your kids. Start by telling your children about your divorce together. The fact remains that you will always be a family, even though things will be different. Talking about it as a family will help reinforce this with your children.
Agree to tell your kids before anyone moves out of the family home, as to not add another level of shock for them. Have some answers and other information prepared to tell your children about what will happen from here on out. They are bound to have questions, and being able to reply to a few of those immediately will help give your children confidence in your changing family structure.
Doing all of this also gives you and your co-parent a chance to work together for something that you both care about: your kids. Taking this step can help to set the groundwork for a friendly divorce down the road.
Commit to a collaborative process
A conventional journey through the family court system can, unfortunately, become quickly adversarial. Even parents who commit to working together at the beginning of their divorce may find themselves straying from that goal due to the stress of the divorce process.
Working with family law professionals who are committed to the collaborative process, and also have a strong track record showing such, can help prevent this from happening. Collaborative family law and mediation are two alternatives used by many families looking to avoid the traditional litigation process.
Having a friendly divorce doesn't mean that you’ll always see eye to eye. What it does mean is that you and your co-parent are in agreement about how you’ll handle tough discussions: respectfully and without ever putting your kids in the middle of any conflict.
Negotiate difficult issues away from your kids. Consider scheduling meetings outside of the house in neutral locations where you have the opportunity to get assistance from a professional, such as a mediator. Besides being able to have tough conversations away from your kids, mediation allows you to work with an unbiased third party who can help guide your discussion.
Friendly divorce is possible, but it can be hard to hear stories of amicable divorce when the pain is still fresh. Remember that a peaceful divorce is made possible by having the right strategies and tools in place from the very beginning. Stay unified with your co-parent when it comes to matters concerning your kids. Maintaining a united front, committing to peaceful communication, and working with collaborative professionals all go hand-in-hand.