Dear Divorce Coach: My wife and I are getting divorced. She definitely has a personality disorder and I just couldn’t take it anymore. We have three kids and I think they should only live with me. She takes good care of them but I don’t think she deserves to have them because she treated me so badly. The problem is that I don’t have enough money to fight for custody for very long. I can delay contributing to their college funds, though, and I think it may be worth using that money to give her what she deserves instead—punishment! Can you recommend a really aggressive lawyer to help?

Steaming Mad Dad

Dear Steaming Mad Dad:

You are getting a divorce. Whatever your sentiment about the separation and divorce, make no mistake about one single thing: how you behave now and throughout the divorce with your spouse will define much of your life post-divorce. And no, it isn’t just for the kids this is true although that is very important. It’s your mindset and focus that matters, right now, even as you likely face huge life change and emotional overwhelm.

So, with your head spinning and your life turned upside down, how can you possibly pay attention to everything that you will need for the rest of your life, right now? The simple answer is that you need to create a mindset that allows you to pay attention to what is important and let the rest go. If you decide, instead, to spend time either justifying your reasons for divorce with friends, family, your spouse and perhaps even the children, you are making a big mistake. Conversely, if you spend time convincing everyone that you are the victim by making certain to “ruin” the reputation of your spouse, you are also wasting valuable energy. Both of these options are not good for you or your children as they take away from your ability to take care of you and them.

Yes, you are overwhelmed. Perhaps you even feel victimized by your spouse or clearly justified in leaving. Either way, the focus needs to be your future and that of your children and not what has happened in the past. So many divorce stories focus upon who did what, when and how. This is a natural human response but not one that matters, mostly, in a court of law. And, by the way, you never want to end up in court if you can avoid it. A stranger, briefly reviewing the facts of your situation and deciding how things will proceed, is a terrible and terrifying idea indeed. There are three crucial reasons you better bring your best self to the table now.

  1. Your Financial Future is At Stake: Do Not Bring Your Emotions To The Negotiating Table: Whatever occurred in the marriage is in the past. It’s what comes next that matters for you! Competent legal counsel can tell you the likely outcome of a division of assets and potential spouse support. Believe them, even if you get a second or third opinion. The laws of community or equitable division of property mean, likely, you will end up with half or something close to it. Even if your spouse wrongly dissipated assets or behaved badly, it is unusual for that to change greatly. Don’t waste your precious money paying lawyers to work out your emotional catharsis over these issues. The legal system was not designed for it and, truly, only the lawyers will benefit. This doesn’t mean, certainly, that you cannot advocate for what you believe you are entitled to get. Just recognize that the more time you spend fighting with your spouse, the fewer assets exist for both of you. If you need help creating the necessary mindset for this, a Divorce Coach is a terrific partner for you each step of the way as they can help you find professionals in every category you need and work with you to calm the overwhelm.
  2. Your Emotional Health Matters: Seek Support Outside Of Court: You may know that your spouse acted badly in your marriage. You may need therapeutic or coaching support to understand why you made the choice you did to marry them, have children, and trust them. Get it. Don’t use the divorce as a vehicle to try to ruin their lives or believe, wrongly, that the rest of the world needs to know it. When a wronged spouse makes it their mission to ruin the other party, they likely find themselves destroyed in the process. The legal system is designed to create a division of assets and a plan for proceeding with minor children, if any. It isn’t the right venue to fight your emotional battles.
  3. Your Kids Are Paramount: They Love Both Of Their Parents: Whether your kids are minors or adults, they will likely have a relationship with the other parent. And that is a good thing in most cases. No matter your view of what they did, your children are still part of them. Keeping this fact front and center in your divorce is crucial. Every action you take should be viewed through the lens of how it will impact your children too. Taking the high road, at every step, will save you time, money, and potentially a relationship with your children too.

Knowing what is right and how to do it are very different things, of course. Building the stamina to face adversity and overcome it successfully requires great effort. The alternative, financial and emotional ruin, however, is much worse. You have a choice, always, and can decide to do better. You can do this, and it’s up to you to decide how things look on the other side for you and your kids.

In sum, don’t use any extra resources to fight your spouse. Take care of yourself and your children by creating a plan for success. I’m happy to recommend legal counsel who can help you act in line with these goals. Let’s plan a discovery call soon so we can focus on what’s next and best for you and your family.

–  Cherie Morris