August 11, 2009
By: Barry Armata
Taking Care of Yourself During the Divorce Process
Many people feel overwhelmed by the divorce or separation process. It seems a daunting task to divide personal property, arrange financial plans, deal with emotions from the children, answer questions from family and friends, change your life status, and plan your future. You are not alone! As reported by the media, approximately 50% of all first marriages end in divorce. For those who have never married, the ramification of dismantling a relationship can seem equally paralyzing. So how do you get through the process?
* You are not alone. You should realize that you are not alone. Others have gone through the process, survived and actually gone on to thrive. For those who get through the process with relative ease, they understand this, like taking a journey, is something they must go through (like a long plane flight) to get to the other side. The quicker you start the process and the quicker it is, the better you are. Long protracted dissolution proceedings can take their emotional and financial toll on parties often leaving them bitter, scarred, and broke. Psychologists indicate people going through a severe loss such as a divorce take 1 to 3 years to adjust and recover, even if it is amicable. The faster it is over, the sooner the healing can begin. Other people who get through the process smoothly view it as a chance to form a new start, a place to re-architect and reclaim their lives.
*Get a guide. Find a professional to guide you through the process, someone in whom you have faith and are comfortable with. A guide is critical to any journey, especially one who can help determine where you want to go and the best (quickest, easiest, and most economical) way to get there. A lawyer can provide that guidance. With such a guide, questions can be answered, plans can be made, and you have someone to get you to the other side. A guide can warn you of dangers, allay fears, and help accomplish your goals.
*Be realistic. In designing your plans, goals, and dreams be realistic and grounded. Adjust your expectations to the situation. If finances were tough before, chances are they will be tough after. If you want the children to have significant contact with the other parent, will living far apart accomplish that?
*Look for support. While friends, family, neighbors, and co- workers can lend an ear and make the path not so lonely, they can also make it more difficult. While well-intentioned, they can make you feel guilty, have their own agenda, make you relive the hurt, offer bad advice, and just plain confuse you. If you rely on their support, maybe it would be helpful to meet with them and your lawyer, although care needs to be taken as meetings with third parties may break the attorney/client privilege. If you need more support than your friend or lawyer can offer, your lawyer can suggest other allied and aligned professionals to help get you through the process easier. Mental health professionals, financial professionals, divorce coaches, child specialists, parent educators, and support groups are just some of the people who have made the journey easier for others. Not everyone needs all of these supports and some people can get through the process without any of the above resources, but our experience and that of our clients has shown that people who use the services of these professionals find the divorcing process easier. It is often more efficient to have a professional to talk and listen to you about how you are feeling, how to plan for your financial future, how to prepare the children, and how to improve communication or parenting with your former spouse, than to go it alone. These professionals can help remove fear and bring clarity. While some attorneys are well versed at these areas, it is our experience that these aligned professionals have specialized training that can provide solid support for areas that cause you concern.
*Know yourself and your vulnerabilities. Nobody knows you as well as you do. Know what your weaknesses are and talk with your lawyer about how to protect them. Sensitivities can be heightened during the divorce process. Buttons can be pushed to elicit calculated reactions, which only serve to delay the process and make the journey more difficult. Knowing where those areas are and letting your lawyer know can help take care of you during this critical time.
*Be a role model. Think about how you would want your friend/child/parent to get through the process if you were watching them. Remember you are acting as a role model for your children and family. Do you want to be a victim, an aggressor or someone who was done in b the process? We have many components to our well being: physical health, mental health, financial security, and spiritual belief. Do what you can to keep all in check and balanced. Know that negotiating this life change can affect all aspects of your life and sometimes while trying to maximize one area you put another in jeopardy. Again, outside resources such as doctors, therapists, accountants and clergy can provide resources and suggestions as to how to protect these vital areas.
*Empower yourself! Be active in your divorce by understanding what is being negotiated, what your options are, and what their implications are. Become a partner with your attorney to get to where you want to be. Help keep your legal fees down by asking what can you do: gathering documentation, exploring options, such as the costs of housing, education, etc. This will help craft a plan that meets your needs.
*Be Patient. Things don't happen overnight and both parties need to be on the same timetable. Remember, Connecticut requires a minimum of 90 days from the return date before the divorce can be final. Those 90 days were designed for a purpose, to allow people to come to terms with the breakup, to gather information, to resolve issues, and to craft an agreement. In Connecticut, the average divorce can take one year to complete, so use that time wisely and productively.
*Have a sense of humor. It helps take the pressure off you.
*Treat yourself within reason. A dinner with friends, a massage, a little shopping therapy, a game of golf or tickets to an event can take your mind off what's going on and make you feel better. Take up journaling to record your emotional journey, begin to bike or walk to release pent-up energy. This is a time for self-reflection, to understand where you are and to prepare yourself for where you are going.
At Armata & Davis we are committed to being your guide and getting you through the process with as little trauma and drama as possible and to help you achieve your goal and have an occasional laugh!