Peaceful Separation with Children
Achieving an Amicable Divorce: Tips & Advice
Divorce is an agonizing process for everyone involved. But it happens for a reason. The marriage was not meeting one or both of your emotional needs and moving forward separately became preferable, for at least one of you, to staying together in an unhappy marriage. So, while painful and incredibly challenging, the divorce presents an opportunity to reconfigure your family in a cooperative and respectful way that has the potential for greater happiness for you, your children, and your former partner. This article will detail how to have an amicable divorce with children and get yourselves to that happier post-divorce future.
What is an Amicable Divorce?
An amicable divorce is defined as one where the divorcing couple can negotiate an out of court divorce settlement in a respectful and child centered way, assuming that it is a divorce with children. The spouses are able, with the help of a family law attorney (divorce attorney/lawyer), to make decisions regarding child support, spousal support, living situations, parenting time, child custody, and division of property without a contentious court proceeding. This amicable divorce process does not require that the former partners remain best friends, only that they figure out how to work together cooperatively on their children’s behalf.
Figuring out how to create a peaceful, collaborative co-parenting relationship with your ex is the key to an amicable divorce and a happier post-divorce future. There is a direct connection between the amount of conflict between you and your ex, and your and your children’s future happiness. There are numerous steps you can take before, during, and after the divorce to reduce this conflict and set your family up for a healthier post-divorce future. This amicable divorce advice will address each of these three categories.
Protective Steps to take Before the Divorce
The single most powerful step you can take to protect your co-parenting relationship prior to even initiating a divorce is to not end your marriage through infidelity. Doing so will guarantee an explosion of painful feelings from your spouse that will have the potential to forever damage your ability to work together as a cooperative team on behalf of your children and will significantly reduce the chances of achieving an amicable divorce. If you are unhappy in your marriage, deal with that reality directly with your partner and do not bring a third party into the process. The emotional toll that this will take on every member of your family for years to come is just too great to justify your short-term gratification.
Protective Steps to take During the Divorce
The divorce process that you choose to legally end your marriage will play a larger role in your future happiness than you can possibly imagine. If you decide to go to court and pursue a contested divorce, make sure you are not doing so primarily to “destroy your spouse in court” or “take them for everything they are worth” or “create the kind of pain that they caused you”. The emotional and financial toll of a lengthy, ugly court battle on everyone involved is simply not worth the satisfaction that you are hoping to get by this approach and will greatly reduce the chances of having an amicable divorce.
The one valid and appropriate reason to litigate your divorce is because you need the help of the court to protect yourself or your children from emotional or physical harm. If those high-conflict conditions do not exist, you are much better off pursuing one of the two non-litigated and uncontested divorce options, mediation or collaborative divorce. While different in their process, they share the goal of resolving your divorce out of court with the help of professional(s) who offer legal advice, facilitate respectful communication, and guide you toward negotiation and compromise.
While these civil divorce options will potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars, they will also preserve your ability to have an amicable divorce process and a working co-parenting relationship with your ex in the future. The role that will play in your long-term happiness is truly Invaluable, particularly since it will establish a precedent for resolving future disputes out of court as well.
The two of you will have many financial decisions to make as you work your way through the divorce process. The way you choose to approach these decisions will also play a large part in determining the future of your co-parenting relationship, and ultimately your happiness. If you focus on “how to screw them out of every penny they have”, it will only serve to further destroy any chance of working together cooperatively in the future. However, if you stay focused on creating a financial plan that allows both of you to support your families from the marital pot of resources that you have jointly created, you will greatly increase your chances for an amicable divorce process and future happiness.
Protective Steps to take After the Divorce
A peaceful, respectful, and cooperative post-divorce relationship with your ex is going to be one of the greatest predictors of your and your children’s future happiness. In some high-conflict situations this is not possible, and a parallel parenting relationship with minimal interaction will be most appropriate. However, most divorced couples can be effective co-parents if they can both commit to rising above their divorce-related emotions for the sake of their children and commit to this amicable divorce advice.
While you do not need to be best friends, you do need to view your relationship with your ex as a business partnership in the joint venture of raising your children. Several things need to happen to achieve that goal, which I refer to as the KFCs:
- Keep your emotions in check when interacting with each other
- Focus on your shared goal of raising your children and do not get distracted by emotional issues
- Communicate professionally and respectfully and refrain from inappropriate language or behavior
If you commit to treating each other with the level of respect and courtesy that you would a co-worker that you do not particularly like, you will create a co-parenting environment that supports your happiness rather than works to destroy it. It is a commitment worth making and one that will pay off in an amicable divorce and a lifetime of happiness for you and your kids.
Specific Advice for an Amicable Divorce with Children
As every parent knows, it is hard to be happy when your children are struggling. Therefore, your post-divorce happiness also rests on how well your children cope with the divorce and its aftermath. There are so many things that you can do to protect them from divorce-related emotional damage and to create a happy, newly configured family for all of you. Here are few of the most important:
- Minimize the amount of parental conflict that your kids are exposed to, which is the single greatest predictor of how they will cope with the divorce
- Do not put them in the middle of your issues/conflicts or ask them to take sides
- Do not use them as messengers or secret keepers
- Give them permission to have a relationship with both of you
- Respect their privacy and boundaries
- Create peaceful transitions between homes
- Minimize differences between their two homes
- Stick to schedules as consistently as possible
- Only introduce them to new significant others when the relationship is long term and committed
It is possible to create a happier post-divorce life than the one you had in a marriage that wasn’t working for both of you. Dr. Erica Ellis, a licensed psychologist with 30+ years of experience working with divorcing couples with children, created Two Healthy Homes to provide you with all the tools and resources necessary to make that happen for you and your family.