Living in proverbial purgatory
For clients who are just starting the divorce process, I often warn that it may get worse before it gets better. This is particularly true for those that are going to be living under the same roof with their soon-to-be ex-spouse during the course of the divorce.
In the best-case scenario, divorces should be amicable and expedited, and should leave each person with minimal scarring, emotionally and financially. However, we’re often faced with the less-than-best-case scenario, and we have to navigate the muddy waters of living as a family unit, while dealing with the emotional and financial stress of the family breaking up.
It’s an imperfect system. Neither party has more of a right to be in the home than the other party. Absent domestic violence issues or other extreme circumstances, it’s unlikely that either spouse will be forced to move out of the home prior to the divorce. So what can you do?
- 1.) Do not discuss the litigation in front of the kids or within earshot of the kids. Don’t talk to your lawyer while the kids are in the car. Don’t leave court notices or legal correspondence on the kitchen table for their eyes. Kids are already absorbing more than we can imagine- there is no reason for them to be exposed to the nitty gritty details.
- 2. ) If you cannot communicate effectively with your spouse, stick to emails. Minimize the back and forth. Keep communications child-focused and use tools like a shared calendar for the kids’ activities.
- 3.) Work out the financial arrangement at the outset if you can. The rule of thumb is that the status quo should remain intact- so however the bills were being paid before the divorce is how they should be paid during the divorce. If you cannot work this out amongst yourselves or through your lawyers, the cost of legal fees associated with a support motion at the outset of a case can be astronomical. Always consider the cost/benefit analysis before running to court.
- 4.) Be respectful. Divorce can make us lose our internal filters and see red. Clients have reported some of the strangest behaviors while living with their spouse during a divorce. (I am not giving you any ideas!). You do not gain anything by losing your cool, but you do have a lot to lose if a Judge finds that your behavior is harassing in nature. Focus on the end goal, which is to move on with dignity.
- 5.) Remember- this isn’t forever. You are between chapters in your life, and you need to stay afloat to get to the next one. You will get there. Go to therapy or yoga or the gym, or all of the above. Confide in friends, immerse yourself in self-help books, or take a mental health day from work. In addition to making your children a priority, make yourself a priority, and settle into survival mode. You’ll get through to the other side, eventually.