Monday 8th January was ‘Divorce Day’ named as such by some divorce lawyers who experience a high volume of enquiries after the strains of the festive season. If you are confronted with the shock of divorce this month or any other time, one of your immediate concerns might be: what should I do? You might be wondering, whether to engage a solicitor, what to do about finances or how to tell the children. In short you might be feeling like the proverbial rabbit blinking in the headlights, unsure of which way to turn. To help put your mind at rest I suggest the following before you do anything:
Pause for a while
Don’t make any decisions yet (unless there’s a risk of harm or assets are about to be disposed of). When faced with the stress of divorce, the thinking rational part of our brain is hijacked by the ‘flight or fight’ response of the emotional part of our brain. This makes it almost impossible to make rational decisions At such times we often says things in hurt or fury that we later regret and take actions without thinking through the consequences. Things can wait while you work out what’s the best way forward.
Talk things through
Talk things through with a trusted friend, counsellor or divorce coach so they can help you see the bigger picture and put things into perspective. Choose your trusted friends wisely. While some of your friends may have your best interests at heart their suggestions may not be the most helpful or realistic. Everyone’s situation is different so try not to be influenced by what someone else did in their divorce. Allow your solicitor to deal with the legal aspects but not the emotional aspects of your divorce. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t want to overburden family or friends use a divorce coach, who will guide and support you through the process and beyond.
Take legal advice at an early stage. Your solicitor is there to help and give you confidential advice. They won’t start court proceedings or contact your ex without your permission. Once you have their advice you will feel more secure about what you can reasonably expect. You don’t have to act on their advice immediately (unless matters become urgent) take your time and consider matters carefully. Choose a solicitor by recommendation if possible and one that specialises and is experienced in family law. Don’t feel you have to stay with a solicitor if you don’t have rapport with them.
See a mediator for a mediation information meeting. A mediator gives you information on your options and explains the different ways you can resolve matters so you don’t have to rely solely on the legal route to sort issues saving costs and time. The mediator helps you have a conversation with your ex and negotiate a settlement in relation to finances and or children. Once you’ve had your information meeting there’s no obligation to start mediation but you know it’s an option. A mediator can help at any stage, whether it’s to sort the immediate situation or a longer term solution.
Think things through before you tell the children
Your children will feel more secure if you tell them after you’ve both had time to think about what the future arrangements will look like. Don’t confide in the children about your woes or berate your ex, they don’t need or want to know exactly why your relationship has not worked out, even if you feel your ex is at fault. Children do need to know they can enjoy a relationship with each of you and do not have to take sides.
Look after your self
When faced with the shock of divorce stress hormones can suppress your immune system. Make sure you eat as healthily as you can, get enough sleep, fresh air and exercise. If you’re not used to regular exercise even a short walk can have a wonderfully calming effect, physical activity can take your mind away from troubling thoughts. If you experience intense negative feelings, take four or five deep breaths, pause between each in and out breathe, imagining with each outbreath that your sadness, frustration or anger is being dissipated into the air
There will be much to think about and do in the coming months but don’t feel you have to take immediate action or make instant decisions. Take stock, take your time, get as much information as you can on your options. You’ll feel more secure in the knowledge of what to expect and what you can do. When the time is right you can make an informed decision on which route is best for you.
Jane Busby is a divorce coach and family mediator. For information on how Jane can help contact firstname.lastname@example.org