Divorce Survival Kit
By Elisabeth Camaur, California Family Attorney & Mediator
Getting married is fairly simple… but, a divorce (especially in California) can be extremely complicated and costly. Yet, the majority of marriages now appear to be heading or ending in divorce. Over the years, it has become crystal clear that most litigation is fueled by fear. Fear of your spouse’s motives… fear of the financial consequences… fear of allowing the other parent to control certain aspects of the children’s lives. The fear becomes exaggerated and the litigation compounds when the parties emotionally react to each other. A divorce attorney who truly acts in their client’s interests will attempt to subdue the emotions, not ignite… and will attempt to work towards finding opportunities for their client’s while calming the chaos of an ending marriage. But, typically, a divorce attorney will focus on the documents to gather, the records to keep, the experts to hire.
But to truly survive in the human sense, the divorcing litigant needs some pro-active planning, preparation and strategy. When followed, I have seen these tips not only help a divorcee survive, but help them flourish:
Make a List of Some of Your Life Long Dreams: At a time when your life seems to be falling apart, focusing on goals and dreams can help bring the passion of life back. Actually, sit down and write out your dreams and goals. Take each dream and goal and write down the steps you will need to take to reach that goal. Seriously try this, you may actually find yourself excited and giddy about life again!
Do Not Emotionally React to Your Spouse: When faced with a divorce, you may be in a situation when you know your buttons are being pushed. Instead of reacting with your emotions, be proactive. Think about those goals and where you want to be in life. Instead of reacting, take steps that further these goals. What happens to you has very little to do with the outcome…. Most of the outcome is based on how you react. Be proactive and focused on where you want your life to go and drive it there.
Do Not Try To Be “Right” Or “Win”: The marriage probably ended because of the adversarial relationship between you and your spouse… “I’m right and you are wrong”… “I win and you lose.” No matter how many hearings you “win” during litigation, the only winner will be the lawyers. Family law is not about winning. The win/lose mentality also only fuels the fear factor that fuels the litigation. And, pretty soon, the spouses are spending tens of thousands of dollars just to “win.” Think about the consequences of each legal strategy move before you start litigating. What do you want to accomplish? What is the best way to obtain that result? Focus on the results you want in your life and strategize your divorce to help you reach those goals.
Listen to Your Spouse Before You Attempt to Argue: Really try to focus on their true concerns so you can evaluate their priorities. Once you hear what your spouse says, you can respond in a way that is much more likely to be tailored to obtain the result you want. You may very well be able to tailor a resolution that can address their top concerns. But, unless your spouse feels that he/she is heard and understood, they will most likely just keep arguing their same points and will not be open to other options . Also, you need to listen to be able to anticipate arguments and strategies.
Do Not Allow Fear to Block Important Information You Need: Many times people in pain put their head in the sand and ignore information that they feel may escalate their pain. But, information is power. If your spouse controlled the finances, then you are going to have to learn about it now and start educating yourself. Moreover, this information may very well help you find the opportunity for your life after divorce. Do not let fear stifle you. If you have information that is damaging, at least you can begin actions for damage control if you know the facts. But, you cannot grow and flourish in the dark.
Most people in a divorce feel they have been wronged. But the role of a victim will not help you… it will stifle you. You married this person and put yourself into that situation. It is extremely unlikely you were forced to marry your spouse at gun point. So, look forward, learn from your choice and grow. If you spend your divorce focusing on the regret and blame, you will not see your opportunities. This does not mean that the divorce or abuse is your fault… it means use this pain to grow. If you insist on over analyzing the way your spouse victimized you or spend your time arguing why you are entitled, you are reacting. Yes, there are responsibilities and duties in family law. But rather than spend your time focused on the past, you can create your survival and opportunity by planning your dreams. And, from the pain and chaos of the broken marriage you can emerge a stronger and better person who is heading towards making dreams come true.