Are you edging toward divorce or smack in the middle of it? On the tail end, and hoping nothing falls through the cracks?
As the saying goes, "If I knew then what I know now..."
If you're considering a permanent split, take these tips from the trenches. They're from my personal starter kit and fairly general, but tack them to the fridge. They will come in handy.
- Be certain. Be sure divorce is what you really want. If you're taking action over one event (an indiscretion for example), weigh that against the marriage as a whole. There's a world of difference between an isolated incident and long-term patterns of behavior.
- Shore up support. If you don't have a support network, build one as quickly as possible - family, friends, and neighbors. Be sure to add new friends to the mix. They won't be affected by divided loyalties.
- Select your attorney wisely. Don't choose an attorney in haste. Don't pick the first. Don't pick the cheapest. Don't pick one at risk for Alzheimer's.
- Go with your gut. If your lawyer doesn't listen, fire him. If he says "you can always modify support," raise a ruckus. It's easy to say and much harder to do.
- Educate yourself. Arm yourself with information. Make use of sites, community resources, friends who've been there - but remember that divorce laws vary by state. Don't rely on your attorney to cover all the bases. You are your own best advocate.
- Be smart. Don't write about private affairs in a public forum. Don't discuss legal strategy. Don't brag about your blossoming sex life. Err on the side of caution when it comes to texting, emails, Facebook, and Twitter.
- Be patient. Flying off for a quickie divorce isn't an option for most of us. Divorce is slow. Hang in. You'll get there.
- Prepare for change. Steel yourself for the probability of problems. Not only during divorce, but after. If you're the custodial parent, your work life will be impacted, along with your ability to support your kids. You can also expect positive change. Plenty of it. Prepare to discover a newly emerging you.
- Never assume. Don't assume you'll remarry. Don't assume your job is secure. Don't assume you'll always be healthy. Don't assume your ex will. Don't assume braces, summer programs, teenage car insurance and college costs will "sort themselves out." Don't assume, period.
- Never forget. Last but certainly not least, behave in the best interest of your children. Fight for them, not in front of them. Never forget they love both parents, so make them proud. Act honorably, safeguard their memories, and protect their future.