Divorces are hard on everyone involved – you, your (ex) wife, the children, and your extended family. Between trying to find a good lawyer, explaining everything to your friends and families, and setting up parenting schedules, the divorce process can be overwhelming. On top of that, you’re dealing with the emotional fallout of the divorce.
Your soon-to-be ex could have been the one that pulled the plug on the marriage and blindsided you. You could have been the one to serve the papers and now she’s begging and pleading with you to reconsider. And yes, even amicable divorces can have surprising difficulties that you’d never expect or plan for.
With that said, there are some things that you definitely shouldn’t do during the divorce process. Doing these five things can hurt you and make your divorce harder in the long run.
Move Out of the House
After you decide to divorce, it’s so tempting to just pack up your stuff, call up the nearest hotel, and head there for a few days. Perhaps you have both been fighting constantly. Maybe you’re just the type that needs space to think things through and get a game plan ready. Maybe your wife wants you out and has told you that you need to find somewhere else to go.
Even though this is your first impulse, don’t move out of the house if you have children.
This could potentially cripple you in a custody battle for your children. The court wants to see if you are a responsible adult, and more importantly, they want to know that your children aren’t being too negatively impacted by the divorce. They want to see that you are an active participant in their lives and they want to know that you’re helping your children cope with the divorce. As soon as you move out, you’re putting your need for space over your children’s need for their father. Your ex can use this as a way to show that she has always been the stable, caring parent and you’ve been more concerned with your own self-interests.
Along with that, if you regularly visit your children after moving out and the divorce proceedings go on for a long period of time, this schedule can be considered the “new normal” for the children. The judge is less likely to want to change the children’s lives and routines even more than they already are and so it will be much harder to convince them you deserve equal custody. Last of all, if you move out, you’re probably moving into a smaller apartment or house. For obvious reasons, the court system is going to want the children to stay in the larger house and they may even think your living arrangement is inadequate.
For all of these reasons, do not move out of the house. Remember, it’s half yours! You deserve to live there, too. If it makes life easier, move into the basement or into the guest room. Start creating a routine where you both interact with the children equally but separately. Try to be available to spend as much time with your children as you can. If you’re serious about getting custody of your children during the divorce process, you need to show the court that you can provide a safe foundation for them.
Put Off Finding a Good Lawyer
Lawyers are expensive but getting a good lawyer will save you both time and money in the long run. It could even save your relationship with your children! If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t expect to perform surgery on it yourself – so don’t try to make your way through the divorce process without a professional.
If you’re the one considering filing for divorce, before you even tell your spouse, you should consult with a lawyer about your financial situation, custody of your children, and any other relevant information that could impact the divorce process. If you’re not sure you have the money for legal fees, many lawyers will give you a free consultation so you can see where you stand.
Why is this important? Because divorces can be emotional and having someone’s impartial opinion will help you deal with the fallout (if there is any). They can give you advice about what paperwork to file, what to do if your spouse cleans out your bank account, and how to get custody of your children.
The same goes for if you’ve been served papers out of the blue. As soon as your wife tells you she wants a divorce, it’s time to lawyer up. The faster you do this, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
Talk to Your Ex About Anything Other Than Kids
It’s hard to get divorced. That bond you once shared with someone you loved has been broken, and for some people, it’s hard to come to terms with that. Some people say that getting divorced is harder than dealing with a death of a loved one. This is especially true if you didn’t expect the divorce or if your wife was cheating on you.
With that said, the fastest way you can get over your ex is stopping contact with her.
It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? The last thing you want to do is give her space. You’d like to talk about it until it makes sense to you. Perhaps you want to fight for her…or maybe you hate her and just want to get back at her. Whatever your motivation is, it’s not going to help you. You’re cutting your nose off to spite your face.
You’re allowed to feel whatever you feel – sad, angry, confused, depressed, guilty, or vengeful. These are normal reactions to loss. It would be more concerning if you didn’t feel any of them. But it’s important that you deal with those emotions without her participation. For you, that may mean looking into counseling, going to the gym, hanging out with your closest friends or going on a trip.
So, don’t contact her during the divorce process unless you are talking about your children and the logistics associated with the children. Don’t drunk text her. Don’t show up at her work and try to plead with her to come back. Don’t corner her in the house when you’re still living together and try to have a deep and meaningful conversation.
Especially don’t stalk her on Facebook or any other social media platform.
This makes you look weak and pathetic, which she could take advantage of (both in court and outside of it). On top of that, it’s not healthy behavior, and is prolonging the pain of the divorce.
So, if you’ve got kids, set up a parenting plan and custody plan and then follow it. All interactions should be through a court approved email system so that you can track your correspondence if something goes sideways. You can take turns going to your children’s events and picking your children up from school. All emails can be answered with “Yes” or “No”. Don’t go into any detail about your feelings or thoughts about this or that. Keep it professional.
Eventually, you may be able to find a middle-ground and perhaps even be friends. But initially, give yourself time to grieve the end of the marriage without having her front-and-center of your life. Use this time to separate yourself from her and the marriage.
Throw Yourself Into Unhealthy Habits
Sometimes the easiest solution isn’t the right solution.
When you’re in the midst of divorce, it’s hard to take care of yourself properly. You’ve probably got negative emotions floating around in your head and a lot of doubt and insecurity. You may have feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and sadness. Along with that, you’re now living a new life with new habits, routines, friends, places, etc. It’s a lot to go through at one time.
A lot of people turn to unhealthy habits during this time of stress. For many men, it’s easier to self-medicate than to focus on their feelings and deal with them in healthy and productive ways.
Anything can be an unhealthy habit if you do it in excess. This can range from the usual culprits like drinking too much, turning to drugs, or eating too much. This can also be things that seem healthy like exercising a lot, spending hours gaming, and excessively working.
Whatever your vice is, the first step is to recognize it. Don’t live in denial and pretend you’re doing fine when you’re not. It’s not more macho to suffer silently. Instead, reach out and get help from friends and family, a group like AA, or a professional. These people can help you get back on track. You don’t want to hurt your children with your unhealthy habits…and most importantly, you want to move into your new life with strength, positivity, and perseverance. So use the divorce process as a way to change your life for the better.
Involve Your Children in the Divorce Process
Your children deserve to have happy childhoods. That’s all there is to it. As a parent, it is your responsibility to put your children first, regardless of what is going on in your life.
What does that mean exactly?
That means that in front of your children, you treat your ex with respect. Behind closed doors, you can hate her with every cell in your body….but in front of your kids, you keep it civil. Your children are also going through big changes and having you and your ex-wife at each other’s throats will hurt them. In fact, studies show that children whose parents have divorced are two to three times are likely to divorce after they get married. The rougher you make the divorce process for your kids, the more repercussions that will have on your children’s futures.
Of course, if there are legitimate problems with your ex’s behavior, you’ll need to have a conversation with her and work towards a mutual compromise. If talking to the ex doesn’t work, and you are concerned for your children’s safety, then it’s time to talk to your lawyer about taking action through the court system.
There’s no getting around the fact that telling your children horrible things about their mom will hurt their relationship with you in the long run. They’ll end up resentful that you put them between you and your ex. They’ll also have less respect for you. Ultimately, it will probably hurt your ability to co-parent successfully with your ex. If what you say gets back to her, she is less likely to work with you, and more likely to make things difficult.
So show up for your kids. Figure out a parenting schedule that works for you and your ex, keep it professional, and don’t say anything bad about your ex to your children. Those talks are for your buddies, therapist, and lawyer.
Getting a divorce is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do in your life and while you’re in the middle of it, it feels like it will never end. But the better you handle the divorce process, the faster you can find a life that makes you happy again. If you follow avoid these five mistakes, you’ll be in good shape to start putting the pieces back together to rebuild your life.
What advice would you like to give other men going through the divorce process? What do you wish you had known when you first started getting divorced? Leave a comment below!
Having a hard time keeping your cool? Here’s 7 Reasons to Keep Your Mouth Shut When You’re Angry and The Real Man’s Guide to Anger Management During Divorce.
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