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Divorce Attitudes

Air Date: 06/30/10 Dr. Rebecca Jankovich, PhD can be reached at 322-1839. Getting divorced is a miserable experience. If it wasn't your idea, it's even more difficult than if you had been the one to initiate the end of your marriage. The person who starts the whole process has typically been thinking about ending the marriage for a few years; they've had time to gradually grieve the end of the dreams you had for your future and family. When it's not your idea, you not only have the stress of the logistics of turning your life upside down, but you also have the grief of letting go of how you'd envisioned the rest of your life, of mending your broken heart, of repairing your sense of self now that your partner no longer wants to spend your lives together. If we add the discovery of infidelity and that betrayal into the mix, there's also feelings of anger, retaliation, hurt. Then there's the concern for what the divorce will do to your children; your protective instincts as a parent kick in and you're worried about how this divorce goes down impacting your children now and as they try to walk through the aftermath. Lots of emotions swirling around to jack up the emotional reactivity and generate lots of competing agendas that get in the way of actually processing the divorce, negotiating custody and money. You probably can't get into this mind set right away because your emotions cloud your vision and judgment; but, after you've given yourself a few months to get your arms around the fact you're getting divorced, try to shift into a business frame of mind. Divorce is about unraveling the business of the marriage that was. If you approach it as a venue in which to get even, seek justice for the harm your partner caused, show them they don't get to walk away from this disaster with a hall pass, or even try to blackmail them into staying married, then your emotions are going to prevent you from thinking clearly. And you have to think clearly to collaborate with your attorney to get the best settlement that divides the assets fairly, provides support for the children, and ensures the children have consistent access to spending time with both parents. If your emotions make you impulsive or unpredictable, a loose canon', then your attorney is going to be handicapped in their ability to craft a swift and fair settlement. If you were left, remember your comeback to emotional balance is going to be harder than your partner's. Read about the usual steps in adjusting to divorced; Uncoupling, is a great little book that lays out the emotions of divorce and maps what to expect and still know you're not losing your mind. Take care of yourself while you're adjusting; keep eating even if you're not hungry; don't drink too much to wash the pain away; make yourself exercise and sleep so your brain will be able to manage your emotions. Talk with only a close circle of friends; don't tell everyone what happened to you because it paints you as the victim and eventually might make life harder on your kids. Seek counseling if you don't think you're moving through this the way you should. Then, approach divorce negotiations like business negotiations. Find out the REAL time line for how long the divorce process takes. If you're expecting to have this over in 6 weeks and it's going to take a year, you'll be less disappointed if you give up the unrealistic time line and adjust to the realistic one. My clients tell me they want it over now; they're hoping that if the divorce is over, they'll start to feel better. But, the process of feeling better takes as long as it takes and it may not speed up just because the legal process is over.Figure out the facts: what are the community assets? How much money do you need each month to maintain your standard of living? Don't figure out the facts by talking with your partner who might have their own bias as to whether an asset is theirs alone or a community asset. Your partner might not have the same picture of your post-divorce life style as do you. Collaborate with your attorney to figure out the facts. Find out what it's going to cost to do that forensic accounting and then look at it from a cost analysis point of view. If it's going to cost almost as much to do the forensic accounting as the amount you might gain if the report comes out as you hope it will, is it a good business decision to spend this money on the forensic accountant and further anger your partner by putting them through the audit? If the cost is a lot less than what you might gain, sounds like something you should do. Before you go to the mediation meeting with the judge, have your attorney educate you as to how much it's going to cost you to take the divorce to court and litigate. This gives you a number you and your attorney can use when deciding whether the mediation offers are something you can consider or whether you should go to court. If the legal fees are $50,000 to litigate the divorce and you're $50,000 off in your settlement offers, it might make sense to accept the settlement offer because only your attorney stands to gain if you go to court.Remember, divorce is about business not getting even or seeking justice. Use your business sense to make your negotiation decisions and keep your emotions out of this part.