9 Must-Read Tips for a Healthy Divorce
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Smooth Splits1 of 10
By Paige Brettingen
A "good" divorce is sort of like "good" airplane food: Even at its best, it's still pretty lousy. But when it comes to the ending of a marriage, Laura A. Wasser, a prominent divorce attorney in Los Angeles, insists that things really can be amicable. In her new book It Doesn't Have to Be That Way, she offers advice on how to avoid the kind of messy split that Hollywood is famous for. Here are nine tips from Wasser on surviving divorce with minimal debt and stress, and with your dignity in tact.
For Starters2 of 10
The first conversation you have with your partner about ending things will dictate how the rest of the process will go, says Wasser. If the discussion is a battlefield from the get-go, the misery will only compound—and continue to compound after the divorce is final. "Your objective should be to begin as you mean to go on," she says. "For both of you, that should mean acting like grown-ups caught in one of life's difficult situations."
It's Your Divorce3 of 10
One of the first things to acknowledge, says Wasser, is that this isn't your lawyer's divorce. It's yours. That means the more you and your ex can determine custody and property division on your own, the less you'll have to pay in lawyers' fees. One idea Wasser suggests: Each pick a different colored pad of Post-its and walk through the house laying claim to the items you would like. The more claims you can agree on, the smoother (and cheaper) the final dissolution will be.
Make a List4 of 10
Wasser recommends making a list of five things your spouse or marriage holds you back from accomplishing once you've decided to separate. Put the list aside and when the divorce is final, do at least three of them to celebrate. One "to do" Wasser recommends not being on the list? Jumping into another relationship—at least not right away. It may be tempting, especially if your ex has already moved on, but you need time to get acquainted with your new identity as "You 2.0," she says.
Kids First5 of 10
Wasser shares stories of how parents tried to hide their separation or even vent to their kids about it. (Both of which are wrong, by the way.) Your kids are the very first ones you tell so they don't find out from anyone else, says Wasser. "They are going to be OK—if you make it OK for them." Both spouses should be present when telling their children, and Wasser recommends meeting with a therapist beforehand to prepare for the children's questions and concerns (which will vary, depending on their ages).
Consider Nesting6 of 10
One way to make the process a little easier on the kids? Nesting. The kids remain in the home and the parents each take turns living there with them. That way, the kids don't have to be shuffled back and forth.
Be Respectful7 of 10
It's important to remember that at one point, you did love this person more than anyone (even if you can't stand him now). It will be tempting to fight back, but take the high road, insists Wasser. Counter his aggression with: "I would like to preserve some part of our history and good feelings for each other and I hope we can control this process toward that end."
Avoid Court8 of 10
And if that's not possible, at least avoid your ex while in court, especially if things aren't going as smoothly as you hoped. It's rare that anything good comes out of speaking to each other in such a tense atmosphere, says Wasser.
Know Your State9 of 10
Each state has different laws when it comes to divorce. In most states, from the date of separation forward, everything each spouse earns or creates belongs solely to him or her. However, be warned that the clock gets reset if you end up having one last fling with your ex. So the income you earned while separated (that should have been yours and yours alone) is now up for grabs, says Wasser.
Remain Reasonable10 of 10
As Wasser points out, you have to give to get. "Striving for all you can get is understandable, but when it crosses the line into hoggishness, you can lose out big time," she says. Don't look at your divorce like you're suing for an injury. Instead, if you can reach a settlement while still being able to handle running into each other at your kids' graduations, you've won.