26 June 2018

Survive and thrive – how to manage and move on from your divorce


Suzanne Kingston
Partner | UK

#ModernFamilies

In the early days

Acknowledge where you are
Divorce is widely recognised as being one of the most stressful life experiences there is. Whether you have made the decision to end the marriage unilaterally, together, or your partner has made the decision, becoming 'single' may be a seismic shift in your personal situation.
It can affect your status, identity and your hopes for the future. The extent of this change should not be understated and it is important to seek whatever support you may find helpful at this difficult time.

Don't rush
It's easy to make rash decisions if you are feeling vulnerable, guilty, under attack or if you feel responsible for letting someone else down. Take time and consider carefully any important decisions.

Review your financial arrangements
If you haven't had any input into the financial management of funds during your marriage, you will need to take a look at your current situation. You may need to put in place interim arrangements to ensure necessary expenses can be met.

Protect your privacy
Separation and divorce can be a distressing time and you may want to consider how to maintain a sense of privacy – if that is important to you.

Next steps

Look after yourself
Make the time to do the things that help you unwind – whether it is exercise, reading, seeing friends. Make sure you continue to do those things.

Surround yourself with positive people
Friends and family can provide a vital support network, and you may be surprised who comes to the fore when life is difficult.

Offload onto someone you don't know
Don't underestimate the power of speaking to someone who will not judge you and who will treat what you say as confidential. Ideally this would be a therapist or counsellor trained in family and marriage breakdown.

Use your professional advisers wisely
For example ask your lawyer how to get the best out of them.

Take a step back

Choose the best process for you
Once the dust settles take time to consider what might best help you. It’s important to get this right, as the way in which you choose how your separation is managed (whether through solicitors, with the help of a mediator, lawyers working collaboratively or using an arbitrator) may impact on how you remember this time in the future and how you manage your levels of stress and uncertainty.

Think a year from now
Sometimes it helps to think about the future, your hopes, objectives and how you would like life to be for you (and your children) say a year from now.

Future priorities
Write down your priorities for the future and check these against decisions you make in the process. It may be tempting to respond in a tit for tat fashion but it's often not helpful. It increases your legal costs and it’s important to ask yourself whether it’s really getting you to where you want to be or just creating a side show that is draining your emotional resources?

Telling the children

Vary your approach
The approach and the words you use will be different for each child, depending on their individual personalities and age. Tailor our advice to meet the needs of each of your children – you know them best.

Honesty is the best policy
Be as honest as you can without involving the children in the detailed reasons for the separation.

Trying for a joint approach
If you can't agree how to do it or what to say – write down your most important points. Then try to find any that you can both agree on as a starting point for further discussion. It can also help talking to a family consultant about how you both might best tell your children what has happened. The family consultant will discuss with you words and phrases that might be helpful for your children to hear and anticipate any questions they may have.

Clarity is key
Provide clear, straightforward explanations about what is happening and what to expect. Clear boundaries and a structure for their daily and weekly routine that will remain in place, notwithstanding all the changes, will help the children feel emotionally safe. If you don't have all the answers, reassure them by telling them you're sorting it out between you.

Avoid criticism
Try not to argue in front of the children and make sure you avoid conflict in their presence. Children frequently identify themselves as being made up of 50% of one parent and 50% of the other. When you criticise the other parent, they not uncommonly experience this as a criticism of that part of themselves.

Emotion is to be expected
Acknowledge their feelings. They are likely to feel sad, unhappy, scared. This is normal. If you can summarise what they say to you, it helps them to feel you are listening.

Do not create divisions
It is also normal for them to feel a conflict of loyalties. Children need your permission to enjoy time with their other parent as well as with you.

Welcome questions
They will have questions – respond to these as sensitively as you can as they come up rather than overloading them with too much information at the outset. This is a journey for all of you.

The future

A new normal
You will not be in this place forever, although it can be difficult to imagine. Once the divorce is settled you’re likely to find a new normal and a renewed equilibrium. Focus on opportunities that you may not have previously considered.

New future, new goals
Write down your personal goals for the next 5, 10 and 15 years. The world can be your oyster.

Co-authored with Suzy Power, family consultant and accredited mediator

Suzanne Kingston Partner | London

Category: Article