Gwyneth Paltrow made headlines when she publicly discussed her conscious uncoupling with Chris Martin. Whatever you may think of her, there is something to the idea of putting some planning and thought to your separation. Arriving at the decision to separate is hard, and it can be overwhelming to think about the changes coming your way. Planning will not make the experience painless but there are some steps you can take that can make this major life transition go more smoothly.
First, it is important to highlight that your first consideration should be the safety of you and your children. If there is a history or potential for domestic violence, you should talk to someone with expertise like the staff at Bryony House who can help you escape an abusive relationship safely. You may also consider seeking an Emergency Protection Order though the courts.
Many couples are able to maintain a good relationship even after divorce. This is especially important when children are involved. Children can be the unintended victims of divorce, in particular when there is a high level of conflict between the parents. Maintaining a respectful relationship with the parent of your children can be a true act of kindness towards them.
Consider your immediate practical needs
Do you share a car, is one of you going to move out of the house, where will the kids stay, does one of you have family or friends to stay with? Thinking through the answer to these and other questions which may be unique to your situation can really help to smooth this transitional time. Ideally, you and your spouse can be reasonable with one another and find solutions to these problems that work for everybody.
Separations are expensive, setting up a second household, legal fees, and general expenses can add up very quickly. Despite these costs, and the negative feelings you may have towards your spouse, you should resist the urge to clean out the joint bank account. You do not want to act in a way that will escalate the situation or do things which the court may see as manipulative or deceitful.
As you move forward, the date of separation has important legal consequences and you will save yourself time and hassle if you have a clear picture of your joint and personal finances. It is a good idea to take a snapshot in time of your financial situation at the time of separation. This should include recording the balances in you bank accounts, investments, and shared debts.
Gather your resources
Make a list of people and other resources that can help you through this transition. A separation means you may have more time to renew old friendships, connect more with family nearby and far away. Heartache and break ups are near universal experiences. A sympathetic ear can make a world of difference when you are feeling alone and vulnerable, you may be surprised by the people who step up to the plate during this difficult time in your life.
Start keeping records
Even if you are confident you will be able to work things out with your spouse, separation and divorce have a way of causing hard feelings. Even in the most agreeable separations, people have inconsistent memories and records can help quickly clear up well intentioned misunderstandings (as well as protect you from outright lies from your spouse). You should keep records of who cares for the children in case there is a custody dispute later. Expenses like hiring movers, added childcare costs or expenses related to your split-up may be relevant as you divide property and establish ongoing support payments. Finally, keeping good records can help save you legal fees by making meetings with your lawyer go more quickly and efficiently when they ask you for that information.
Think big picture and long term
The pain of separation can be acute but it will not last forever. Try to consider your future self as you navigate through this tricky and fraught time in your life. People who are able to maintain perspective and look towards the future during separation will have better long term outcomes whether they end up divorcing or reconciling. Your children are watching, try to be a role model for them as you handle adversity. Take the high ground, the view is much better from up there.
By: Peter Duke, J.D.
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