The Wall Street Journal recently ran an online and print article by Elizabeth Bernstein discussing a study which identified the five main reasons why people get divorced. The article and study look to divorced people to develop the common themes of their unsuccessful marriages.
While the article is designed to offer tips on how couples can stay together, I also found a few of the points instructive to individuals on surviving their divorce litigation:
1. “Talk about money.” Money can be a divisive issue for people and that is certainly true in divorce litigation. In contentious or contested divorces, there may be a gap of time between when the separation occurs and when a child or spousal support order is entered. In that interim period, mortgages are due, electric bills need to be paid, and daycare needs their tuition; and the responsibility for paying those things may be falling on one spouse for the first time. This period of time is when the dependent spouse can find him/herself in a financial hole they will be digging out of – if not digging deeper into – until the divorce is final. Financial stability is key and the first move any separated individual should make is to make a budget and collect all of their expense information as soon as they can. Simultaneous with that effort, they should be preparing to file for support or solidify a temporary arrangement with their spouse to cover the expenses until something permanent can be put in place.
2. “Get over the past.” This is easier said than done in a divorce, but it is an important element for anyone trying to move beyond their divorce to have a happy, productive life. As Ms. Bernstein points out in the subsequent section, “divorced individuals in the study who blame ex-spouses, or even themselves, had more anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders than individuals who blamed the way that they and their partners interacted.” Divorce litigation is rarely the arena for healing emotional wounds of a relationship. It is important for people to find a way to address the emotional toll of their relationship, its end, and the stress of the divorce. Counseling as an individual or in the form of co-parenting counseling can be helpful to many individuals and couples.
3. “Reveal more about yourself.” While this seems like it would be the last thing any one would want to do with their former spouse, it speaks to the idea of finding a way to effectively communicate with your former spouse. For people with children, there could be over a decade of interaction they will need to have by virtue of a custody schedule, not withstanding the relationship with the children once they are adults. Developing a way to communicate that works for both parties is critical and will require some compromise. Co-parenting counseling can be helpful in finding common ground on communication, as well as helping to ensure the content of the communication remains productive.