If the phrase “good divorce” seems a contradiction in terms, think again. Yes, it’s easy to become enmeshed in a competitive mentality, or overwhelmed with feelings of betrayal and resentment, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a healthy approach to getting through the often challenging uncoupling process. Take a cue from Heather Locus, a certified divorce financial analyst and author of The Next Chapter – A Practical Roadmap for Successfully Navigating Through, and Beyond, Divorce. In a recent article for forbes.com Locus outlines two essential strategies for transcending the ugliness of divorce.
1. Question & Research
Just because your friends or family members went through an ugly divorce, don’t assume you’ll have the same experience. There are many ways to part ways. If you don’t admire how others have gone through the divorce process, you can pledge to do things differently. Those negative models of divorce can become cautionary tales of what may happen if you choose an acrimonious route.
Locus encourages her clients to cultivate a sense of curiosity about the divorce process. Try to think of the early stages of your separation and divorce as a fact-finding mission. To start out on the right foot, Locus suggests asking yourself the following questions — and digging deep for honest answers.
- Are my ex and I using the right method for our divorce? Litigation, kitchen table negotiation, mediation, collaborative process or a lawyer assisted settlement conference are all viable options. (Talk to your attorney about the method that’s best for you.)
- Have I adjusted my lifestyle to meet my current situation?
- Am I making decisions based on fear or in confidence?
- Am I navigating the divorce journey with grace and dignity? If not, do I need professional help to resolve my anger, resentment or grief?
- What attitude and behaviors about my divorce am I modeling for my children?
2. Prepare & Protect
Although there may be many aspects of your divorce that are beyond your control, taking charge of the things you can manage will help empower you and relieve anxiety. Locus recommends taking the following steps:
- Understand your assets and debt. Order copies of your credit report. Talk to a financial advisor about the steps you can take to improve your credit score, if necessary.
- Talk to your soon-to-be ex about promptly closing joint credit cards and loans, if possible. If you don’t have them already, set up your own checking accounts and credit cards.
- Gather important documents like tax returns and account statements. (Your attorney can get them if you don’t have access.)
- With the help of an insurance professional or financial advisor, assess whether you have sufficient health, life, disability and property insurance.
- Create a new, realistic budget. Track your spending and project what will change as you split into two households.
- Update your resume or evaluate your job options. Are there specific skills or experiences you need to increase your value in the workplace? Set realistic career goals and start taking the necessary steps to reach them.
How quickly you recover from the set-backs of divorce depends greatly on your attitude. Locus believes making a deliberate shift in perspective is key to having a “good” divorce. “Try to view this time as a rebuilding of your life rather than a dismantling of your life,” she says. “Understand that letting go does not mean giving up. It means choosing to embrace the future rather than the past. The best part about that is you get to choose what you take with you on the journey.”