If you think your marriage can be salvaged, do what it takes to try and save it. If you have been down that road, and the end has arrived, think about these 10 items as you embark on legal separation.
1. Don’t lose control. Things change quickly when separation comes. Don’t react aggressively, violently, or vindictively to anything. Lashing out is very tempting. But you have too much to lose. Stay as calm as you can manage. Your future depends on it.
2. Stay in the family home. But don’t make it an issue. Don’t throw down the gauntlet. Don’t tell your ex you are staying and she has no say in the matter. Don’t antagonize. All it takes is one call to the police, and her to feel threatened, for you to be extracted and a restraining order issued. Stay calm.
3. Create a divorce journal. Whether you plan to go to court or not, act like you are going to. Build your case. Document or journal all relevant events, conversations, actions. You don’t want to go to court with a he said/she said case. Document the time you spend with your children. Homework. Sports. Doctor/dentist visits. Everything. Document your ex’s words and actions when they are detrimental to her case. Be thorough. Keep the journal secure. Don’t let her know you are keeping a journal.
4. Communicate with your ex in a calm, neutral way. If you have children, you have to work right away on successfully co-parenting them. Talk to your ex about your children. Don’t stonewall. Drop the sarcasm. Don’t take the bait. Don’t be alone with your ex if she is volatile or unstable. Never raise your voice to her. Never threaten her. Don’t touch her. Keep it neutral. Leave if she gets aggressive and tell her you can finish the conversation later.
5. Find a father-friendly lawyer. If there are kids involved, major assets, or the case is contested, you need a lawyer. Find the right one. Make sure he or she supports what you are trying to accomplish. Make sure they respect your time and your requirements. Be clear in your directions. Manage your case.
6. Gather copies of all relevant information. Not to be over dramatic, but men never really know when they might be extracted from the family home. You might not have time to collect the information you need if the time comes. Plan ahead. Get copies of bills, credit card statements, tax returns, mortgage agreements, deeds to property, children’s health cards, medical records, vaccination records, lease agreements, insurance policies, bank statements, check books, business records, and anything else that you think you might need. Be proactive. Don’t wait until it is too late.
7. Get a secure e-mail address and physical address. You can’t afford to let you ex-partner have access to either your physical mail or e-mail. You need secure addresses in both cases. Rent a postal box if you have to.
8. Stay actively involved with your children. Separation will have a huge impact on your relationship with your ex. But minimize its impact on your relationship with your children. Stay active in their lives on all fronts. Establish a new status quo where you are deeply involved in their life. School. Sports, Activities. Visiting your relatives. Keep it all going smoothly and uninterrupted.
9. Build cash reserves. If you have all of your wealth tied up in joint accounts you have to act fast. You can’t impoverish your partner, but you also need to build cash. Consider liquidating assets. Divorce is expensive and the cash bleed continues for a very long time. You need cash to survive divorce so be sure to build your cash reserves aggressively.
10. Stay positive. Easier said than done. True. But it is crucial to your future to “take care of business” in doing what needs to be done. You can’t afford to “drop out” for 6 months to “sort everything out.” You don’t have the time. You have to be proactive in managing your file. You have stay engaged. Get support. Reach out to a friend. Lean on your family. Don’t think of yourself as a failure. You’ll make it through. But stay positive and engaged, right from the beginning.
Breaking up a family is one of the saddest and most difficult things anyone can do, but you have to stay focused. If this is your first time through divorce it is a very unpleasant shock. Don’t give up. Don’t cave in to your partner because you are too weary to engage her.
Stay positive and take the long run term view. You will be glad you did