Approximately half of marriages conclude in divorce. However, the decision to separate remains emotionally challenging, burdened by feelings and responsibilities. While divorce is a valid choice, it necessitates careful contemplation, particularly when considering factors such as salvaging the relationship and navigating the complexities of official separation, especially with shared assets or children involved. When you decide to divorce and you have children, you not only choose to change your life, but you also choose to change your children’s childhood.
As a counsellor and Mediator I have guided numerous individuals through this challenging process, I emphasise the importance of asking essential questions before deciding to split. These questions are designed to foster self-reflection and open communication between partners.
One crucial consideration is the potential salvaging of the relationship. Before involving the partner, individuals are advised to reflect on their current needs and assess whether the relationship has the potential for positive change. Evaluate past problem-solving dynamics and identifying any “danger traits” like constant criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling, which may indicate relationship deterioration.
Communication is key when expressing unhappiness and discussing the possibility of change. If both partners decide to work through their issues, individual and couples therapy could be a constructive next step.
Another vital question is whether both partners are on the same page regarding the separation. Recognising that relationship breakdowns are often non-linear processes, it’s important to have clear and decisive communication to ensure mutual understanding and potentially amicable proceedings.
The matter of parenting arrangements comes into focus next. I advise re-framing custody discussions into a focus on being the best parents for the children. Planning should prioritise the quality of time spent with the children rather than quantity, emphasising the children’s well-being in terms of living arrangements, schooling, and transportation.
Addressing housing concerns, it is important to maintain open communication, clear boundaries, and to look for pragmatic solutions. Couples may decide to continue living together temporarily or explore creative housing arrangements, such as rotating in and out of the family home, keeping the children in their family home. This is called “nesting.”
Financial considerations are pivotal, thorough assessment of joint and individual assets, including savings, property, pensions, investments, and businesses etc…. Seeking the advice of financial professionals is encouraged to ensure fair division, especially when children are involved.
Legal aspects of financial arrangements are discussed next, highlighting the option of obtaining a legally binding consent order if both parties agree on financial terms. This can prevent unnecessary legal complications and costs.
Finally, the importance of separating amicably is emphasised. Couples are reminded that legal battles are not the only option, they are long expensive and can be soul destroying. There are alternatives such as counselling, mediation, or collaborative family group counselling can offer less emotionally and financially draining solutions.
Handling the divorce process with dignity and respect for both partners and their wider network of loved ones can contribute to a less painful memory of the experience.
Note: If you do decide to divorce and you have children, you are divorcing your partner not your children. Your relationship did not fail because of your children, but the children may see the marriage break down as their fault. Children may benefit from speaking to a family counsellor.