Divorce is often a uniquely emotionally turbulent experience—particularly when other factors, such as children or significant marital assets, complicate the process. Understanding how you can manage the turmoil of divorce can help you handle the process more easily. Today, we'll be giving our best tips for coping with divorce, from methods you can use to manage stress and your mental health, to suggestions for approaching the legal process of divorce.
To receive advice from an experienced divorce attorney, contact us online or give us a call at (908) 259-6673
Identify a Psychological Coping Mechanism that Works for You
It may be worth your while to work with a mental health professional such as a therapist to identify a psychological coping mechanism you can use to deal with the strain of divorce effectively.
For example, some people find that visualizing the worst-case scenario and ruminating on intrusive thoughts—sometimes called "white bears"—helps them cope with stress. If you want to experiment with this method, try visualizing the worst-case outcome. It's important to note that this experience may be overwhelming, so ideally, do it with your therapist. Facing your deepest fears may help you realize that the worst-case outcome probably won't occur, allowing you to move on with a more realistic outlook on your circumstances.
For others, focusing on the "why" instead of the "what" of your emotions may be helpful. You often hear people saying to "look inwards" or "take time to notice what you're feeling." But, frequently, people don't find these actions to aid their mental health.
Divorce is a long, drawn-out process that often takes over a year to finalize from start to finish. When you file for divorce, you're in it for the long haul. Throughout the divorce, and oftentimes for a period of time post-divorce, you'll deal with a deluge of emotions and thoughts, many of them negative. If you take the time to acknowledge that you're feeling sad, it may help you feel better, but many people find the process of continually asking themselves "what am I feeling?" draining after feeling sad for months on end.
Instead, try focusing on the "why" just as much as you focus on the "what." Why are you feeling sad? Take some time to write down all the factors contributing to your sadness. Then, ask yourself what you can do to address each of those elements. For example, if there are children involved in the divorce, and you're sad because the divorce is negatively affecting them, ask yourself what you can do to confront that issue.
Maybe you devote one day per week to an activity you know your children love. If you and your ex have an amicable relationship, perhaps you can arrange "family" time to help the children understand that both of their parents still love them and can work together to promote their best interests.
It's important to note just how helpful the aid of a therapist can be during divorce. If you're having trouble finding a coping mechanism that works for you, or are suffering from constant negative emotions and poor mental health as the result of your divorce, consider seeking the help of a certified mental health professional.
Take the Time to Reclaim Your Independence
During a divorce, it's easy to lose track of the thing that matters most: you. While divorces take a long time to finalize, many people also get caught up in what feels like a neverending slog of meetings with attorneys, court appearances, and the tedium of various divorce processes such as drafting a parenting plan and child custody arrangement for children, dividing marital assets, etc.
Frequently, all this occurs while you're also holding down a full-time job, scrambling to find new living arrangements, and dealing with whatever else life throws your way. It's exhausting.
However, it's important to not lose sight of the reason you filed for divorce. Ultimately, you're going through a divorce because you believe that life post-divorce will be better than it was while you were married. For many people, the need for independence plays a large role in their decision to file for divorce—they feel their marriage inhibits their ability to be themself or live a life they enjoy.
Take some time to think of an activity you enjoy doing, or a hobby you want to pick up. Maybe it's something you used to do when you were single before you met your ex-spouse. Perhaps it's something you enjoyed doing together that you can also do alone. Maybe it's something you've wanted to do for a long time, but never had the chance.
Whatever the case, take some time to do that activity or work towards that new hobby when you can. It doesn't have to be much. For example, if you want to learn how to paint, arrange a time to go buy some painting supplies from a local art store. Arrange a different day to find a good "how to paint" series on YouTube. Take 20 minutes every day to watch the series. Once you're ready, set aside some time on the weekend to paint.
It doesn't necessarily have to involve buying something or splurging on yourself. If you always wanted to get more into exercise, set aside five minutes in the morning for a quick jog. Then, set aside ten. Then, twenty. The point is to do something you know contributes positively to your wellbeing and independence in a slow but consistent manner.
Taking time to complete an activity you enjoy, by yourself, can help you reclaim your independence and boost your self-esteem. Maintaining a healthy sense of self-worth is vital during a divorce.
Try and Mediate with Your Ex, if Possible
In contested divorces where both parties are estranged and disagree strongly on how to proceed with the divorce, there are very rarely winners. If both parties are determined to drag each other through the mud and make the divorce process as painful as they can out of spite, the end result will likely be a lot of wasted time and money, as well as emotional turmoil.
If you can, focus on maintaining an amicable relationship with your ex. If that's not possible, then at least try to establish a courteous relationship where each party's attornies are capable of effectively collaborating and mediating the divorce.
A court-issued divorce decree that decides matters for the divorcing parties is the last resort during a divorce case. Generally, courts assume that the parties involved in divorce know their best interests more accurately than a judge. Due to that assumption, most judges prefer for individuals to work together and collaborate effectively during the divorce. This is particularly true in cases where factors such as children or valuable marital assets make the divorce more complicated. No judge wants to establish a child custody plan on behalf of parents, or force individuals to sell their marital home.
In fact, mediation is mandatory during most New Jersey cases (with the exception of cases where an extenuating circumstance such as domestic violence makes mediation impossible). So, expect to endure a court-ordered mediation as part of your divorce.
Even if your ex is unwilling to mediate with you effectively, you should still put your best foot forward during the divorce process. If the court does need to issue a decree that determines how the divorce is handled, the judge typically favors the party that was more amiable during the divorce process.
If Children Are Involved, Prioritize Their Best Interests
Contested divorces that involve children, unfortunately, tend to escalate quickly. The thought of losing custody of one's children is enough to make any parent panic.
Divorce is often exceedingly stressful for children, particularly when the children have a good relationship with both parents. There's a reason courts tend to prioritize child custody arrangements that allow both parents to see the children consistently. Having a healthy relationship with both parents can be integral to a child's wellbeing.
Don't use your children to get back at your ex. Unless your ex engages in unacceptable behavior (e.g., domestic or child abuse), refrain from talking negatively about your ex. While you may harbor negative feelings towards your ex, it's essential to avoid passing those sentiments onto your children when possible.
As is the case with mediation, courts tend to favor the parent that puts their best foot forward in child custody matters. Even if you're estranged from your ex, keep your children's best interests in mind at all times and work towards a child custody or support arrangement that will enable them to thrive.
Make Copies of Important Documents
Ideally, you should have a copy of every important document in your marriage—pre- and postnuptial agreements, property deeds, investment and bank account records, paternity evidence, etc.—in a safety deposit box.
In contested divorces where both parties are estranged, one party will occasionally attempt to destroy documents that could prove useful during processes such as marital asset division (to learn more about that, read this blog). Having a copy of essential documents on-hand helps ensure your divorce judgment is equitable. If you're not sure what materials to make a copy of, consult your divorce attorney.
Be Honest with Your Attorney and the Court
Frequently, individuals try and withhold information they find embarrassing from attorneys and the court (such as social media posts indicating adultery, evidence of personal property, etc.).
The divorce process takes a long time because it's exceedingly thorough. If you try and withhold evidence or information from your attorney or the court, there's a good chance you’ll fail. Being open and honest with all parties during your divorce allows you and your attorney to ensure you leave no stone unturned during your case.
Divorce is never easy, but it doesn't have to be as difficult as many people think. By taking care of yourself and ensuring you take the proper legal measures during your divorce, you can navigate the process with more confidence.
For help with your divorce case, speak to one of our experienced divorce lawyers by contacting us online or via phone at (908) 259-6673.