Hire a lawyer or attorney-mediator who you connect with and who has time for you. Nothing will be more frustrating for you than if you are upset about something and can’t reach your legal professional. Tip: When looking for a mediator or lawyer, ask how many pending cases or clients they currently have, how many trials they have, and whether they have a policy about returning phone calls or emails in a timely manner.
Educate yourself. Fear of the unknown causes the most amount of anxiety during your divorce. Tip: Find a lawyer who will keep you informed about what to expect from the divorce process, who will keep you informed of what is going on in your case, and who can educate you about your options. Understanding how your legal professional bills is also helpful so you are not surprised.
Take advantage of a divorce process that does not have you in court all the time. Going to court for contested hearings will create a lot of stress. Tip: Avoid the stress of hearings in court by using non-adversarial processes such as mediation or collaboration. In mediation and collaboration, both spouses agree not to go to court to resolve differences, and instead attend meetings with their mediator or collaborative lawyers in order to negotiate and craft an agreement that both parties are satisfied with. The difference between mediation and collaboration is that in mediation, the spouses hire one mediator who does not represent either of them; in collaboration, each spouse hires a collaborative attorney.
Take care of yourself. Going through a divorce is very stressful aside from the legal process because of all of the change involved. In fact, most people go through some sort of grieving process Tip: Find a good therapist, get rest, exercise, eat well, and treat yourself to a massage or other healing bodywork if you can afford it.
Rely on friends and family for support, not legal advice. Your friends and family can be very supportive during this very stressful time. However, if they are not a divorce lawyer, they probably don’t know the law and could give you incorrect advice that could get you into trouble or create needless anxiety for you. Even a lawyer who doesn’t practice divorce could potentially give you well-intentioned but misleading information. Also, each divorcing person’s situation is different, so if a friend or neighbor has gone through a divorce and obtained a certain result, that doesn’t mean that you will have that same result—good or bad. Tip: call your legal professional for advice.
Stay Organized. Nothing can be more stressful than getting a request from your lawyer to assemble and copy all of your financial documents on the day before a big meeting or hearing. Even if this doesn’t happen, assembling your financial paperwork can be a daunting task. Tip: It will be much less stressful if you have created files with your tax returns, monthly bills, bank statements, paystubs and statements from financial accounts (stock, mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc). You will need all of this information to create a Financial Affidavit and to settle your case.
Learn to Act, not React. This is probably the hardest thing to accomplish but it will make your case and your life run more smoothly. When your spouse or partner says something you don’t like, either in person, on the telephone or on email, it is very tempting to shoot back a reply before you think through all the implications of doing so. Those interactions often escalate and someone ends up calling their lawyer which costs money. Worse yet, you can say or do something in the heat of the argument that you will regret later. Tip: Learn to disengage. This will be very frustrating at first because habitual tendencies will propel you to react, but reactions from a state of anger or fear are not usually well thought through. If you can manage to stay cool during heated moments, you will be able to make well thought out decisions and act on those, instead of having regret about things said or done in the heat of the moment.
Make Friends with Your Emotions. During a divorce, emotions can run high. Sometimes fear and anger can make people do things they regret later. Tip: If you can learn to sit with these feelings, you can become the master of them, instead of allowing them to take over your life. Sitting with feelings of frustration, anger, rage, sadness, or fear is very uncomfortable. But if you don’t feed them or hang onto them, these feelings, like all other thoughts will dissipate. Feelings only remain intense if we replay them in our heads. Learning to give up this habit will free you of the confining space they put you in.
Remember that Judges are People too. Not just judges, but your mediator, lawyer, your spouse’s lawyer and your spouse. They have good and bad days, they are at the mercy of external forces that can make them fearful and grumpy. It is easy during the divorce process to have your world view shrink, so that you are only thinking of how afraid or miserable you are. But everyone is in the same boat. They are suffering even if it looks like they aren’t. Tip: During stressful times like a divorce, our perspective can narrow. Try to enlarge your view and acknowledge that others can also be suffering for various reasons. This can go a long way to keeping your sanity intact. Acknowledging what you are grateful for every day, even if it is something small, has been proven to rewire your brain which creates a more positive outlook.
You can only change yourself. You have heard this before, but because of the stress of the process, this message gets lost for many people going through a divorce. Clients call their legal professional and want a meeting with their spouse or want to go to court hoping that the mediator or court system can change their spouse into someone who is reasonable. Tip: Chances are if you are going through a divorce, you probably don’t believe that your spouse is reasonable. Going through a divorce isn’t likely to help them improve their behavior because they are also stressed. On the other hand, you can change how you respond to them, and by so doing, you can change the pattern of interaction between you. That will influence the situation much more than someone telling your spouse how they should be behaving. And even if they don’t change, you will have behaved sanely, reasonably, and kindly, so when you look back on your behavior you can be proud.