Managing Expectations in Divorce

If you're getting divorced, keep your expectations of child custody, money, and other important factors in check.

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The most important factor in determining the outcome in divorce situations is expectations. If expectations are realistic, the divorce experience will be less traumatic. On the other hand, unrealistic expectations can result in great trauma for the entire family unit. To help keep expectations in check as you navigate your divorce, consider the following.

You and your spouse used to get along

Many people tend to forget that the soon to be ex-spouse is the same person they wanted to spend the rest of their life with. The person they chose was a decent human being then, and that person is probably still a decent human now, even though divorce is imminent.

When a couple marries, they are usually in similar emotional states - dreaming the same dream. By the time their marriage ends, they have taken the same emotional journey, and both have experienced similar amounts of pain. There is a difference, however, in that one very often has felt some pain day after day for a very long period of time, while the other felt the pain in a shortened period of time at the end of the marriage. However, both of these people have seen the dream vanish.

If you are having trouble deciding whether or not to end your marriage (for some people this is the hardest part of all), talk to your friends or a professional, such as a counselor or psychotherapist. They are often in a better position than you are to make an objective assessment of the pros and cons of your marriage. There is one important condition - you must be completely honest with them.

If you decide to divorce after having done so, at least you’ll know that you gave it thoughtful consideration.

Courts won’t punish your spouse for bad behavior

Many people believe and expect that the court system will treat the “bad” spouse (the one that was at fault for or asked for the divorce) harshly, especially if the other party wants to make the marriage work. In fact, most states allow for spouses to seek a no-fault divorce, so most divorce judges never hear any evidence of misconduct, such as adultery or abuse (unless it relates to child custody). For the most part, courts decide divorce-related issues based on today and tomorrow and not on yesterday, so don’t waste a lot of energy trying to get a judge to punish your spouse for the break up.

Keep your emotions out of the divorce process

The results of most divorce cases are not predictable. However, one fact that is very predictable is that if your divorce decisions are motivated by bitterness, the process will drain you – emotionally and financially; you will end up in constant battle with your spouse, and you will spend exorbitant amount of money on attorney's fees. Often, the most difficult part of a divorce is moving beyond the emotional aspects of the split. However, the court system is not the proper place to complain about your feelings regarding the divorce.

Instead, think of your divorce agreement as a business transaction (except for the child custody issues). With so many financial issues at stake, the worst thing you can do is let your emotions guide your decisions. Also, remember that attorneys charge by the hour. Every minute you spend complaining to your attorney about your spouse is another minute charged to your bill. Every time you ask your attorney to file a frivolous motion against your spouse, you’ll waste thousands of dollars on fees and time stressing over the outcome - all because you are unable to get past your anger to do what’s in your own best interest.

Your children’s interests should be a top priority

While there is much in popular literature depicting divorce as having a negative impact on children, much has also been said about the lifelong impact of seeing parents fight.

If you have children, it may be worth if for you and your spouse to speak to a professional therapist about the possibility of working out your marital problems or divorcing. If you do decide to divorce, you and your child’s other parent should consider co-parenting classes and/or counseling sessions for the entire family to help your children cope and to gain tools on how to be the best parents you can during the divorce and after.

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