Well that’s it. Just like that the decade is over and the “Roaring” 2020s are here. Before we can discuss where we are going, however, we need to look back to where we’ve been in the last decade. Smartphones took over. Regular television was largely replaced by Netflix and other streaming services. Social media became about so much more than just Facebook and Twitter. Memes and GIFs became a universal form of self-expression. People began new dating relationships with the mere swipe of a finger across a phone screen. Being a Millennial became a thing.
While many people take the start of each new year as an opportunity to do something to improve their lives, the idea of a new decade comes with a whole new wave of possibilities and responsibilities. With everything we have all been through, there are new traditions to be made, lessons to be learned, and steps to take to better ourselves. For many of you, that will mean finally taking that step toward ending a difficult marriage so that you can move onto the new life that you have waited for so long to start.
If you are finally ready to move forward, then here are a few “resolutions” from my perspective as a divorce lawyer that you should keep in mind:
Resolve to listen to the professionals you have hired to represent you:
While your divorce attorney, forensic accountant, therapist, divorce coach and potentially other professionals will never know you or your life as well as you do, trust in their knowledge and experience to guide you through what will likely be a difficult process, even in the seemingly most amicable of situations. Being a divorce lawyer for as long as I have and seeing the things I have seen; this point truly cannot be understated. Do your best to avoid the pitfalls of assuming that because your friend, cousin, or best friend’s brother’s divorce went one way, yours will go the same. Ultimately, you are looking for the most beneficial outcome for you and your children. Whether that means the terms of a custody and parenting time arrangement, support, asset distribution or something else, collaborate with your professionals to help get you to where you want to be.
Resolve to not let your spouse scare or bully you into making the wrong decisions:
All too often a divorcing spouse is involuntarily pressured into proceeding down a certain path in a divorce because it is what the other spouse decided is the right path. Whether such pressure is a microcosm of how the parties lived during the marriage - perhaps the other spouse has a need for control at all times or has the sort of narcissistic personality that will never allow him or her to listen to the opinions or recommendations of others – remember that these decisions are ultimately yours to make. It is not your spouse’s decision whether you want to file for divorce or request a certain amount of support or assets. It is not your spouse’s decision how you should be as a parent. Finally, it is not your spouse’s decision whether you should accept a settlement or litigate. These decisions, perhaps for the first time in a long time depending on the life you live, are yours.
Resolve to not put your kids into the middle of the conflict:
I often say to clients that it is easier for me to give the advice as the person who is not living the daily life of the parent going through the divorce than for the parent to hear it. As the parent, it cannot be as easy to act like everything is normal and okay in front of the children. To not discuss the divorce with the children. To not talk with them about what parent they would rather be with. To not talk to them about asking the other parent to pay for the things that the kids want or where they want to go. To not talk about the other parent or let anyone else do so. We are all human and always want our children to know that we are there for them. We often feel a need to defend ourselves to them in the face of conflict. Do your best, however, to avoid acting on those negative feelings and tendencies. Tell the kids that everything will always be alright and that you and your spouse will always be there for them. Consider working with a therapist, co-parenting professional, parenting coordinator, mediator and the like if necessary so that you and your spouse are on the same page as to what to say to the kids and when, and to learn not to turn the kids against the other parent, whether deliberately or unknowingly. Remember that the kids did not ask to be placed in this situation. Remember that they will always be your kids and that, as a result, you may have to interact with your former spouse for years come.
Resolve to be cautious with your phone/tablet and social media usage:
Phones, tablets and social media have taken over our lives in many respects. Not only do most of us spend hours every day with the phone in our hands calling, texting, surfing social media, posting about ourselves, our kids, our jobs, our lives and more, but also, to many degrees, it is our contact to the outside world, news, books, television, movies, music and more. While it is difficult to remember what life was like before these devices and social media sites, as a divorce lawyer, I am always telling clients to be careful about what they post online, what they put in writing via text or social media post, and more. Oftentimes simply blocking the other spouse is not enough as the spouse’s friends, the children or other third parties will let the other spouse know about the person you posted about dating, the vacation you just went on, the unfavorable comment you just wrote about the other spouse, and so much more. While many consider shutting off entirely from social media as akin to going underground into a bunker, you should be cognizant of every word you say to anyone in your life, whether online or otherwise, because it may and very likely will be communicated to the other spouse at some point in time.
Resolve to remember that there is a very bright light at the end of this seemingly dark tunnel:
While the above resolutions will hopefully help lead you in a more positive direction through the divorce, always keep in mind that no matter how difficult things get, or how exhausting it all seems, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the matter will come to an end. Thus, the ultimate resolution that you made to move on with your life will ultimately be achieved. Doing what you can to maintain positive vibes in your life will be invaluable to getting you to your goal. Having the right professionals, the right support system, and oftentimes doing those things that you need to do to keep your head in the right place will get you there.