Should I have Divorced Differently?
Rachael Scharrer, founder of online resource, DivorceAnswered.com.au, shares her ‘how-to guide to getting divorced’.
A part of me wishes I could say that I would have done things differently in my divorce; this isn’t the case. For my children, I wish that the outcome was different and that their other parent wanted to be a better person and parent for them. Reflecting on my divorce, I think I did everything absolutely accurately. Every divorce is different; no two divorces are the same. My experience and what I did and encountered may not be appropriate for the next person. There are a few items that I believe that I did so well and I would recommend anyone to do the same.
No one starts a relationship or marriage with the expectation of ending in divorce. However, if and when you find yourself in this situation, I strongly recommend that you strictly adhere to the following principals:
- Be honest. There is no benefit in lying or exacerbating the truth. There are so many sayings that reference the undoing of yourself: ‘give them enough rope and they will hang themselves,’ ‘the truth will always catch up with you,’ ‘if you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything,’ ‘the truth will set you free.’ When you are under pressure or having to tell the same story in multiple different ways or areas, at some point you will slip up and become exposed. For instance, when you are filling out your financial forms, ensure that your income matches your outgoings and that this statement matches your bank statements, child support forms, Centrelink and ATO. These are all declarations and can be used against you in the future. Because of my transparency, the lawyers never felt the need to prepare me for any family dispute resolutions, family report or hearings and they knew when I was pushed, I had nothing but the truth to tell. Don’t forget, ‘the truth will prevail.’
- Be consistent and ‘stick to your guns.’ When you aren’t angry, stressed or frustrated, take a moment, without distraction, to imagine your life, the life of your ex-partner and the lives of your children – what does it look like? Most importantly, are your children happy and what did you have to do to achieve it? By making an unemotional parenting plan and financial settlement that first and foremost benefits the children as well as considers the future and livelihoods of both parents, then put that forward. For me, the biggest concern was parenting. I was willing to take a disappointing financial settlement to secure my financial independence. However, I had concerns surrounding the parenting orders. I knew that the safety and wellbeing of the children was the priority and I made sure that it was what I secured. I made an initial request and we stayed with it until further proof (I was open to the negative as well as the positive) was provided before ‘changing course.’ I believe that the consistency maintained was exactly what worked in my favour (or more accurately in the children’s favour) at the end.
- Document, document, document. The detail and thoroughness of knowing what happened at what time on a specific date, what was said and how it felt is crucial to being believed or not being believed. It adds clarity and clout to your story. It may make the difference between getting what you want and being unfairly judged. If you don’t have detailed notes throughout your divorce, try to think of what season it was or what the children wearing to offer an indication of the season and year.
- Be positive, see the positive, learn the lesson. ‘If you don’t laugh, then you will cry.’ While you may get incredibly frustrated, saddened or angry at times, try to find the lighter side of the situation. As your parents used to say ‘let it be like water off a duck’s back’… try to let the situation blow off you. Your ex-spouse may be projecting their issues on to you. If you find that your ex-spouse sends nasty messages or says nasty things to you, minimise your contact and limit it to SMS and emails. When you do receive a message, save it for after the children are in bed - You don’t need your ex-spouse spoiling your time with them. Don’t react when provoked and don’t respond when angry. Similarly, if you have been burned by certain behaviours, stop the cycle of repetition – keep yourself out of situations which may allow your ex-spouse to manipulate or skew into their favour.
As a parent, we can make the best decisions possible with the information that we had available to us at the time. By maintaining a higher standard of behaviour and by keeping your composure, you will sail through your divorce process with ease and a knowing that you played fair for the benefit of everyone involved.