This is your divorce, I shouldn’t have to even ask this question.

This blog stems from things that I hear daily in my mediation practice. It’s a frustration for me both personally and professionally and you can take it for what it’s worth -another person weighing in on what to do and what not to do during your divorce. I see so many people just looking for the ok to do what they think is best when it seems to go against the grain of their family, friends or lawyer. Sadly, the grain is often not supportive of couples working through things in some form of collaborative manner. This is the reason for my question…whose divorce is it anyways?

Why can divorce turn into such a battle? Is it human nature? People’s need for a winner and a loser? People’s need to identify right or wrong? Yes, these can certainly contribute to a battle. So, can interference (even with the best of intentions), emotions (that you are doing your best to manage) and not feeling empowered (you have more power than you think).

During a separation or divorce there is opposition, no doubt about it. Even those couples who seemingly make it look easy and agree to everything have had disagreements and have worked through it. It’s that desire to work through it that takes it from a battle to a negotiation. It takes it from something out of your control to something that you are empowered by participating in.

I always say, “You got into this together, get out of it together”. I understand it’s not often that easy. Emotions run high, decisions are difficult and there is a lot of fear. If you don’t have at least 1 common goal – the goal to work together to get through this, you are going to have a problem.

Sometimes you just can’t get past the idea of separation or the reason for the separation. It’s not what you want, you don’t feel the other person tried to fix things or they just can’t be trusted. Even with all of this going on, if you at least have that 1 similar goal – to work together to get through this, you have a good chance at moving forward in some positive way.

Here’s where I see the struggle though, the reason for this blog. When the divorce is not theirs, where they don’t participate, don’t make decisions for themselves and are led by others.

I KNOW how difficult it is to make decisions during this time, it doesn’t mean that you should abdicate the decisions to others though, including your ex. Perhaps the right thing is to wait until you are strong enough to make them for yourself. I’m not saying not to get help, of course I want you to get help. I want you to get information and make decisions that you can live with.

My concern is when those closest to you, your friends and families or perhaps even your lawyer – when they don’t support you properly. When they allow their emotions, needs and judgements to interfere or overshadow yours.

Your support people should properly support you. They should listen to you, ask questions, help you by offering a different perspective, give you a reality check, make sure that you gather information and help you plan. Sometimes you may also just need a hug, a shoulder to cry on or someone to be there when you need to vent.

What they shouldn’t do is take over, direct you or make decisions for you. This doesn’t mean they should blindly take your side, convince you that you’ve been wronged and to go after everything, to destroy any relationship you could possibly have with the other parent or support you getting into a costly battle that you can’t afford – especially one based on emotions and not a strong legal basis.

As a mediator my role consists of a lot of question asking. Here’s some that I would put to you if you are gearing up for a battle:

That lawyer who told you to fight for sole custody and primary parenting because your ex cheated on you…

  • Are they going help you pay your legal bill?
  • Are they going to help you drive your children to their activities?
  • Are they going to be there when your children are sick, when you need some downtime or when you have a scheduling conflict?
  • Are they going to own the decision to take away a parenting relationship from your children?

When your Mom/Dad/Sister/Brother convince you to take your ex for all they are worth to ensure that they pay for wanting to leave the marriage…

  • Are they going help you pay your legal bill?
  • Are they going to help you care for the children because you forced a parenting schedule that ensured full child support and not the importance of time?
  • Are they going to help financially support you when you can’t afford the house you fought to keep?

Are these people and their support still there after your battle? After your divorce?

The battles I’m talking about here are the ones led by others or by emotions only. The battles on principal, the battles without legal objectivity. The battles that occur because there is not that 1 common goal – to work together to get through this.

Do you follow someone else’s lead and do something that you are not 100% in support of? Have you really thought about what the battle looks like? What the emotional, physical and financial cost of the battle will be? For you, for your children, even for your ex?

Will your support people help you deal with the fall out of battle? Can you imagine what that fall out looks like? How do you move forward after a battle?

Here’s some things that you can do to ensure this remains your divorce

  1. You can agree on 1 goal, to get through this together. To discuss and yes often fight about what is right, what is wrong and what you can both do to move forward.
  2. You can get realistic and appropriate support.
  3. You can be honest about your needs, wants and concerns.
  4. You can gather information.
  5. You can take the time to make good decisions.
  6. You can tell your friends and family what you need from them and what you don’t need.
  7. You can compromise on issues that you don’t feel strongly about.
  8. You can do what you feel is best for your family and your situation without feeling judged by others.
  9. You can defend your decisions.
  10. You can actively participate in decisions affecting your future.

You can do it. You have the power, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

If you chose the appropriate support – the right mediator, the right lawyer, the right financial advisor the right counsellor, they should empower you.

To answer my initial question…this is your life, your children, your money, your future and yes, your divorce! Please don’t delegate these important decisions to others.