Being dragged through the mud is a normal feeling for many going through a divorce, but it doesn’t have to be that way! It’s easy to get sucked into the trap of fighting over paying off credit card debt, and who will pay for the kids’ college tuition, but remember this: approaching the division of assets mindfully and with logic so that you can move on faster is entirely your choice! Read on to find out more about navigating your divorce while protecting your assets, and your sanity!
1. Don’t fight it: things will be weird for a while.
Divorce is a messy business transaction that collides with emotions you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. If you feel confused and panicked, it’s because you’re human.But in spite of the chaos, it’s important to remember that you will get through this, and you don’t have to let arguing define you.
2. Remember that nobody “wins” their divorce.
We are conditioned in our culture to approach divorce as an “us vs. them” situation. When you are forced to make business decisions during such an emotional time, you may act out of spite and try to “get back” at your spouse. While this tactic may make you feel better for five minutes, keep in mind that fighting for revenge will cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, inflict additional stress on you , and possibly prolong your divorce. You may get the upper hand from a litigation standpoint–but at what cost to you, your emotional health, and your chance to move on with your life?
3. Ask yourself: Am I fighting over something I need to survive?
Answering this question truthfully gives you a better understanding of what you feel is non-negotiable when choosing which battles to fight. Everyone’s situation is different, and only you can decide what truly worth the time, money, and emotional energy to battle over. These factors may include alimony, savings, child support, fair division of debt, temporary spousal support, and protection orders if there is any type of endangerment. While it’s important to advocate for yourself and your future, remember that not everything during a divorce is something you need to survive.
4. What do I need to ensure my security and well-being?
Think of this question as the bottom section of Maslowe’s Hierarchy of Needs. The foundation of the pyramid represents survival–the same things that you need to advocate for during your split (alimony if you have not worked outside the home in a while, child support if you still have children at home, health insurance, etc). While ensuring you have access to these assets will help you in the future, you must remember that not everything falls into this category, and it those things out of this category that may be negotiable, i.e. furniture. The rule of thumb bere is to advocate for the things you and your dependents really need, not the things you think you are owed.
5. How will I prioritize the “nice to haves” vs. the “must-haves”?
Divorces can drag out when a couple fights over things that have nothing to do with money. Legal battles have gone on as couples fight for possession of the things that hold sentimental value to both of them. Although it wouldn’t leave you destitute to lose these things, you would feel deeply wounded, since they remind you of happier times. We may also make special demands as a way of exercising control.
This behavior is natural–because we are human and have emotions and and desires. But the key is to understand why we truly want these things, so we can prioritize and determine where to best spend our time and energy.
6. Why am I being stubborn about this?
The things you think you deserve are often based on emotion—many times, they are matters of the heart.
Two competent parents may fight over custody for months, because they both feel more entitled to the children than the other partner. One spouse may drag their feet, insisting they always get the children for Christmas, not necessarily because the other parent is incompetent, but because they are resentful of the divorce and somehow feel that they “deserve” this due to “what the spouse has put them through.”
If you find yourself trying to justify what you’re asking for because you think it is owed to you, pause and try to think objectively: are you fighting for something because you really need it, or are you fighting over it because your feelings are hurt?
7. Am I fighting just because I’m angry and hurt?
Anger may cause you to project bitter feelings at our spouse in the only way you can—by “getting back” at them. If you may find yourself in the lawyer’s office soliciting advice on how to “make the ex pay” for the hurt they have caused, remember this: although you cannot control how your spouse acts during the divorce, you can control how you react. Remember, the smoother the divorce goes, the faster the healing process can begin.
8. Am I fighting because I’m scared of the future?
One reason divorce is so tough is because it uproots what you thought was normal and does away with any sense of control you thought you had–over your life, your marriage, and your identity. When you’re trying to process those emotions and you’re grieving the loss of your marriage, you may displace that lack of control and fight harder for things you think you still have control over. It’s normal to be afraid because you do not know the future. You fear venturing into the unknown. When you acknowledge that certain demands stem from fear, you can begin to face them head on.
9. How will what I fight for impact my future?
Choosing your battles wisely does not mean that you roll over and It is not to say that you do not advocate for yourself, and allow yourself to be taken for a ride and left for nothing. But before you begin a legal, emotional, and financial “Battle Royale”, consider what is really worth your time and energy to fight over.
If you are drained and broke after battling it out, how can you start the new chapter in your life? You must balance advocating for yourself while fighting the urge to maintain an illusion of control that no longer exists.
Your lawyer may want you to fight for everything. Your friends and family may say the same. Your spouse may be acting unreasonably. Outside forces make it very hard to figure out what we should be asking and negotiating for during a divorce. But at the end of the day, it’s your decision what’s worth fighting for, and what’s worth letting go.
The key is to be honest with yourself, kind to yourself, and mindful of the new chapter in your life that you can look forward to once this difficult journey ends. Let those points guide you in spending your time, money, and emotional energy.