Preserving Family

New York, May 13, 2011

By Dana Greco, LCSW and Don Desroches  

When marriages end there is loss, sadness and devastation in trying to gather the pieces and rebuild your life and your children’s lives. Making it harder than it has to be is unnecessary and only prolongs the pain and agony of the inevitable process known as Divorce.The word itself sounds painful.

If hiring divorce attorneys seems to be the only way out then, family counselors and divorce mediators want you to bear in mind the following safety tips that will hopefully prevent you and your family from scars that result in bitterness and resentment, ultimately hindering the ability to move on toward a future that may have many gains including a new relationship with your children, a new love relationship and believe it or not, a civil and amicable relationship with your ex-spouse,

Keeping a journal of your ex-spouse’s behavior during the divorce helps you to strategize with your lawyer or show a pattern of behavior to the court. With mediation there are no lawyers and no journals to keep since you are both working toward a common ground which is preservation of the children and their well-being along with fairness over equitable distribution.  Seek the help of a mental-health professional if you’re dealing with feelings of depression, worthlessness or extreme anger. Although these feelings are normal, they can consume you if you don’t have support. Signs that the divorce is taking a toll can show up in sleeplessness, alcohol consumption, blaming or ridiculing others because of displaced anger.

Take care of your body by eating nutritious meals and exercising.  When you are emotionally overwrought, it is easy to let such things go. However, it will be 10 times harder to deal with the strain of a bad divorce if you neglect your health. Go back to the days when you were single and re-invent yourself with old interests or new hobbies. The more you stay active the more alert you will be and the more interested you will be, in others as they will be in you.

Seek temporary visitation/custody arrangements at the very beginning of your divorce. Though some couples can make these arrangements between themselves, this sort of cooperation is rare during a bad divorce. Making these arrangements right away can stop your spouse from denying you access to your children later. Arrange to exchange your children in a neutral, public place. This may help you to avoid uncomfortable scenes during exchanges. It can also provide you with witnesses if your spouse becomes violent.

Stay neutral when you talk to your children about the divorce, unless you need to provide details for their safety. If you try to turn your children against your spouse, you may harm your children emotionally. Plus, your spouse may use this behavior against you in court. There is never a good reason to bad mouth your child’s parent, remember they have a different and separate relationship with them than you do. Identify, list and photograph family heirlooms and community property, such as furniture, electronics, photo albums and china, as soon as you think a divorce may be on the horizon. Bitter spouses often remove such things from the family home during divorce and then claim they never existed. This way, you will have proof and some hope of fairness when you split assets later.

Get an official account balance for each joint account you share with your spouse. Get it in writing and store a copy in a safe place away from home, giving another copy to your lawyer. Bitter spouses are notorious for draining bank accounts and refusing to share the money. Gather official documents, titles, deeds and records and put them in a safe place, such as a safe-deposit box. Give copies to your lawyer. Open your own bank account and begin depositing funds that are legally yours into it. Close jointly held credit cards. Your spouse could go on a spending spree, and you would be partially responsible for paying for it.

Ask your lawyer whether you can legally close your joint bank accounts and give your spouse half of the money, or put the entire amount in a different account for splitting later. The legalities of this will depend on the laws in your state.   Protect yourself and never underestimate the likelihood of what once was a loving affectionate relationship can become an ugly bitter end.

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