While every situation is unique, the fact remains that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about a separation or divorce. There are a number of things that you and your spouse can and should do to make the process go as smoothly as possible.
Unfortunately, during our many years as divorce mediators, we have encountered many couples that were, whether intentionally or unintentionally, committing common mistakes that actually hindered the separation and divorce process.
If you are planning to leave your spouse, here are seven common mistakes to avoid:
Mistake #1: Failing to produce accurate financial information
Like it or not, finances play a big role in separation and divorce.
In order for things to go as smoothly as possible, it's critical that both of you are honest and produce accurate information, such as the amount of marital debt and assets you have as well as realistic budgets that represent your marital lifestyle and projected future expenses.
Mistake #2: Letting emotions take over
Let's face it: Divorce is an emotional roller coaster, and it's perfectly normal to experience feelings that run the gamut, from anger and resentment to sadness and grief.
But in order to come together and reach an amicable agreement, it's important that you do whatever you can to keep emotion out of your negotiations. A counselor or coach can help you process your feelings constructively so you can gain the clarity you need to make smart decisions during the proceedings.
Mistake #3: Not considering your kids
Separation and divorce can be complicated, but add children into the mix and you've got a whole new set of circumstances to consider. Many divorcing couples lose sight of the big picture and their children suffer as a result.
When your children's needs and best interests are put first, everyone will be better off in the long run.
Mistake #4: Focusing on the past
Simply put, you cannot move forward until you effectively let go of the past. In many cases, this is easier said than done, especially if you have a reluctant spouse. When one or both spouses are focused on things that have already taken place, it's difficult to shift that focus to what the future holds.
Counseling or coaching can help you create a vision for the future and develop a plan to achieve it.
Mistake #5: Forgetting about taxes
Chances are, whatever decisions you make during your separation or divorce will have tax implications. Some couples forget the impact the IRS can have on things like the transfer of money, investments and property.
That's why it's critical to work with a professional who has expertise in the financial matters of divorce.
Mistake #6: Refusing to compromise
Some couples going through separation or divorce become locked in a "my way or the highway" mentality, which only results in further conflict and added frustration.
In order to reach an agreement that you can both be comfortable with, both of you must be willing to compromise. This is the only way to reach a solid, productive middle ground and it's especially important when children are involved.
And the most common mistake made in separation or divorce?
Mistake #7: Not taking the time to learn your options before beginning the process
Many couples don't know that they can reach an agreement without having to go through a long, drawn out court case.
There are actually five different ways to get a divorce so if you take the time up front to learn about each of them, you'll be able to choose a more peaceful option that is better for you and your children.
Navigating through the separation or divorce process can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be a disaster. By avoiding these common mistakes, you and your spouse can be better equipped to put your children first and move forward as peacefully as possible.