With attorneys charging upwards of $300 or $400 per hour, financial advisors charging thousands, and any other professionals needed adding to the long list of bills, divorce can get very expensive very quickly. I don't know anyone who likes to spend their hard-earned money on a divorce. Yet, according to Forbeshttp://www.forbes.com/2006/11/07/divorce-costs-legal-biz-cx_lh_1107legaldivorce.html, the average amount of a contested divorce is $15,000 to $30,000.
I often hear people say they want to do mediation to save money, or they want to do a "kitchen-table" (DIY) divorce, or that they won't spend much on their divorce because they weren't married long or they have no assets.
What most people don't realize is that -- while how you divorce or what there is to split may play a part in the cost -- the number one way for you and your spouse to save money in a divorce is to deal effectively with the emotional aspects of the split.
It is anger that racks up the bills, fighting over who should keep the silver service. It is jealousy or a sense of injustice that create custody battles, and it is vengeance that makes a person want to "make their ex pay" for what they've done. These emotions drag cases on for years.
Here are some tips that I recommend to people who are willing and able to change the role emotions play in their dissolution in order to truly spend less money.
Top Seven Tips for Emotional Management During Divorce
1. Watch the stories you are making up that are making you feel worse about yourself or your situation. Common examples include, "I'm going to be a bag lady on the street," or, "No one will ever love me like she did." Stories are like gasoline on a fire and nine times out of 10, the fear that made you furious never comes to fruition.
2. Understand that how you start the process matters because it sets the tone for the entire process. If you have your spouse served papers at work in front of all their co-workers, for example, you are likely to create a tone of vengeance. Even if you want to do this for revenge, I promise you, a) it won't bring the delight you hope it will and, b) it will cost you three times as much to get divorced.
3. You need to manage, not control, your emotions. To control emotions is to try to push them away completely and to not feel them. To manage emotions is to push them aside temporarily and feel them later when you're more at liberty to really feel them. You do want to manage your emotions. You don't want to control them.
4. Don't fall apart in the courtroom or in your attorney's office if you can help it. When you are in business negotiations, keep your emotions outside the door. This is one time when compartmentalizing emotions is good.
5. Get rid of unsupportive people in your life. Whether they are unsupportive of your divorce or just plain unsupportive, it doesn't matter. Let them go. If only temporarily. When you are in the middle of such a major family structure change, you'll want and need all the support you can get.
6. Seek group support. I personally like groups run by therapists who are knowledgeable and qualified to help you get through the emotional turmoil of divorce and perhaps also help you understand your relationship patterns (so you don't repeat them). There are other types of groups such as didactic-oriented groups and social "MeetUp" groups as well that can be helpful.
7. Get adequate and appropriate Resources, Information and Supportive Environment (RISE). These four elements are key in how well and how quickly you move through your divorce grief.
Additionally, you will add layers of pain if you are very hard on yourself by using self-talk such as "I should have known," or "Why aren't I over this by now?" Divorce takes a long time to get through because it is a major life transition. It may take years to get back to feeling a sense of normalcy again -- especially if you didn't want the divorce.
But time does and will heal if you reach out and get the support you need. If you try to do this alone, you will likely prolong your suffering.
If there is no support in your local community, or if you are a mental health provider who would like to get some support in place, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will see what I can do to help you find what you need.
© Susan Pease Gadoua/Transition Institute of Marin ~ 2012