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How To Get Equal With Your Ex (And Survive)

There’s a right way and a wrong way to divorce, to make sure you get through it with dignity – and your fair share of the family assets, says Bridgette Jackson, who coaches people through their divorce.

17 October 2021

Autumn 21

To separate, divorce or uncouple is a time-consuming, fraught time. No one really wants to go through it.

People feel a range of emotions, from fear of being alone and feeling unattractive, to anger, shame, and embarrassment.

I see a wide range of emotions from both men and women and all these are natural and real feelings.

You could leap straight into a divorce and hope for the best, but there is a better way to do it – if you prepare for and plan the process.

There are no winners

Who comes out worse from a divorce? You may be surprised to know that both sexes are affected equally, but for different reasons.

That’s because money isn’t the only measure. There’s also the state of mind of each partner.

As you might guess, women tend to be the losers financially. But, after divorce, I find that women are typically happier than their exes.

Studies show that although men experience an increase in financial wellbeing following divorce, divorced women experience less depression.

How to protect yourself

If you’re with a partner now and you want to protect yourself from divorce, both men and women have the same issues to contend with, just from different positions.

I would say that it all depends on who’s been the main breadwinner and who’s been the caregiver.

Many women don’t manage household finances. That means their first step is to find out what they and their spouse own and owe, along with their spouse’s salary.

This will have a bearing on child support and ‘spousal maintenance’, which is a legal term for continuing financial support of a partner.

For both parties, it’s important to consider the following ahead of time to protect from divorce:

Be financially organised – set up individual bank accounts in your own name.

Protect your privacy by changing all your passwords to financial accounts and social media.

If you have children, think about custody, and how you want to build an amicable co-parenting relationship with your ex.

Move, eat well, and get enough sleep. Looking after yourself is essential because divorce is emotionally taxing.

Revise your current will or get a lawyer to draw up a will that reflects your new relationship status.

Build a support network of people who can help you through the process quickly, cost-effectively, with a positive outcome.

Lawyers do a fantastic job advising you from a legal perspective, but you may find it’s useful to use a separation strategist or divorce coach who can guide you through the process.

Positive story

For most people, divorce is scary, overwhelming, uncertain, and confusing, but by taking positive steps, you can navigate the divorce in a way that supports and empowers you.

Remember this is your story and no one else’s.

You will have a new life after divorce, so it’s your responsibility to take control of the process. When you feel empowered, it will inevitably lead to a more favourable outcome.

Divorce is a business transaction

At some point, you have to move away from the story, to the ‘business’ of divorce. This is about money and assets.

If you can control your emotions, in my experience, it will lead to a healthier and more positive separation process.

Set your goals and intentions before and post-divorce.

In my experience, people of both sexes holding on to negative emotions like anger and resentment will potentially lead to a legal battle that will waste money, energy and cause a heavy emotional toll.

Lasting agreements

Are you at an early stage of a relationship and worried about a possible split later?

People often ask me how to protect themselves at this earlier stage of the process and ask whether contracting out agreements do the job.

Aaron Nicholls from Nicholls Law says: “The short answer is, ‘yes’. The longer answer is much longer, but ultimately also, ‘yes’.”

‘Contracting out agreements’, sometimes called pre-nups or Section 21 Agreements, allow the partners in a relationship to negotiate themselves how assets will be divided, he says.

“They set an intention and resolve any disagreements that come from dividing up assets,” says Nicholls. “Partners are encouraged to discuss and agree on the division of assets themselves.

“However, couples usually need expert legal advice – and in some cases accounting advice – to ensure that the final agreement is effective and lasting.”

What about the kids?

Remember you are divorcing your ex-spouse – not your children. So, how do you approach the situation to protect children from lasting damage?

What your children should know:

  • What the plan is for them.
  • When the divorce is final.
  • How to reach both parents at all times.
  • If there is a plan for either parent to remarry.
  • If a parent has an addiction or a mental health disorder.

What your children should not know:

  • If a parent has been unfaithful.
  • Anything about the court filings and proceedings, unless there has been a decision that has a direct impact on them.
  • The financial details.
  • Negative things one parent feels about the other.

What children usually know:

  • That there has been an affair.
  • That the divorce was coming.
  • That one parent has an addiction or mental health disorder.
  • That their parents don’t like each other.

What your children will be worrying about:

  • Missing the other parent.
  • What will happen to them.
  • Parents fighting or arguing.
  • Not having a family.
  • That it’s all their fault.
  • Transitions.
  • Not having enough time with either parent.
  • How major events will be shared with both parents.
  • Managing their friends and activities.

Warning signs

There are several telltale signs that you may need to pick up the phone and make an appointment with a counsellor or therapist.

  • Your family and friends are over listening to your issues.
  • People have commented to you that you don’t seem yourself and wonder what is going on in your life.
  • The issues confronting you are causing significant distress and upset in your life.
  • This is a biggie – you start abusing alcohol, drugs, sex, food (or lack of), gambling, spending money or abusing someone, to ease feelings of despair and overwhelm.

If you’re seeing one or more of these signs, it’s wise to seek help or arrange counselling.

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