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I was barely out of college when I got married. I never imagined I’d get divorced, but after a decade together, things just didn’t work out. As is the case with many separations, we split for a host of reasons.
Almost eight years after our divorce, we’ve got this shared custody thing down pat (most of the time), and I realize that I’m blessed. It took a lot of hard work and patience to get to this point. While a lawyer will advise you about your rights when it comes to child custody and support, here are my tips for surviving the divorce.
Get a Grip on Your Finances.
Looking back, I wish I’d listened to the advice of so many wise women who told me I should always keep my own bank account, but I didn’t. I was happy to let my husband handle the bills; it was one less stressor for me. But when it came time to split our assets, I was absolutely clueless about what we had. Even worse, when I tried to manage my bills post-divorce, I was a hot mess and had to get financial counseling to balance my budget.
Divorce Mediators Can Be Lifesavers.
I loved my mediator. He made the process less painful. They can meet with you (and your lawyer, if you choose) to come to compromises your lawyers might not reach on their own. And he’ll be ready with a big box of tissues when the tears start coming. Trust me, he’s used to it.
You’ll Cry A Lot.
No matter what your reasons are for splitting, and even if it was your choice, there’ll be tears and hurtful words. If you like to have a drink or two after work, or you send your kid to daycare and your ex’s flexible schedule makes him appear like the main caregiver, you can expect that to come out during the custody process. Your anger and harsh words may surprise you. Make sure to have a good friend at the ready for a shoulder to cry on.
Not Bad-mouthing Your Ex Is Key.
I might have thoughts about my ex, but I make sure not to say anything negative to my daughter about her father. She loves her dad, and even if you have sole custody, imposing your feelings onto her relationship with her other parent isn’t fair to anyone. I’ve seen too many kids traumatized because their parents couldn’t be civil. This isn’t to say that my ex and I magically get along all the time. We have our disagreements now and then, but we keep our kid out of them.
You’ll Lose Friends (Sometimes Good Ones).
I knew my divorce wouldn’t be easy, and we felt it was important not to make our friends “pick sides.” But in some cases they did and it was surprising. If I can see my ex four times a week and have a social exchange, then someone shouldn’t stare daggers at me when they see me at parties or family functions. That being said, I realized what made a good friend and found a tribe of people post-split that support me no matter what.
Get Ready for Awkward Encounters.
You may say you never want to see your ex again, but you still have to suck it up for hand-offs with the kids. It’s awkward at the beginning, and becomes even more so when you meet his new wife. Even if you’re over him, it’s definitely a hard thing to swallow to know some other person is mothering your child when you aren’t around. Thankfully, I really like my ex-husband’s wife, and we pleasantly chat and co-plan birthdays and Girl Scout activities. But those first few years were definitely a little weird as we all adjusted to our new normal.
Dating Has Changed…A Lot.
When I got married in the ’90s, Internet dating wasn’t a thing. If you’ve been in your marriage a while, you’ll find that sites like Bumble, Tinder and OKCupid are…interesting. My advice: Find a single friend to help you navigate those tricky waters.
Oh, and One Last Tip:
If you’re planning on going back to your maiden name, do it when you sign the divorce papers in front of the judge. I wasn’t going to bother as I’d been writing as Angel Cohn for years, but I eventually changed it because teachers at my kid’s school kept getting my ex’s new wife and I confused. If you’re on the fence and wait, know it’s costly and time-consuming.
Angel Madison is the managing editor of New Jersey Family and the mother of a 12 year old.