Two years ago my wife and I went through a lengthy custody battle and, at times, I thought I was losing my mind. Feeling like I was living life under a microscope coupled with fights with my ex and serious financial strain really took a toll on my emotional well-being.
I managed to make it through my divorce without completely losing it, and through the process I learned some valuable lessons. If you’re on the precipice of an extended custody dispute, here are some ways you can keep your sanity intact.
Protect Your Children
If you think you’re struggling with the divorce, just imagine what your kids are going through. Your number one job as a parent is to protect your children from harm, be it physical or emotional. Divorce causes great emotional tumult in their children, and parents can add to this without meaning to. Here are a few ways to minimize your children’s stress:
• Give your children constant reassurance that they are loved and supported by both of their parents.
• Remain on the best terms possible with your ex.
• Under no circumstances should you argue with your ex in front of your kids. Keep arguments in a neutral place, out of your children’s range of hearing.
• Do not make derogatory comments about your ex within your child’s earshot. This should be a no-brainer, but just to be clear: It is crucial that you NEVER make such comments • directly to your child.
Your children’s well-being is the most important thing to remember. By turning divorce proceedings into a cooperative effort, your kids will come out of the process with their self-esteem and health intact.If it’s possible, try a joint custody arrangement where your child will continue to have the love and support of both parents on a steady basis.
Take the High Road
Unfortunately, not all custody battles are cooperative efforts where both parents focus on the safety and security of their kids. Sometimes, things get ugly.
When it seems like everything is going wrong, from court decisions to your ex’s behavior, it’s important to keep your cool. By staying calm and focusing on the facts you are more likely to achieve success in court. If you lose your temper, you risk losing your case
Even if your ex isbehaving inappropriately, make sure that your conduct is above board at all times. Maturity is key! Through every parenting situation and interaction with your ex, act as if the judge is looking over your shoulder. Being the type of parent the courts want to see will keep your former spouse from being able to sling mud during hearings.
Create a Support System
When struggling with a child custody battle, it’s easy to feel isolated. I can’t stress how important it is to build a great support system. Friends and family were my first choice, but later in the process I found help in the form of counseling. Obtaining counseling services for both you and your children will benefit everyone’s emotional health in the long run. If you’d rather not talk to a psychiatrist, consider a local support group.
When you’re looking for people to lean on, be wary of starting a new romantic relationship. No matter how long your previous relationship has been over, introducing a new love interest might turn an amicable agreement sour, and it will turn an already bad situation into something much worse.
As for your children, they may become jealous and even if they might havewillinglytaken to your new love interest under better conditions, they may permanentlyreject your new partner if you begin a relationship in a time of such emotional upheaval.
Furthermore, starting a relationship at this time could be viewed negatively by the courts. It could evenhave an impact on child custody and visitation.
Watch Your Finances Closely
The courts will often look at your finances to see if they are stable enough to sufficiently support your children. It is imperative that you have steady employment with an income high enough to cover your children’s needs as well as your own.
That being said, divorce can be an expensive process. Here are some ways to protect and save your money during a divorce:
• The first step in the divorce process is to obtain a lawyer. If you can’t afford to retain a lawyer immediately, consider using a legal service to receive affordable legal advice until you have enough money to hire a divorce attorney.
• If you’re expecting a hostile divorce, start pinpointingwhat financial resources you have at your disposal. Consider savings accounts, stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, borrowing against your retirement fund, getting a second mortgage and borrowing money from friends or family members.
• Close any joint bank and credit card accounts and open new accounts in your own name.
• Make sure all closed accounts are fully paid off. You can transfer balances to your new account and pay them off if need be.
• Obtain a copy of your credit report.
Extend an Olive Branch
After all is said and done, your ex is still your children’s parent. You will have direct contact for the foreseeable future, so it’s a good idea to attempt to make peace. By working together, you can make a joint custody situation much easier on both yourselves and your children.
Divorce is easily one of the most emotionally draining events a person can experience in life, especially when children are involved. There’s no way to eliminate the stress of a custody battle completely, but by keeping these tips in mind, you can make the process slightly easier to manage.
What helped you get through your divorce and custody hearings? Let me know in the comments!
Thomas King is a divorced father of two from Seattle, WA. When he’s not involved in full-fledged tea parties with his daughters, he enjoys competitive running, hunting for antiques books and eating more bacon than is probably healthy.d