One key to a peaceful divorce is to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. A few other keys are to gather as much information as possible, cultivate an environment of respect and dignity, and work with your ex-spouse toward a shared goal, such as prioritizing the children’s best interests. Just as each marriage is different, so is each divorce. Learning how to divorce amicably is not always easy or straightforward, but if you can do it, you reap many benefits.
How to Divorce Peacefully
Figuring out how to leave a marriage peacefully might not be something you feel up to right away. That is normal, especially if the reality of divorce is still very new to you or your spouse has behaved badly. It’s also difficult to contemplate when your spouse is being combative or stubborn.
A peaceful divorce does not occur in these situations:
- One of you is signing papers just to put an end to the proceedings, despite disagreeing with the divorce terms
- Both of you remaining polite around the children and avoiding each other because you know that one misinterpreted glance or wrong word could send things awry
- You and your ex being gracious to each other in the court hallways, but not necessarily elsewhere
Rather, a peaceful divorce is one in which both spouses focus on the big picture, strive to put their children first and be good co-parents, maintain mutual respect, and approach divorce negotiations in good faith.
A peaceful divorce is all about how you decide to divorce, how you negotiate, how you put the needs of your children first, and which method to use when divorcing. Here are the top keys to this type of split:
1. Share a Common Aim With Your Ex
Identifying a common goal helps both of you stay the course of a peaceful divorce and clarify why you’re doing this. Popular goals include putting the children first and striving for emotional and financial equity.
When something happens that you are not sure about, or the actions of your ex-spouse upset you, you can ask yourself questions such as, “What type of reaction best serves the common goal?” or, “Is responding to this text right now the best thing for the common goal?”
2. Learn as Much as You Can About Everything
There is so much to know about divorce, including how to tell the children about the split and how to best use your support network. One critical key to a peaceful divorce is to learn as much as you can about everything financial, legal, emotional, mental, and physical.
It can seem overwhelming to take in all of this information. You do not have to do it all at once, and your lawyer should have your back. For example, your lawyer will tell you about the financial paperwork you need to get together (if you have not already) and about what happens at a court hearing for an uncontested divorce, along with many other nuances.
There is never a good time to bury your head in the sand and ignore everything. That goes for divorce, too.
3. Avoid Blame
Blame, no matter how much it may be deserved, gets in the way of divorcing peacefully. An amicable divorce involves resisting the temptation to point fingers and blame the other person for the end of the marriage.
The reality is this: You are getting divorced. Your focus should be on moving forward, not on blaming. Focus on the future, not the past.
4. Treat Your Soon-to-Be Ex-Spouse With Dignity and Respect
Respecting your spouse is key to a peaceful divorce, but it does not mean you have to agree with his or her decisions or choices. Rather, it entails actively listening to your spouse, not pushing for divorce terms out of the desire to punish, remaining calm even when your spouse gets heated during negotiations, and waiting to respond to triggering communications from your spouse.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Your mind and body are important. Peaceful, successful divorces require self-care, so you could consider journaling, therapy, self-affirmations, and regular get-togethers with friends.
Focus on keeping your body healthy. Don’t punish yourself for emotional eating, and give yourself plenty of leeway for rest. Do try to exercise and eat healthfully. Participate in activities that make you feel calm and balanced. Avoid people and activities that make you feel mad, hurt, or off-kilter.
6. Identify Your Financial and Personal Goals
It is hard to negotiate fairly when you do not know what you want. Take the time to set financial and personal goals. Keep in mind that divorce means you may have less income.
To set these goals, you must get a clear picture of your finances (and preferably, your spouse’s). Your divorce lawyer can tell you about good ways to get insight into your spouse’s finances.
Financially, some people prioritize keeping certain assets, getting spousal support/maintenance for at least a designated period of time, or paying off debts jointly instead of singly. Your personal goals could touch on issues such as whether you want to remain friends with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, if you want to move and where, or the values you want to emphasize when parenting your children.
When bumps occur during divorce proceedings (and they most likely will), ask yourself how your reactions might or might not serve the common goal you share with your spouse, along with your personal and financial goals.
For example, suppose your spouse is late yet again dropping off the children, and you’re tempted to yell. You could ask yourself first, “How would yelling serve the common goal of putting the children first (especially since it’ll probably be in front of the kids) and my personal goal of wanting an effective co-parenting relationship after the divorce?”
By asking these questions, you might decide to not yell and instead ask calmly the next day whether your spouse needs a different schedule or more time with the children.
7. Think Through All the Choices for Divorce
Some people view peaceful divorce as giving up or being a pushover. In some cases, it could be. Many times, it is not. A peaceful divorce has many advantages over a contested divorce. The next section explains in more detail.
Consider All the Divorce Options
Options for divorce include contested, uncontested, collaborative, and mediation. Learning about the pros and cons of each helps many people decide how to leave a marriage peacefully. For example, an uncontested divorce may start to look appealing after you learn about the costs, time, and stress of a contested divorce.
A contested divorce can be incredibly stressful and result in months or years of legal wrangling, court appearances, and trials. The parties give up power, since judges frequently make decisions about child custody, asset division, and other matters. Contested divorces can also strain co-parenting relationships and put children in the middle.
That said, a contested divorce could be a necessary choice sometimes. If your spouse is being unreasonable, is not willing to negotiate or compromise, is an unfit parent, or hides assets and debts, your best option might be a contested divorce.
What are the benefits of an uncontested divorce? An uncontested divorce is the best option in many situations. The parties have more say over their lives since they negotiate with each other about issues instead of giving that power to a judge. The proceedings tend to be much faster, too.
Uncontested divorces can still have an emotional, mental, and financial impact, but it is less so than in contested divorces. You usually can come back more easily from an uncontested divorce.
A divorce can be uncontested from the beginning, or start contested and shift to uncontested. The court system encourages divorces to be uncontested, and the parties must agree on all issues for a divorce to be uncontested.
A collaborative divorce is one form of uncontested divorce. It occurs when spouses, lawyers, and others, such as mediators, financial advisors, and counselors, sign a participation agreement to work toward resolution without litigation.
The advantages of collaborative divorce include giving more privacy and respect to both spouses and making children a priority. It is a way of formalizing the desire for an amicable, uncontested divorce.
A collaborative divorce may involve a prove-up hearing. A prove-up hearing is when the parties “prove up” (present) their marital settlement agreement, parenting plan, and other paperwork, so they can finalize the divorce. The atmosphere is much more relaxed compared with a trial environment.
Many divorcing couples need mediation to agree on some issues. A mediator is a neutral third party such as a social worker, psychologist, attorney, social worker, or marriage and family therapist. Mediation is often cost-effective and empowering. It does not involve litigation.
In uncontested divorces, the parties can choose mediation themselves. In contested divorces, they may be required to undergo mediation in hopes of shifting the contentious split to uncontested divorce territory.