Can You Be Nice In Divorce?
We all know the best way to learn a lesson is through personal experience. Let me offer up my own that you may learn from.
When I found out my husband of 16 years was having an affair, I thought my arms and legs had been torn from my body and rammed down my esophagus where they settled in my chest creating the pain that I was sure would never go away. (Thankfully, it did) Despite this reeling emotional betrayal, when the time came to file for divorce, I was determined to complete the process with honor and respect. I wanted the process to be as pleasant as possible because we still needed to come out on the other side as a family with children. I was even able to see the role that I played in how we grew apart over the years, so this was going to be a nice divorce.
He was consumed with guilt over the affair and had not yet really let go of our marriage and was proposing ridiculous things like “gee, you should get a house right next door to me so we can still feel like a family!” Yeah, right. I’ll just come over and make cookies with your mistress. NOT! Still, he was being cooperative. So was I, so we decided that we would do a Do-It-Yourself divorce. Since we agreed on everything, I would put together the paperwork and file a consent decree. It sounded simple, respectful. This could work! Sigh… I was so ignorant and naive.
I did put together a basic decree with the help of the Arizona Superior Court Self-Service website, but it was a decree that didn’t really have any firm rules in it. That was mistake number one. We committed to “work together for the best for the kids”. But what does that mean? Did we even agree on what was best for the kids?
We had 2 investment properties and our family home. He kept the home and one rental, and I took the other rental. We amicably agreed that we would both refinance our respective properties before the end of the year. By the way, that was spring of 2007. I refinanced mine, he didn’t. The housing market collapses, he ultimately lets BOTH properties fall into foreclosure trashing my credit and there was not one single thing I could do about it because there was nothing in the decree stating the agreement. This was mistake number two. But, we were amicable, we both agreed, so no problem!
About 4 weeks after the divorce was final, things took a turn. His guilt morphed into anger, as guilt often does, and the amicable period was officially over. So now the overriding emotion is anger, and he starts dictating when I can and can’t see my children. He demands that they switch schools to be closer to him so he doesn’t have to drive. I now realize the huge error I made in not having a divorce decree that I can use to enforce our amicable agreements. So – back to court!!
$5,000 later and pages and pages of angry, venomous emails to me, I finally had a court-ordered parenting plan that was enforceable. But it didn’t help at all with the properties. All I could do was force him to sell once they were worth the appraised value. Gosh that shouldn’t take long at all! Sigh…. He stopped paying on them the following month.
For crying out loud, I’m a financial advisor! How did I let this happen? Simple. I was trying to be NICE!! This is one of the biggest mistakes that women will make in their divorces. You have ONE CHANCE to do it right!! So now I am a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® and I help others avoid similar mistakes. Can you be nice? Yes, but, don’t go it alone. Help is here. Even if you two work out a ‘nice’ settlement, let a CDFA® help you carve out some enforceable parameters around that settlement that can then be translated into a solid and amicable divorce decree.
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