Experts in the Media

Lisanne Iriks – Body+Soul

Family Conflict & Mediation Expert

Facing a divorce this year? Here’s what you need to know

Support is vital.

While going through a divorce is undoubtedly painful for both parties, some strategies can make it slightly more bearable, says conflict and mediation expert, Lisanne Iriks.

For many couples the start of a new year doesn’t just herald a fresh start in terms of the calendar – it also signals the end of the road for their relationship.

January is often referred to as ‘divorce month’ because so many people decide they want out at the start of the year. It’s about making positive changes for the year ahead and leaving a relationship that isn’t right for you.

If you’ve made the hard decision this year to get a divorce, it can often feel like information overload because there’s a lot to digest in the early stages. Emotions run high, whether they come in the form of grief or relief and your feelings can change on any given day.

The first stages of divorce are often a rollercoaster of emotions. Telling your children, extended family, and friend groups can be difficult as everyone will have opinions and some people may question your decision. Plus there are many practical things that need to be done now you’ve decided your relationship is over.

Here are some tips to help your divorce go smoothly, so you don’t end up in big arguments and the family court with your ex.

Get support

This is an important first step, see a counsellor to help you process what’s happening. A good counsellor or psychologist can help you work through your divorce, make better decisions and help you remain emotionally available to your children.

Work out who to trust

Friendship support is also really important in the early stages, but unfortunately, you will lose friends during a divorce. Some of them will align with your partner and some of them with you. Work out who you can trust and who to share intimate details of the divorce with, including your feelings towards your ex-partner.

You don’t want that information to get back to your ex-partner as it could cause conflict and affect co-parenting agreements in the future.

Make interim agreements

Without agreements, there is no clarity and more chance of conflict occurring. Long-term negotiating is exhausting, and having no plan in place is unsettling. Ideally, make a short-term arrangement that you both agree on about your children and your finances.

Commit to it for three to six months to avoid feeling so overwhelmed. When you’ve made interim agreements, then you can have some space from each other and work out long-term arrangements. It’s important to see what works for you as a family.

Remember you’re on the same team

Most parents want their children to get through the separation in the best way possible. Keep focus on that and don’t start working against each other or saying bad things about each other to the children. That only makes kids suffer more. You can vent about your ex with your friends, but do it when the kids are not around.

Trust that you will be OK

In my mediation practice, I see that most people find their groove again after about 12 months. Things settle down, and the emotion, hurt, and anger are not so raw anymore, arrangements are in place and everyone is a lot more settled. Trust that you and your family will get through this and give yourself the grace to take one step at a time.