Some of us have already trekked through, or are currently sludging through, the stress-filled streets of a divorce or custody fight. If you’ve been there, you know. The sheer volume of information necessary for property division alone can be overwhelming. The intensity of the hurt and anger from the breakdown of the marriage can feel unbearable. And the deep fears involving custody can overtake us. Luckily for us, TLC provides a catchy chorus of family law advice. Here are five ways to avoid stress during a divorce or custody fight, brought to you by TLC’s song “Waterfalls.”
- “Don’t” – I have said it before, and I will continue to say it: just don’t. The other person involved in your case may know exactly how to push your buttons. Or, that person’s apathy may push you to the brink of sanity. DO NOT ENGAGE. Do I make this point every single time I write a blog? Yes. Is there a reason? Yes. This is by far the greatest mistake any client or opposing party can make during a divorce or custody battle. Every text and email you send could be an exhibit that could come back and bite you later. Just “don’t”.
- “Don’t go chasing” – As I said above, the paperwork in a divorce case can be mountainous. Oftentimes, the other side will send you hundreds of questions and requests for documents. According to the rules of civil procedure, only documents within your possession, control, or custody are to be provided. What does this mean for you? If you have the actual papers in your home or workplace, or they are readily accessible on a website or app, you need to get the papers and provide them to your attorney. You do not have to go chasing documents from your bank, your pension provider, your employer, or your investment provider. Is it easier for your attorney to know those numbers and have that information? Sure. But if the process becomes overwhelming, limit yourself to what you can actually provide and leave the rest to your attorney or the other side. You do not need to chase.
- “Don’t go chasing waterfalls” – when you are reaching resolution with the other side (whether with attorneys or without), try to reach agreements on the smaller issues first. If you and the other party disagree entirely on what the parenting time plan will look like, try to tackle smaller issues like agreeing on doctors, dentists, and schooling. Read through the South Dakota Parenting Guidelines (https://sdlegislature.gov/Statutes/Codified_Laws/2078815) together and try to agree on holidays, since a holiday schedule will likely look the same regardless of the actual parenting time plan. Take on smaller issues first. See how it feels to co-parent or agree with that person. Then, take that momentum and feeling into the larger issues. Don’t go chasing waterfalls.
- “Please stick to the . . . lakes” – waterfalls are beautiful and majestic and powerful. But when you are already reeling from the emotions of a divorce or custody battle, beautiful and majestic and powerful things can be overwhelming. Instead, you need a calm presence around you, not one that threatens to overtake you. Counseling and certain therapy groups are perfect to provide serenity in the midst of a storm. Please do not be afraid to seek out counseling. Speak to someone who will care for your emotions and provide a safe environment. Perhaps you should seek out a trusted friend who will listen and hear. You need a “lake” during this time – there’s no shame in the therapy game.
- “Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to” – familiarity feels safe. When a spouse of many years is no longer a constant in your life, you should continue with the other constants in your life. If you regularly attended church before your divorce, keep going. If you enjoyed working out before the custody battle arose, make your gym trips a priority. If you had weekly coffee dates with your best friend before everything blew up, do not stop meeting with that person. Your world will feel like it is shaking during the battle. It helps to have familiar landmarks to remind you of where you are and who you are. Please, as much as you can, stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.
Divorce and custody issues will be stressful. This great 90s throwback could be just what you need. When you feel your blood starting to boil, close out of your text messages and your email; and let T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli soothe your soul.