Most people who face divorce do not realize that some of their most important work will need to be done after the divorce. This misperception is easy to understand. The divorce experience can be so overwhelming for clients that almost all of the energy and resources are expended on “getting done.” Then, when the divorce is finally finished, and their new lives begin, they find out that the real journey is just beginning.
Divorce ends with a divorce decree; a document outlining parenting and financial parameters that create, at best, a blue print for addressing future issues. The people who achieve the highest degree of success in their future lives are those that take advantage of this post-divorce opportunity to build the new life that they deserve.
Success in the next stage of life so often depends on being able to manage the issues beyond the divorce, particularly in the area of parenting, communication and financial management. Let’s look at each of these issues separately.
Parenting and Communication
Couples that have minor children generally end their divorce with some type of custody agreement or parenting plan. The parenting plan will often provide details about their future parenting, including basic schedules, holiday schedules and methods of making important decisions. While having a clear and specific parenting plan that addresses the needs of the children, the best parenting plan is merely a beginning, an outline for a better future that is likely to be revised over time.
The strength of the parenting plan will often lie in the parents’ capacity to implement and adapt the plan for many years. Often, at the time of the divorce, the parents may not have had much of an opportunity to actually co-parent in separate homes. Consequently, the real challenges sometimes arrive months later when they no longer have a team of professionals in place to help them.
Families are more likely to be successful after the divorce if they can develop an
“aftercare plan” that gives them the support they need during the crucial months and years following the divorce. This is another area where therapists and attorney can work together to help the families get the best possible outcome. The therapists for the parents and/or the children can be an integral part of the aftercare plan and the attorneys, working in conjunction with the therapists, can incorporate the aftercare plan in the final documents and can help guide clients in following through on the long-term implementation.
Clients often need post-divorce help on the financial matters as well. In many cases, clients spend a tremendous amount of money determining just how much they will have in their post-divorce life, (often getting a fairly predictable result).
At the same time, very little is spent helping clients manage their resources after the divorce. While much of the post-divorce financial work can be done through financial experts, there is usually a very emotional aspect of the financial life as well, and many therapists are drawn into these discussions. Therefore, interaction between the divorce attorney and the therapist might be helpful in the post-divorce financial planning as well.
During divorce, individuals and families make some of the most important decisions in their lives at a time when they feel the least equipped to address them. Wise and resourceful clients will seek out good professional help in addressing their emotional, legal and financial issues. For the most part, the professionals working in these areas have operated on separate islands, preventing clients from getting the benefit of having a fully integrated plan for their future. The focus of these blogs is to invite a dialogue about how we can all do a better job serving the needs of our clients by communicating across professional lines and by truly teaming up on behalf of divorcing families.