As divorce lawyers we work with people from all walks of life and all family situations who have reached a point where they realize they must divorce. There are many different problems that may bring someone to the realization that they need a divorce, but one thing most have in common is fear or doubt about the future beyond their separation. Dealing with this fear is an important part of moving through a divorce.
I encourage family law clients to “think past” the fear. What this means is mentally playing out all the “what if” scenarios, and deciding now how you will deal with and survive those situations if they arise. This exercise will naturally lead you to understand which fears may be very unlikely or irrational, and which fears are mere possibilities that you can plan for and overcome. Here is how to do it:
List Your Divorce Fears
Take fifteen minutes, in total silence and without distractions, to brainstorm about every worry, concern, or fear you have about the divorce and write them all down in list form. A journal is perfect for this. Do not leave anything out. The important part is searching yourself to be sure you’ve uncovered all of your true worries and put them in the list. Take your time doing this. Some people find that this process exposes some specific worries that they’ve had ‘in the back of their minds’ but have not really ever acknowledged.
Some common fears people have about divorce:
- I will have to start over
- I can’t take the financial pressure
- My friends will judge me or see me as a failure
- I won’t be able to afford the divorce
- My kids won’t adjust well, or I won’t get to see them enough
- My family will judge me
Admit That Even If Your Worst Fear Comes True, You Will Survive It
For each fear you listed, write a plan for what you will do to help prevent it from coming true, and to deal with it if it does. It is natural to think of your fears as insurmountable–to believe that if they come true, life will be unbearable. In reality, when we face challenges in our lives, we usually discover ways to overcome them and minimize the impact as we work through it. It isn’t pleasant, but when we’re past that particular challenge we often look back and see that it wasn’t as bad as the absolute worst case scenario we envisioned.
Some example plans for dealing with fear of divorce:
My family will judge me: I will openly ask for help and be vulnerable with family I know will support me, but I will set strong boundaries with family who make me feel worse about the situation. I will seek help from professionals and people who have been through this.
My kids won’t adjust: I will seek a divorce lawyer with extensive child custody experience, who will counsel and negotiate to help come to a positive child custody and visitation arrangement with my spouse. I am dedicated to peaceful co-parenting and I will keep a flexible mindset and leave the issues between the adults out of the equation.
I can’t afford it: I will keep my costs down by using an experienced family lawyer who won’t have to waste time learning on my dime. I will accept that getting this done right is worth my investment of resources, and will temporarily take on extra work, sell something, or get a loan. I will eliminate cable tv and see if I can save money on my phone plan or other household expenses.
In Family Law, Action Beats Inaction Every Time
When you play out each fear, you take away the power it has over you. You address these concerns, while realizing that no matter what comes your way, you will survive and emerge from this stronger than before. The only wrong choice is doing nothing at all. Decide that you will be proactive about your family situation, and you’ll soon see that the fear wasn’t as bad as you had imagined.