I have a lot of advice on my blog about the law and procedure of family law, but very little about how to get through a divorce in one piece, or at least without hitting the self destruct button on your personal life. Here are six rules for people going through a divorce that I have developed over my years as a divorce lawyer. More rules undoubtedly exist, and perhaps some of these rules can be combined into one rule, but these are the specific things that I see people do to themselves. Finally, as with all rules, they may be a bit like the Pirate Code, according to Captain Barbossa of the Pirates of the Carribean movies: "...more like guidelines than actual rules."
1. Don’t go straight into another serious relationship. Having just failed at one, you are not ready for another. If you have children, this is not the best thing for them. Spend the time that you would spend on a new relationship with your children instead. They need you. If you do not have children, do something else. Just don’t go straight into another relationship.
2. Don’t be overly generous in your divorce. Be reasonable. Reasonable is great. However, many people just give away everything just to be done or because they feel guilty. I guarantee that you will regret this later, and later is too late. Do not make a decision that could haunt you for the rest of your life just because you are tired of the process or feel guilty. I do not mean little things. By all means, let the other spouse have your X-Box if that will get the divorce done. I mean things like making an agreement to pay $3,000 per month in spousal maintenance for five years after a five-year marriage when your gross monthly income is $5,000 (true story). Not only will you regret it, but you will eventually be bitter at your former spouse and yourself over your decision.
3. Don’t smoke. Many former smokers start smoking again during their divorce. Many people start for the first time. As a former smoker, I can tell you that smoking is no good. Don’t destroy your health, breath, taste, smell, and budget (cigarettes are expensive these days) over your divorce. Divorces are hard enough without causing the problems that smoking causes.
4. Don’t drink yourself silly. This is the same sort of advice as "Don’t smoke," but it has an extra tidbit: drinking yourself silly can have legal consequences. You already have enough legal problems without a DUI, disorderly conduct, or any other criminal charge.
5. Go to the gym. Don’t quit the gym just because of your divorce. You will regret it. If you don’t already go to the gym, this is a good time to start. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the gym. It can be any activity that both keeps you occupied for a while and gets you some exercise.
6. Don’t talk endlessly about your divorce. Everyone has had that friend or acquaintance who constantly complains bitterly about his or her divorce and former spouse. When you do the same thing, you sound just like that person. No one wants to hear it and fewer people will want to be around you if you constantly complain about it. Some people will go out on a first date and spend the whole time complaining about the ex. Others will never stop talking about it at work. None of these things will make your life better. Talk to a counsel instead.
Hopefully, you will never need this advice, but if you ever do, it will help you avoid the same mistakes that most people make during and after their divorce.