By Megan Loden
Right around 14 years ago, I became a single parent of infant twins by divorce. I was barely a legal adult and stumbled through this whole process with virtually no help, as I couldn’t afford a lawyer and my parents were still married at the time, so I couldn’t even call on their knowledge.
My ex-husband and I would agree that our marriage was contentious at best. Naturally, our divorce was at least as contentious, if not more so. If you’ve been divorced yourself, you’re probably thinking, ‘no shit, lady.’ If you’re as surprised as I was, allow me to fill in some of those gaps for ya.
Most divorces are an emotional shit-show. Maybe you and your spouse are completely over the marriage and indifferent to the divorce process. That’s great. Hang on to that feeling when you start dividing assets and setting up a parenting plan. It WILL get emotional. Why do you think family lawyers are so expensive?
I’ve learned many lessons the hard way. Hopefully, you don’t have to. Some of my best non-expert divorce advice, coming right up.
#1. Get it in writing. In short, if it’s not in writing, it doesn’t really count. Let me guess, your ex-husband agreed to give you the house, child support and an extra $800 a month because he’s being fair and reasonable. Great. It really is great. Did you get your petition drawn up and have that added for the judge to sign? Because if you didn’t, good luck, darlin’.
One day, maybe not today or even tomorrow, he will stop abiding by things that are not required. It’s called moving on. When he has his own bills and wants a new car, you become less of a priority. He gets the right to start living his own life again, as do you. Your ex shouldn’t be paying your rent so you can keep all your premium channels on your cable package. Hell, I couldn’t afford a haircut for more than 2 years following my divorce unless I worked overtime for money that didn’t go to my kids’ needs.
#2. Follow the courts’ guidelines. These guidelines are there for a reason, and you should almost never deviate from those standards. They have been in place for many years and are designed to take all parties into account, primarily the children.
If your ex won’t pay his or her share or show up on time for drop off, that’s a separate issue. The guidelines, when followed, are almost always the best solution. If the courts say you should pay your ex $836 a month, do that. Do only that. Do NOT agree to pay an extra $400. It doesn’t benefit your children to share a bed and eat Ramen all weekend while at your home so your ex can buy them brand name clothing and send them to space camp. Balance, folks.
And custodial parents, stop expecting your ex to live in squalor so you can live comfortably. Your kids will spend time in the other house too, and you certainly want them to be safe and comfortable, right?
#3. Let go. Seriously, it’s so much easier once you do. Obviously, if your children are in any type of legitimate danger, do whatever you need to keep them safe. Call the police, the courts, lawyers, whatever it takes. Otherwise, you just gotta let it go.
It’s none of your business if they don’t eat vegetables or sleep until noon at Dad’s. Before you start protesting at your screen, let me assure you, they will be fine. No one is at risk of scurvy nowadays anyway. My kids haven’t eaten anything green at their father’s house…..maybe ever. And bedtime is literally whatever time they go to bed. None of this has ever impacted the way we run our home here.
But I can tell you from previous experiences that my suggestion, or even flat out asking him to provide broccoli, is met with an attitude and results in nothing more than a rise in my blood pressure. Most battles aren’t worth fighting with your ex.
#4. Remember that once upon a time you chose this person. I have yet to meet a child who has asked to be born. You chose to have a child with this person, even subconsciously sometimes. Way back when you had your reasons. As hard as it is, it is imperative that you remember this so you don’t sour your children’s impression of their other parent.
You kids don’t need to know that Daddy couldn’t keep it in his pants or Mommy drinks too much. Those are adult issues that should be kept between adults. Don’t EVER bad-mouth your child’s other parent to the child. And don’t let anyone else do it either.
In the end, even if you know that their father puts his new wife and kid first, you don’t need to say it. Your children will figure this out on their own, and you don’t need to be the bearer of bad news.
I have begged and pleaded with my ex to change behaviors when it comes to our girls, more times than I can count. He’s going to do what he’s going to do. If he cared what I think, we probably wouldn’t be divorced in the first place, right? My girls are 15 and have figured out the reality of the situation, and I didn’t have to lower myself in that process.
At the end of the day, divorce is a lot like marriage in the sense that it is full of ups and downs. In some capacity, you will have to deal with this person for the rest of your life through your children. You don’t get to just walk away when you have kids. My experience has taught me a lot about what not to do. Learn from my mistakes and do things fairly and legally from the beginning to save yourselves a lot of anger and resentment down the line.
About the Author
Megan is a stay at home mom taking motherhood one day (read: glass of wine) at a time. When she isn’t busy embarrassing her teenaged twins with her mere presence, she can be found obsessing over her 10-year-old son or talking to her dogs and cats while her husband answers on their behalf, voices and all. She can be found on her Instagram, Facebook, and on Twitter. Her writing can be found on Twiniversity, on BLUNTMoms and on Scary Mommy.