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What are the common divorce potholes on the road to a new future?

One of the things that I'm frequently doing in my work providing support and advice to parents separating and divorcing is helping them deal with the common “divorce potholes”.

If it is your first time driving down the “divorce road” then it's likely that you have never driven down such an unfamiliar and potentially risky road in your life. I can say with confidence that your driving instructor or test never prepared you for driving down such an unpredictable, hazardous road like this. 

Sometimes my McKenzie Friend and divorce coach clients can see their “divorce road” with potholes slowly appearing in the distance, sometimes they have just unwittingly buckled the wheel on the first pothole and need emergency help at the roadside and sometimes they are way down a long, seemingly never-ending road, struggling to control an under duress car as new potholes keep appearing. With basic driving skills, you can swerve to avoid a minor pothole but some roads can be full of twists and turns that will require additional driving tuition

In some situations the divorce road may be so full of potholes you may have no option but to drive through or around the edges of some potholes slowly and carefully. Sometimes you may need someone more experienced on such roads in the car with you to coach you on how to navigate. Driving with caution and care, damage can be avoided or hugely limited. Sometime you may glimpse an opportunity to take a side road at short notice that may get you to the same destination and you will have to make a quick decision on whether to take a chance on a new approach, which may lead to a better journey for all involved

Divorcing parents often are moving into a more separated mindset following the end of a relationship and often the emotional fallout that follows can spiral into long term animosity being played out in several ways. Based on the experience of observing hundreds of clients divorce journeys here are what I would observe to be the main divorce “potholes” to be wary of:


"Pothole No 1” is often the “legalese” language that solicitors use. A legal language designed to make the simple look and sound complex. This pothole is often the first you encounter. It may initially look small but can become large very quickly and involve huge bills that you cannot afford. Often people are so overwhelmed by the road ahead, they freeze and think “I need to get out of the car and pay someone else to drive me down the road to safety”. The reality is if you can get your emotions under control and think long term you could avoid this pothole by using your common sense and save yourself £1000's in the process. 


You know how to drive a car in most circumstances. Faced with a new unfamiliar road you just need some advanced driving tuition to give you the skills and confidence to drive down your “divorce road” yourself. The legalese language is like a driving instructor giving you a foreign instruction manual to the exact model of car that you already know how to drive. It hugely complicates the process and doesn't build on your already well-established driving skills. Many people who choose to employ a lawyer say “I can't read that, I want you to take over and drive for me”. This isn't really what is going to happen though. In reality, the lawyer driver will stop before every pothole to ask you what you want to do in connection with this pothole, at a very expensive hourly rate. It often ends up being a very expensive, drawn-out journey. In some divorce situations, lawyers and other professionals amplify the emotions of conflict and the issues of dispute so much that what initially started off looking like a road in need of minor repair turns into a major hazard zone.


As a qualified mentor and McKenzie Friend, I'm very focused on discovering where clients driving skills and awareness are currently and then helping them understand how to drive the rest of the road in plain English, empowering them to develop the confidence and skills needed to navigate the journey themselves. When I share insights based on real-life successes and failures the driver can evaluate which approaches they want to try out as they proceed. This approach empowers them to build upon their existing skillset and feel out how the vehicle handles as the road develops. You'll need to keep your emotions under control, stay focused and attentive to the potholes in the road as it unfolds. I won't ever take over the wheel but will be there for emotional support and guidance when you need me.


"Pothole no 2” can be the influence of friends, family and people around you negatively influencing you to think disaster scenarios about your “divorce road” based on their relationship history. It's important to be very aware of this “pothole” of influence, especially when your feeling emotionally vulnerable and under pressure to make important decisions that may have far-reaching consequences. The “divorce road” is often full of weary travellers, many still walking their long journey. Some may have dark stories to tell and encourage adopting a similar paranoid mindset. It's really important to consider who you surround yourself with on your journey as other people's views and experiences can often influence split-second decisions that may take you on a different divorce route to the road you may naturally choose yourself. Be very careful not to be dragged into the “battle mentality” pothole, one that can be very deep and destructive.


"Pothole no 3” is the big emotive one of the time the children spend with both parents and adapting to a shared parenting approach. This is a pothole which you can't avoid going through. Agreeing the time that the children spend with both parents can be complex, with the practical, financial and emotional implications such a decision carries. Families used to one working parent and one parent at home as the primary carer can face new challenges when considering how to move forward into a shared parenting future. Finding the right route to a better parenting future so that your children grow into balanced adults, not impacted by a divorce or separation can be a tricky navigational journey.


The criteria that frame how courts will decide on such arrangements is the “welfare checklist”. I lose count of the number of people who arrive at my service (after racking up huge legal bills with lawyers) that have not been empowered to understand how to communicate their circumstances in line with these essentially simple criteria. Another example of the legal language obscuring the simple and creating a client relationship of dependency, not empowerment. My approach in such cases is to draw out from clients the inner knowledge they already have about their children and family and present it in a way that ensures they focus on the content that the courts want to hear about.


This can be a difficult pothole to navigate if the other parent is full of anger at the end of the relationship. This pothole is connected to the potholes of “allegation”, “blame”, “control” and “revenge” which often lie just underneath the surface, often very close to “pothole No 1”. These can be the most dangerous of potholes to encounter and will require you to carefully consider the implications of your responses and reactions. Potholes such as these can trigger instinctual reactions and emotions making driving this road a challenge. This is the hazardous side road littered with occupation orders and non-molestation orders.


Some parents can be driven by a “the children are mine” mentality following a relationship break up. Some parents may be driven to restrict or deny access to children to maximize child maintenance and divorce settlements. Such situations can be very difficult to navigate.


"Pothole no 4” is financially dissolving the marriage. This is also an unavoidable pothole and can deepen and expand fast. It often looks huge and daunting from a distance but can often be far simpler to navigate when looked at close up under the glare of the lights of a court hearing. Whether or not to sell the family home and how to split the family assets such as pensions and debts is often an overwhelmingly difficult area of a dispute to resolve before you can progress on to the road to a happy new future. Financial mismanagement and non-disclosure can be an issue. 


If you choose to go into “pothole number 1” then before long you could be swimming in drawn-out legal negotiations about irrelevant details and mounting legal bills. There are all sorts of difficult manoeuvres to learn when going through this pothole. Section 25 of the marital causes act is the criteria that inform the decisions and negotiation process that ensues. There can be a lot of distractions along this part of the journey if you're not careful about how you proceed.


“Pothole” No 5 is divorce recovery. An often overlooked area of life, new relationships often rushed into. Are you going to be able to shake off the emotional impact of the divorce journey before you proceed so that you don't make the same pattern of decisions in the future? I'm trained as a holistic practitioner in techniques that enable you to address and change established relationship patterns that repeat in your life, which are often running as programs in your powerful subconscious mind without you knowing how to access and update them. 


How you choose to react to these potholes at all stages is important to influencing how your divorce journey may turn out. You cannot control what potholes your ex-partner may or may not engage with or possibly create along the way but you can choose how you want to respond along the way.


Sometimes you need an insightful, impartial instructor to support you along that journey so you can feel confident that the split-second decisions you make along the way are taking you on the best journey possible.


My role in your divorce journey is to be your experienced driving instructor that talks in a language you understand. I made my divorce journey personally without the services of a lawyer and achieved a successful outcome. Seen and heard of many car crashes along the way. Mentored hundreds of people to navigate their successful divorce journey. Know of many ways to navigate the road. Straight talking, compassionate and solution-focused tutoring that adapts to your unique situation and driving style


Please get in touch if you'd like to discuss how I could help you navigate your divorce journey and start your advanced divorce pothole training.

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