Divorce counseling is different from marital or couples counseling in that it takes place after the couple has decided to split up. (Incidentally, divorce counseling isn’t just for people who are legally married—it can also be helpful for people who have children or property in common.) Generally, divorce counseling can be divided into two parts: pre-divorce and post-divorce.
- What: In pre-divorce counseling, you can expect to learn skills to rationally make the major decisions that have to be made when a couple is splitting assets, determining custody of their child(ren), or ironing out financial details. This is especially important for couples who have a child (or children) together. I have been known to ask parents to put the Three Tenets of Right Speech as the background to their phones: 1. Is it true? 2. Is it kind? 3. Is it necessary? (Or, as Craig Ferguson said in his standup, “Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said by me? Does it need to be said by me right now?”)
- Why: Often, by the time people get to deciding to divorce, there is so much animosity built up between parties that having everything becomes even more challenging. The choices that you make following your decision to proceed with splitting up can have an impact that far exceeds the length of your relationship, especially where children are involved. An important question that CoParenting International asks is, “What do you want the legacy of your divorce to be?”
- What: In post-divorce counseling, you can work with a neutral party to iron out the sticky situations that happen after divorce, whether that’s a financial change, a move, or a new adult in your child(ren)’s life. One of the things I teach is BIFF communication, which stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm. An example would be a text reading, “Hi Sally. I will pick up Jeremy at 3 pm on Friday and bring him back to your house on Sunday at 5 pm. Thanks.” This is an alternative to the “nastygrams” often sent by co-parents, which may sound familiar if you’ve ever received (or sent) one: “Hey. PLEASE HAVE JEREMY READY at 3 pm Friday. I don’t want a repeat of last week, when you SAID he’d be ready, and he WASN’T. You just want to ruin our time together, don’t you?”
- Why: Life circumstances can change quickly, and the former spouse who was able to pay spousal support might not be able to if he or she experiences a job loss. Likewise, when new partners come into our former partners’ lives, re-negotiating can be extremely difficult.
If you need help navigating the difficulties of life after splitting up with your partner, contact us!