For North Carolina couples, a 12-month period of marital separation must take place before either spouse can file for divorce. But not all separations end in divorce.
A marital separation can be a time of healing, introspection, and reconciliation. Separations can provide valuable time for couples to sort out their wants, needs, and individuality as they examine their relationship with their spouse (and often with themselves).
Even if a separation can have positive effects, that doesn’t mean separating is easy. Whether you end up filing for divorce or reconciling, a period of trial separation often sets off a rollercoaster ride of emotions and potential conflicts. If you’re experiencing a marital separation or facing the prospect of one, keep reading to learn some tips that can help you survive your separation.
Separating From Your Spouse? Here’s How to Make the Process Less Painful
Every situation is different, but we’ve found in years of family law practice that couples can take a few consistent steps to make their separations less painful and complicated.
Avoid Over-Sharing on Social Media
Keep the details of your separation to yourself. Avoid sharing too many details with friends, colleagues, or even family members and be especially cautious on social media. It’s healthy to find a support system, but use judgment while doing so. What you post on the internet is forever, and many people find that harsh words posted in the heat of the moment come back to haunt them later during the divorce process. Remember that anything you share on the internet can be used against you later during a court case, so it’s usually best to avoid posting about your separation at all.
Prioritize Emotional and Mental Health Over “Winning”
If your split is less than friendly, you may feel tempted to get back at your spouse, get revenge, or “win” the divorce. While feelings of hurt and even spite are normal, they shouldn’t be the focus of your separation.
Letting these feelings control your actions can backfire on multiple levels. Not only can you harm your case for divorce-related issues like child custody and child support, but giving in to anger and vengefulness can also hurt you on an emotional and psychological level. Try to focus on yourself during this time; prioritize your emotional health and well-being instead of seeing how much you can hurt your ex.
It’s easy to get down and start feeling hopeless during a difficult time. Make sure to carve out time for yourself and acknowledge feelings of depression or anxiety rather than try to deny them. This is a good period of time to evaluate areas of your life that aren’t working and try to make positive changes. You may want to focus on exercise and fitness, get in touch with friends you haven’t made time for in a while, explore meditation, or take up a new hobby.
It may also help to keep a diary and write down what you’re experiencing, even if you’ve never been much of a writer. You may be surprised at what comes out, and it might give you insight on how to move forward toward the future you want.
Finally, try and settle on a daily schedule that includes productive activities and keeps you moving toward some goals. With all the change and uncertainty in your life, it’s easy to lose any sense of normalcy. Creating a routine can help you feel like you’re moving in a particular direction instead of just drifting without purpose.
Explore Therapy and Divorce Support Groups
No matter how long you’ve been married, a split is a major lifestyle change. Even if you were unhappily married, you were still used to seeing your ex-partner, and a sudden shift can leave you feeling disoriented and sad.
You’re far from the first person to experience these feelings during a separation. Connecting with people going through the same process can make it easier to cope and heal, and therapy or counseling can help you work through personal issues and pain. If you’re not sure where to start, Psychology Today hosts a search tool you can use to find divorce support groups in your area.
Audit Your Finances
Divorce can be an expensive process. If you and your spouse are separated, take this opportunity to audit your finances and look for ways to save. If that you do make your split permanent, you’ll need to replace shared items, find a new place to live, and potentially get your own essentials. Expenses you should plan for may include insurance policies, vehicles, and a phone plan. Keeping track of your expenses and cutting back on non-essential purchases is essential to prepare for an uncertain future.
Get Your Records in Order
Having your vital documents and records organized is never a bad idea, but it’s especially critical if you’ve separated from your spouse. Items you’ll need to gather include information on loans, credit card statements, pay stubs, employment history, healthcare, retirement information, and more.
If you have questions about what documents you should be collecting and organizing, or if you need help doing so, talk to an experienced family lawyer right away. If you have a will, power of attorney, or healthcare power of attorney that names your spouse as the executor or attorney-in-fact, you need to revise these documents.
Put Your Children’s Needs First
Divorce is never easy on kids. The COVID-19 pandemic has already created an anxious and unsettling environment for many children, so you’ll need to be extra mindful about how your separation affects your family.
When you and your spouse first separate, the number one thing to do is make sure you have a plan that prioritizes the needs and well-being of your kids. Decide how you’ll co-parent, implement a routine, and make sure to spend plenty of time with your children throughout the process. Do the best you can to keep your kids out of any conflicts with the other parent.
It’s also important to communicate with your children and explain to them what’s going on. Be as honest as you reasonably can based on your child’s age, developmental level, and temperament. However, you must keep them out of the conflict — and never bad-mouth the other parent to your kids! Talking bad about your ex in front of the kids is not only unfair but could hurt you during a court case if it comes out.
You’ll need to discuss your co-parenting plan with your partner, so try to be as level-headed and empathetic as you can. If you need help reaching an arrangement you both can live with, seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.
RELATED: How to Co-Parent: 6 Tips for Success
Experiencing a Separation or Dealing With Divorce in Charlotte? Contact Myers Law Firm Today
At Myers Law Firm, we have decades of experience helping clients in Charlotte and throughout Mecklenburg County find the best solutions for their families. If you need help with legal separation, divorce, or related family issues, get in touch with us. We can meet with you to discuss your options and a create a plan to protect your rights.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.