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the decision to separate is made, there are a number of other issues to settle.
If the decision has been made in isolation, there is the matter of informing
one’s spouse. Thereafter comes telling the kids. From there, attention is
directed towards determining the ongoing care of the children between the
separated parents. Then there is the matter of settling housing, finances and
ongoing financial obligations. For some people, these issues begin to blend
together, overwhelming them with the enormity of the consequences.
all decisions are associated feelings. Each issue brings a host of emotions,
mostly dark and upsetting. The parties are dealing with the loss of the
relationship, let alone the fantasy of how things should have been. There is
worry as to the impact on the children, ongoing parent-child relationships, and
economic hardship. Feelings may include anger, resentment, depression, fear and
in some situations, even elation. Typically it is the feelings that drive
decisions. Many people directly or indirectly seek retribution in how they
settle the cascade of issues. People also may seek to make quick and rash
decisions, serving to assuage their feelings and fears.
the wake of the decision to separate, many people turn to a lawyer first,
seeking to preserve rights and turf. The decision to separate is then
communicated to the other party by way of a legal letter, not only telling of
the separation, but laying out the demands and expectations for settlement. With
the rug pulled out from beneath them, the other party, in a tizzy, is seldom
able to respond reasonably given the information just befallen them. Hence the
response may be nothing more than an outpouring of their emotion, upset, rage,
sadness and fear, disguised as a counter to the demands of the other. Then the
couple, like a ship, makes a series of over-corrections, trying to
counterbalance competing demands; they veer left, then right, further left and
further right, harder and harder, until their matter reaches epic proportions,
spilling over into the courts.
is always counter-intuitive. No person enters a long-term committed relationship
saying that in time, they seek to lose their love and develop animosity enough
to drive them from the relationship. These are always upsetting times and when
upset drives decisions, poor decisions are often made further compounding
problems. The ones to suffer most in the process are children. Statistically, it
is not the distribution of assets, residential setting or even the access
schedule that determines the outcome for children. It is singularly the level of
conflict between the parents that most determines how their children will fare
during and after the process and how they shall fare in their own adult intimate
relationships later on.
a decision to separate, parents would be wise to call to a counsellor well
trained and versed in separation and divorce matters. Please note, this is a
specialty and very different to working with persons on other individual,
emotional or psychological matters. The counsellor trained and versed in
separation and divorce matters will help the couple identify and manage the
issues that contributed to the decision to separate and will maintain a clarity
of vision to help the couple truly sort out what is best for their children,
given their situation. Further, most counsellors, trained and versed in
separation and divorce matters can facilitate referrals to financial and legal
services and would do so with the view to preserving the integrity of the
parties and relationships.
goal of the separation is to permit for the untangling of lives, whilst still
respecting and maintaining relationships vital to the care and development of
It can be scary seeing the counsellor, but parents are advised to consider this a mature decision aimed at managing their feelings to achieve an outcome best for everyone combined and especially, their children.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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