Do you like James Clear’s book Atomic Habits? The best-selling book on self-help shows how the small things we do every day add up to a bigger picture of how well we do at reaching our goals.
In the book, Clear compares the power of habits to the path of an airplane. Even a small change in direction can send an airplane on a completely different path. The same thing happens with our habits: good habits help us stay on track, while bad habits can easily take us in the wrong direction.
If your goals for your divorce are to protect your children, your assets, and your future, and to do so with as little time, stress, and money as possible…
What small, regular things can you do to help you reach these goals? What bad habits should you give up?
Here are some atomic divorce habits that will help you get where you want to go.
Use communication as a way to reduce stress
It’s easy to lash out at your spouse via email or text when they say something that bothers you, but you should know that this kind of high-conflict communication is a bad habit that can ruin your divorce. Instead, make it a habit to keep your letters short and to the point. Leave out your opinions, feelings, advice on parenting, criticism, and snarky comments. If your ex sends you an angry email, don’t reply until you’ve calmed down, or ask your lawyer to reply for you. When you always communicate in a neutral way, you help cut off the air that conflict needs to grow.
Follow through with short-term agreements
Make it a habit to follow your divorce agreements, whether they are temporary agreements or court orders made while you were living apart. Temporary child support and alimony should be paid on time and in full. Don’t play games and stop paying because you’re mad or upset. If you get temporary child support, keep track of how you use it to pay for your kids’ needs. Use the temporary alimony to pay the bills, not to get back at the other person. Follow the schedule for temporary custody and be on time for drop-offs and pick-ups. Don’t call and text your ex a lot when your kids are spending time with your ex.
If you make it a habit to stick to temporary agreements, it will make the divorce process safer, and more consistent, and give you and your partner more trust.
Help your child get along with your ex-spouse
You must put aside any personal problems you have with your spouse if you want to work well together as co-parents. As a co-parent, it’s your job to help your kids get along with the other parent. Don’t say bad things about your spouse in front of the kids. Respect your spouse’s right to run their home as they see fit. Don’t use your kids as messengers or spies. Don’t fight with your ex in front of the kids. And follow the terms of your custody agreement. The only time it’s okay to get in between your spouse and your children is if their safety is in danger.
Habit: Prioritize organization
In a divorce, you will have to deal with a lot of paperwork, such as filing papers, real estate valuations, bank statements, tax returns and other financial statements, expert reports on child custody, and more. There are also deadlines for getting documents and/or forms and records back or making them. If you usually just throw things in a shoebox and hope for the best, it’s time to change your ways. Make it a habit to keep things in order. Find a system that works for you and stick with it. You can use a digital app to help you organize documents and a Google calendar to remind you of deadlines, or you can do things the old-fashioned way by putting papers in an accordion folder and writing on a paper calendar who needs what and when.
When getting a divorce, there aren’t many things more frustrating than having a decision go against you just because you forgot to sign or turn in a certain piece of paper. Need some help with this? Find out more about how to stay organized during a divorce.
Give yourself a divorce cut-off time
If you think about your divorce all the time, it will wear you out. It’s important to set limits, no matter how much work you have to do meeting with family law professionals and preparing paperwork. Set a “divorce curfew” for yourself so you can deal with your stress. To do this, make it a rule to never do anything related to divorce after 8 pm, even if it’s just talking about it. Spend your evenings doing something good, like reading a book, doing bedtime rituals with your kids, or meditating. You may also find that when you stick to your curfew, you sleep better at night.
Don't use social media as a habit
It can feel good at the moment to use Facebook to vent about your ex and your divorce. Most of the people who “like” and comment on your posts will do so because they want to. Social media rants, on the other hand, can make things worse if your ex finds out about them and goes on the offensive.
Instead of using Facebook as a weird form of therapy, make time to see a counselor, preferably one who often works with people going through a divorce. A trained counselor can listen to you, help you figure out how you feel, and teach you important ways to deal with things.
Create situations in which everyone wins
You can use good habits for everything you do during your divorce, including how you talk to and negotiate with your ex-spouse about the terms. Instead of making demands or giving ultimatums during settlement talks, think about how you can frame settlement options as things that will help both of you. In other words, make it a habit to tell yourself what you want in terms that are good for both of you. Instead of saying, “I want the house,” try explaining the situation in a way that benefits both parties: “Our house is old and needs repairs all the time. I did most of the repairs myself while we lived there, which was cheaper than calling a repairman. If you want the house, you will have to pay a lot of money to fix it up, like getting a new roof, which we both know is needed. So, I think it would be better for both of us if I lived in the house and you got your share of the equity to buy a new house that doesn’t need as much maintenance.
Which would you accept if it was offered to you? Exactly. And that’s how habits work!
A good rule of thumb is to think about what small steps you could take, over and over again, to start moving your divorce in the direction of your goals whenever you face conflict or uncertainty in your divorce.
Have questions about your divorce? We can assist. Set up the first meeting with a trusted family law attorney to learn about your rights and get answers to all your questions. Call us at (270) 201-7776.