We fight over division of property. We engage in child custody wars. So much of the language we are accustomed to using in the divorce world comes from the battlefield. We understand that you are angry and hurt when you come to our offices to discuss your disintegrating marriage and that people harboring bruised feelings often want to exact a measure of revenge.
I’m here to suggest that you do your best to resist that temptation, particularly if you have children. Here’s why: First, divorce is unique. Unlike most kinds of lawsuits–automobile accidents, contract disputes, employment discrimination cases, even crimes–divorces are not just about events that happened in the past. Divorcing couples are dealing with the history of their marriages for sure, but they are also dealing with day to day decisions that occur while the divorce is being conducted as well as trying to plan for their lives following the divorce.
That future life necessarily will involve your soon-to-be ex-spouse. In other words, while you are indulging your fantasies about how your no-good spouse should be punished, you have to be planning for how you are going to share parenting responsibilities with that despicable person, who also happens to be one of the two most important people in your children’s lives.
Which brings us to the second reason to rethink your plans for retribution: your children. Children recognize, even from a very early age, that they are the product of two parents. When one parent says that something is seriously wrong with the other parent, the child hears that one-half of the child is of inferior quality. That is not a message you should want to convey to your child.
You and your former spouse will be engaged in what amounts to a business partnership after your divorce is over. You will be in the business of raising healthy children. You may not have succeeded in a marital relationship but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful parents. Just as with any other business venture, you have the best chance of achieving your goals if you and your partner are working cooperatively, communicating effectively, and making sound decisions. You can only do that if you approach that partner with the same kind of respect you want for yourself.
Even if your spouse was not fully engaged in parenting responsibilities during your marriage, you will be doing both your children and yourself a favor by welcoming that parent’s efforts to become a more involved parent. You can learn to relax when the children are in the other parent’s care and your children will be happier knowing that their parents are cooperating for their benefit.