Celebrity couples shouldn't be role models. Their lives are just too weird to glean any usable advice from (yes, we're talking about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie now). The affairs are common, the private and public reinventions are endless, and the massive amounts of money riding on their happy-loving-coupledom is just absurd.
In other words, there are no real useful lessons to take from a breakup like Pitt and Jolie's other than the fact that divorce happens — and often. It's unfortunate we look to celebrities, because there is real, very good advice out there that makes one of the most difficult times in life that much less difficult. Here's some excellent advice from experts for anyone going through the all-too-common divorce.
Plan your post-divorce life now.
“This is a fresh start; a new beginning. It can be an exciting time, not a depressing time," says Joryn Jenkins, a trial attorney with 35 years of courtroom experience, author of War or Peace: Avoid The Destruction of Divorce Court. You can decide what happens in the next minute, hour, day, month, and year after divorce by focusing on what you want instead of what you don’t want.” Envision your future to make it happen.
Now's the time to be insanely honest.
By freely disclosing information, you will gain your spouse’s trust, and you will save money by avoiding the other side having to search for information. “When both sides are transparent and work together despite their differences, the divorce is finalized that much quicker and is less expensive. You also build a new relationship from which you can co-parent in trust,” says Jenkins.
Practice a bit of empathy.
Divorcing spouses waste time and money arguing impossible positions. “Try to see the big picture, and take time to view issues from your spouse’s perspective. Consider what your interests are, and don’t just take positions for the sake of taking a position,” says Jenkins.
Prepare for a lot of work.
“Any divorce takes a lot of hard work. You will need to prepare a financial affidavit, compile financial documents, review lengthy settlement offers, attend a parenting course, prepare for hearings and depositions, etc.,” says Jenkins. The more work you do, the more that you will be committed to resolving the matter, and the less you will have to pay your attorneys and other professionals to do the work for you.
The kids really do come first.
“All too often parents use children as pawns and do not take into account what is best for them, instead they want to hurt their about-to-be ex and the children are hurt,” says Eric Guster, a legal analyst for CNN & Fox News. That means, also never fight in front of the children, ever. “It is the absolute worst complaint kids bring into my psychotherapy office,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills child, parenting, and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, and co-star of Sex Box on WE TV. Give your child permission to love and respect the other parent. “Remember, each child is 50% you and 50% your ex- spouse. When you put him down, you are demeaning half of your child,” says Dr. Walfish.
Courts don't really care that you cheated.
When couples have endless amounts of money, they can afford private investigators to trail the other spouse around. “Twenty years ago it was a huge deal, but now, not so much. Cases of domestic abuse and other criminal acts will raise an issue of concern, but ‘just a cheater’ is not a big deal to most. Don’t shoot the messenger for that fact,” says Guster.
Have a new partner? Keep them out of it.
During divorce, leave the new boyfriend or girlfriend out of it. “Adding the new lover into the mix is toxic. Their opinions, interjections, showing up at court hearings, being on phone calls, etc. can lead to more disastrous results in your divorce,” says Guster.
Treat your spouse as you would like to be treated.
Don’t lie to, belittle, or ignore him or her. “Don’t empty joint bank accounts, dissipate marital assets, or remove your spouse from insurances. Don’t file false police reports or contact child services unless your children really are in danger. Don’t post inappropriate pictures and comments on social media,” says Jenkins.