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Good Behavior

Another tip to help you navigate separation and divorce By Felicia Soleil, Attorney/Mediator

Good Behavior

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait. It’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” - Joyce Meyer

This philosophy couldn’t be more true when moving through the process of separation and divorce. In the new year, if you find yourself with a resolution to make a transition out of your intimate partnership, prepare yourself with the understanding that good outcomes take time and careful consideration.

In my work as a divorce mediator and lawyer, I find many couples often have very different versions of “readiness.” Often, one party has been thinking about leaving the relationship for a long time. Sometimes these parties will share their feelings with their partner as they work through mixed emotions. On the other hand, some initiating parties will keep their thoughts to themselves and will have worked out their version of the entire outcome before broaching the subject with their partner, catching the other party totally off guard.

Everyone has their reasons for when to approach an intimate partner with the idea of separating. However, an initiating party has to be ready to accept their partner’s response and understand the process may take longer than hoped if that partner is blindsided by the idea of the relationship ending. Even in instances when discussions among partners precede the decision, one partner may be reluctant to end the relationship and asks for “more time,” sometimes requesting to participate in counseling and working on the relationship and sometimes just to catch up with arriving at the same place of acceptance as the initiating party.

What matters most during the phase between one party initiating the idea of separating and the other partner either “taking their time” or participating reluctantly is how both parties behave during the interim until their legal case will ultimately be finalized. Behavior not only can affect their individual financial outcomes but also their post-intimate partner relationship in terms of co-parenting.

Lawyers and courts describe appropriate behaviors in terms of financial and personal restraints, such as:

1. Don’t conceal, transfer, sell, or otherwise expend assets without the knowledge and consent of the other party.

2. Don’t incur significant debt that could detrimentally impact the other party or marital community.

3. Don’t change the beneficiaries of any form of insurance policies, retirements accounts or bank accounts.

4. Maintain the status quo with respect to income sharing and bill-paying until agreements to separate finances can be reached.

5. Maintain composure—don’t harass, intimidate, or otherwise engage in any form of abuse of the other party.

6. Do not bring the children into disputes, allow the children to witness inappropriate behaviors, or speak disparagingly about the other party to the children.

Emotions may be running high, and engaging in bad behavior as an emotional outlet only leads to self-sabotage in the end. Try to respect the other party’s place in the timeline of emotional processing if it is different from yours. Find good counsel to provide guidance and support to help prevent your emotions from running away with you. Don’t let “bad behavior” lead to a bad divorce.

Felicia Soleil is a divorce mediator and family law attorney located in Gig Harbor. She helps her clients in achieving resolutions that foster both a compassionate ending to their union and a healthy new beginning so they can focus on moving on, rather than simply moving out. Felicia can be reached at 253.853.6940. All consultations are strictly confidential and currently conducted by appointment via videoconference or phone.

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