Deciding to end a marriage is one of the most difficult decisions that a couple can choose to make. The situation becomes even more heart wrenching when children are involved. Unless abuse and neglect are involved, most counsellors would suggest trying to work together to save the marriage if you have a family together.
However, if ultimately, you decide that you are unable to create a healthy, peaceful, positive and nurturing family environment with each other and you decide that divorce is better than staying together; you need to be aware of some of the realities which divorce can bring. Whilst they are not insurmountable, it is helpful to be aware of them and to prepare yourself emotionally, financially and physically.
1. Your Life Will Change
This is a simple fact. The decision to get a divorce already indicates that you want your life to change, but it changes more than you may think. Before a divorce, most people think that the main change they will experience is the removal of their spouse from the picture. But, the longer you’ve been married and if you have kids together, the greater the changes you will experience.
The first tangible change might take place at home. You may no longer have the right to live in the family home. Your home might be part of the divorce settlement, or both of you may not be able to continue to afford the home you live in and the family needs to downgrade to a smaller home. In some cases, you may need to move in temporarily with parents or family members until the divorce and your future living situation can be sorted out.
If you have kids, child care will become more challenging. If your in-laws used to help you look after your children, you may or may not continue to be able to count on them in the same way. If either you or your spouse stayed home to care for the kids, this might no longer be possible as you will both need to work to maintain your independent lives after your divorce.
Family relationships will change forever. Even though you will no longer be related to your in-laws, they will still want to be a part of your kids’ lives. If you are close to your in-laws, the divorce might affect your relationship with each other. If you or your spouse remarries, family relationships will become even more complicated.
You might not realise this immediately, but your social circles will probably shrink. Some friends will leave, some friends will stay. Clubs and social groups that you belonged to as a couple may no longer recognise the validity of your membership once you are divorced. You will have to re-build your social life whilst dealing with additional responsibilities at home and at work.
2. Things Will Get Tougher Financially
Getting a divorce is always a net expense to the family. The simple mechanics of having to maintain 2 separate households will already add cost to the equation. If one spouse used to stay home to care for the kids and now can no longer do so due to work, then you can expect child care costs to increase. If either of you remarries, then the cost of maintaining 2 families will be a major financial commitment.
You will definitely have to re-assess your current expenses and your retirement plans in the light of your divorce.
3. Expect Some Custody Issues
Unless the circumstances are unusual, you will likely have to share custody with your ex-spouse. So you’ll need to get used to days when the kids are no longer with you. In many divorces however, custody turns into an acrimonious issue as neither parent is willing to trust the other with raising and forming the value systems for their children. If you are citizens of different countries and if one of you is planning to leave Singapore and relocate permanently, then you will have cross-border custody concerns.
4. Your Ex Will Still be a Part of Your Life
The belief that you will be “finally free” of your spouse, is just that, a myth. If you have kids together, then even if you stop being “husband and wife”, you will still continue to be “mummy and daddy”. If you are entitled to alimony or if you are responsible for alimony payments, then you will continue to have to work and set aside money for your spouse.
5. It Will Affect Your Kids Emotionally
This is the one thing which most divorcing couples are most worried about and rightly so. Even though your decision to divorce has nothing to do with your kids, they will still wonder why you couldn’t make your marriage work. They will go through feelings of depression, low self-esteem and anxiety. The changes in their living circumstances will affect them as well. If you have to move out of your family home, if you no longer can afford the same lifestyle you used to have, if daddy or mummy moves to another country, if some of the friends they used to play with are no longer part of your social circle, if kids at school ask why daddy or mummy never shows up anymore, any and all of these situations are deeply distressing for kids.
Even if you are pre-occupied with your own emotional issues, you will need to be strong and help your kids through this process. It helps enormously if you can set aside any feelings of anger and resentment which you and your spouse may have to work towards as amicable a divorce settlement as possible.