Parenting Through Divorce Podcast

Erin recently appeared on the radio show, “Minding Your Health” on AM 950 to talk about parenting during the divorce process. She talks with the host, Roberta Fernandez, and family law attorney Anne Byrne about how parents can keep their children’s interests front and center during and after divorce. The trio also discusses how parents can avoid common parenting mistakes when experiencing the stress and chaos of divorce. You can listen to the program in full here.

The Cost of Conflict

A while ago I was having a relaxing evening at home with my family when I received nasty a text message from a friend about a misunderstanding between us. I felt attacked, angry, and upset. I spent the next few hours sending messages back and forth with my friend. At the end of the night, after my kids were in bed, I realized that I had missed the entire evening with them because I was distracted by the fight with my friend.

Fortunately, I was able to work it out with my friend and we actually grew closer as a result of the misunderstanding between us. So I guess the evening wasn’t a total waste. But what if we hadn’t worked it out, and our conflict was still unresolved? Or, even worse, what if I was still spending a lot of time and energy trying to find a resolution, but never getting anywhere? I would be missing a lot of fun evenings with my kids, and spending much of my time feeling frustrated, angry and hurt. This describes the unfortunate reality for many divorced parents.

While most divorcing parents feel mutual anger, distrust, and hostility around the time of their divorce, their negative feelings typically diminish over time and they are able to develop a cooperative and flexible co-parenting relationship (Haddad, Phillips, & Bone, 2016). However, about 25% of divorced parents are considered high-conflict (Spillane-Grieco, 2000). High-conflict parents are typically well adjusted, caring parents individually, but their relationship with one another is obsessive and uncontrollable, resulting in frequent, severe, unresolved conflict between them (Spillane-Grieco, 2000).

The driving force between high-conflict parents is their perception that they have no control over their relationship with the other parent, and the other parent’s relationship with their children (Malcore, Windell, Seyuin, & Hill, 2010).

This perceived lack of control, combined with the intense love both parents feel for their children, is a perfect recipe for anxiety, fear, and constant conflict.

The truth is that this perceived lack of control over the other parent is more than perception, it is reality. High-conflict parents really do not have control over the other parent, or the other parent’s relationship with their children. If one parent says black, the other parent automatically says white. It’s difficult, frustrating and crazy-making to share the people you love most with a person you have no control over. This is why high-conflict parents frequently end up in court or using a parenting consultant. This is expensive, both emotionally and financially.

The best thing high-conflict parents can do for themselves, and most importantly for their children, is accept that they can’t control the other parent, and do their best to forge a parallel parenting relationship. The parenting style of one parent may be dramatically different than the other parent’s style, but children are usually able to adapt to these differences fairly easily. The kids always win when both parents are focused on creating a healthy, positive relationship with them.

Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services on a sliding fee scale. She is located in Bloomington. Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366, or erin@resolutiondivorceservices.com. “Like” her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erinkassebaumrds.

Haddad, L., Phillips, K. D., & Bone, J. M. (2016). High-Conflict Divorce: A Review of the Literature. American Journal Of Family Law, 29(4), 243-258.
Malcore, S. A., Windell, J., Seyuin, M., & Hill, E. (2010). Predictors of Continued Conflict After Divorce or Separation: Evidence From a High-Conflict Group Treatment Program. Journal Of Divorce & Remarriage, 51(1), 50-64.
Spillane-Grieco, E. (2000). Cognitive-behavioral family therapy with a family in high-conflict divorce: A case study. Clinical Social Work Journal, 28(1), 105-119.

5 Bitter Truths about the Divorce Process

Divorce, for lack of a better word, sucks. In fact, according to a ranking of stressful life events, divorce is more stressful than going to prison (Miller & Rahe, 1997). That’s pretty terrible, but maybe understandable considering divorce often makes people feel lost, victimized, and helpless. Sounds a little like prison. Couples can help minimize these feelings by having realistic expectations about their divorce. Following are five truths you should consider before you begin the process:

Forget the image of emerging from the courtroom feeling vindicated for the injustices you may have suffered throughout your marriage. For starters, fewer than five percent of divorces ever go to trial; the vast majority settle through mediation or other out-of-court dispute resolution processes. Secondly, you cannot “win” your divorce. Even if you get every dollar you are entitled to, that’s only (roughly) half of what you had during the marriage. No fault divorce laws means marital assets and debts will be split equitably, regardless of the behavior of either party.

When it’s all over, you will probably feel like you got screwed. Most people are pretty unhappy with their divorce settlement. A fellow mediator, Amber Serwat, recently talked about the importance of talking to our clients about how settlement feels. Settlement means you each have to give up a lot, causing you to wonder if you gave up too much. Even if you went back and did it all again, the details may differ slightly, but the overall settlement would look pretty much the same. It’s not your fault, it’s not your ex’s fault, it’s not your attorney’s fault; feeling like you got screwed is the inevitable reality of divorce.

Attorneys are advocates, not magicians. Your attorney can help you find realistic solutions to the problems divorce presents, but not wave a magic wand and make them all go away. Most of the solutions your attorney offers will involve some sacrifice on your part. This includes living on a budget, giving in to some of the other party’s demands, and spending less time with your kids. Be prepared to make significant life changes and sacrifices, no matter how “tough” your attorney might be.

The less cooperative the two of you are, the more time and money you will spend getting divorced.

It’s completely normal to want to say “black” to your ex’s “white” at every possible turn during divorce. Hurt, fear, and frustration are at an all-time high during the process. The best thing you can do for your bank account is put your emotions aside and be as cooperative as possible with your ex. If you can both agree to engage in mediation, you will save significant time and thousands of dollars. If you decide to litigate using attorneys, it’s best if the two attorneys can collaborate (or at least be civil) with one another. While you may think you want an attorney that berates and threatens the other side, this will only make the process take longer and cost you more money. Divorce is a business deal and business deals require effective communication that is focused on problem solving.

Your kids will be sad/hurt/angry/scared. Divorce is tough for children, which is painful for the parents who love them. Validate their feelings, protect them from the conflict, and constantly reassure them it’s not their fault and you both will always love them. You and your spouse both likely want what is best for your children but you may have different ideas what that means. While fighting for a few extra overnights a month may feel like it’s in your child’s best interest, it’s probably not. The longer and more conflicted your divorce process is, the more potential it has to damage your children (see my blog post http://www.resolutiondivorceservices.com/conflict-is-not-in-kids-best-interest/). Seek advice from a therapist or parenting coach on how to be the best parent to your kids during divorce. With your help, kids can adjust to the “new normal” and get back to being kids again.

Divorce sucks for these five reasons, and many more. Starting the process with realistic expectations will help you and your kids get through it so you can get started building your new life.

Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services on a sliding fee scale. She is located in Bloomington. Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366, or erin@resolutiondivorceservices.com. “Like” her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erinkassebaumrds.

Miller, M. & Rahe, R. (1997). Life Changes Scaling for the 1990’s. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 43(3), 279-292.

Should You Hire an Aggressive Divorce Attorney?

I’ve encountered people who have done some pretty terrible things to one another since I began working in the family law world. A husband secretly racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt to pay for prostitutes, a wife moving her boyfriend into the shared home while the husband was at work, and parents routinely using their children to hurt one another. If these things were happening to me, I’d want to hire the most aggressive divorce attorney I could find.

Aggressive attorneys can, if directed by you, use terrifying threats, outrageous accusations, and complicated financial manipulations to get “revenge” for the wrongs you have suffered. Your ex will be scared, angry and frustrated. When you are feeling this way yourself, this understandably sounds like manna from heaven.

But wait, let’s fast forward a few months. Your ex has also hired an aggressive attorney and now you are both angry, scared, and frustrated. You have lost complete control of the divorce process, you are each spending a fortune on attorneys fees, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. This is not what you anticipated when you hired your aggressive attorney.

The problem with seeking vindication through the divorce process is that it takes an incredible amount of time and money. Months, even years, of financial and emotional chaos are an inevitable part of a contentious divorce for both parties involved. This is especially problematic if you have children. It’s nearly impossible to go through a long, hatred-fueled, litigated divorce and be emotionally available for your children.

In the end, it’s best to get through the divorce process as quickly and economically as possible so you can move on with your life.

A settlement focused attorney, or a mediator, is best suited to help you through your divorce in a way that will work for you and your family. In the end, even when one party has behaved egregiously, it’s pretty difficult to get revenge through the divorce process. No fault divorce, by definition, means that neither party will be assigned blame. An aggressive attorney will probably be successful at making the process miserable and expensive for your ex, and you, but will be unlikely to get you a more favorable settlement in the end.

Before you hire an aggressive attorney, consider that divorce is happening to you and, unfortunately, to your children. Synonyms for aggressive include violent, hostile, destructive, and antagonistic. Is this the type of person you really want to hire to help you solve what is essentially a family problem?

Knowledgeable? For sure. Firm? Yes. Problem solving? Absolutely. Aggressive? NO WAY.

Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services on a sliding fee scale. She is located in Bloomington. Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366, or erin@resolutiondivorceservices.com. “Like” her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erinkassebaumrds.

The Time You Spend With Your Kids Isn’t Important

“Hurry up, let’s go” is one of the things I say most often to my kids. Sometimes I get to the end of the day and realize the only time I actually spent with them was in the car, running between activities. Like many parents, I worry I don’t spend enough time with my kids.

In divorce, parents’ concerns about spending enough time with their children come out in full force. That’s understandable because divorce, by default, means each parent will have less time with their children. Thankfully the majority of parents are able to negotiate and follow a parenting time schedule that allows both of them to maintain a healthy relationship with their children, despite each having less time with them.

The good news is research proves that children are not negatively impacted when they spend less time with one parent or the other (Trinder, Kellet, & Smith, 2008). However, kids are impacted negatively when they don’t feel emotionally close to a parent (Trinder, et al, 2008). In other words, the quantity of parenting time is not nearly as important as the quality of parenting time when predicting a child’s adjustment and well-being.

Kids do best when parents focus on the quality of the time they spend with their children, as opposed to the quantity of time spent with them. 

Despite this, a minority of divorcing parents find it necessary to account for every minute of the time their kids spend with them vs. in the care of the other parent. While outwardly arguing over parenting time, these parents may be silently asking themselves: What if the other parent has a better relationship with my kids? Or more influence over them? What if my children have more fun with the other parent, or they like the other parent more? What if everyone thinks the other parent is a better parent than I am?

These questions fill parents with fear and insecurity, and cause them to think of parenting time as their entitlement, rather than their children’s lives. The result is a fierce competition over which parent gets more time with the kids. This competition does nothing to lessen the parents’ fear and insecurity and, even worse, may negatively impact their relationship with their children. Ironically, these parents often end up creating the very thing they fear most:  a weakened relationship with their children. The best thing parents can do to mitigate their fear and insecurity is focus on spending quality time with their children.

Parents who focus on fostering healthy, positive relationships with their children, as opposed to fighting over parenting time, are making the best choice for themselves and for their kids. The children win because they receive love, attention and affection from their parents. The parents win because they become more secure in their relationship with their children and, by default, less fearful about the other parent’s relationship with them. This is a win-win solution to the parenting time competition.

Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services on a sliding fee scale. She is located in Bloomington. Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366, or erin@resolutiondivorceservices.com. “Like” her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erinkassebaumrds.

Trinder, L., Kellet, J., & Swift, L. (2008). The Relationship Between Contact and Child Adjustment in High-conflict Cases after Divorce or Separation. Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 13(4), 181-187.

Conflict is Not in Kids’ Best Interest

One of my kids can be pretty lazy. Okay, really lazy. It drives his dad and I crazy and we both want to help him get more motivated. We have pretty different ideas, however, on how to make that happen. We’ve had the same argument about it over and over and, in the end, have agreed to disagree. Now he tries his way and I try mine. Neither way has worked, but that’s not the point. The point is that it’s normal for parents to be in conflict over the best way to parent their children.

Obviously it’s also normal for divorcing parents to be in conflict over any number of issues, including how to raise their children. The good news is that most parents are able to emotionally disengage from one another over time and the conflict between them decreases. This allows parents to form a business-like relationship and effectively raise their children together, but separately. Children of these parents are only minimally impacted by their parents’ divorce because they are free to have an open, healthy relationship with both parents.

Some parents, commonly referred to as high-conflict parents, have a difficult time emotionally disengaging from one another for a variety of reasons. High conflict parents both love their children immensely, but usually have vastly differing views on what is best for the them. As a result, they continue to fight about every issue imaginable, ranging from what a child eats for lunch, to serious allegations of maltreatment and abuse.

Often the underlying cause of these conflicts is one or both parents’ belief that the other parent does not have the necessary skills and abilities to properly care for their children (Trinder, Kellet, & Swift, 2008). Even if these beliefs are true, and the other parent is deficient in some way, the children are more negatively impacted by the conflict than they are by the parent’s lack of parenting skills (Trider et al., 2008).

In other words, it is the conflict itself, not the parenting practices of either parent, that hurts the children.

I often see parents in conflict because they want to protect their children from the other parent, or they want their children to know “the truth” about the other parent. As long as the children are safe, it’s best for them to figure out who each of their parents are all on their own, without interference from the other parent. Discovering their parents’ strengths and faults is an important part of emotional development for all kids. Even better, if parents allow their children to do this, the conflict between the parents will naturally dissipate.

The bottom line is that it’s nearly impossible to have enough time and energy to constantly battle against your ex and be an effective parent to your children. High levels of conflict between parents is often associated with less effective discipline strategies, harsh and inconsistent parenting styles, and decreased emotional availability of parents (Riggio & Valenzuela, 2011). Each parent should focus on doing what they believe is best for the kids while in their care, and allow the other parent to do the same.

If parents aren’t able to disengage from the conflict with one another, they put their kids at risk of developing serious, lifelong problems, including autoimmune disease, depression, substance abuse, and personality disorders.  Children of high-conflict parents suffer from these conditions at a higher rate than other children (Spillane-Grieco, 2000). Obviously this is good incentive for parents to try to more effectively manage the conflict between them.

If you, or someone you know, would like to learn more about how to best parent your children during and after divorce, Resolution Divorce Services is offering a free co-parenting class called Divided Parents, Whole Kids in Maple Grove on April 14. On-site childcare is provided. For more details, or to register to attend, please click on the “Classes” page of this website.

Bridging Parental Conflict® is a more comprehensive class taught by Joe Noble and Lori Thibodeau, two experienced clinicians helping kids and parents during and after divorce. This class provides valuable information to parents who may be experiencing sustained conflict, or are just beginning to forge a co-parenting relationship. The class is offered frequently around the Twin Cities for a reasonable cost. Please visit http://www.thebridgingcenter.com/bridging-parental-conflict for more information.

Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services on a sliding fee scale. She is located in Bloomington. Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366, or erin@resolutiondivorceservices.com. “Like” her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erinkassebaumrds.

 
References
Riggio, H. R., & Valenzuela, A. M. (2011). Parental marital conflict and divorce, parent-child relationships, and social support among Latino-American young adults. Personal Relationships, 18(3), 392-409.
Spillane-Grieco, E. (2000). Cognitive-behavioral family therapy with a family in high-conflict divorce: A case study. Clinical Social Work Journal, 28(1), 105-119.
Trinder, L., Kellet, J., & Swift, L. (2008). The Relationship Between Contact and Child Adjustment in High-conflict Cases after Divorce or Separation. Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 13(4), 181-187.

Making a Murderer: An Important Reminder

My Facebook feed indicates I’m not the only one who has been obsessed with Netflix’s Making a Murderer. This documentary tells the fascinating story of Steven Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, convicted of murdering a young woman in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin in 2005. I was riveted by all the twists and turns, but realize the story was told from one point of view. As soon as I finished watching, I began reading what I could find in an effort to learn the “whole story.” I still don’t know what to think and I’m glad my opinion doesn’t really matter. It must be the mediator in me.

There are times, however, when my opinion does matter. A lot. I work as a Guardian ad Litem for child protection cases, as well as a parenting consultant in the family law world. This is important work and the people I serve have a lot riding on the recommendations and decisions I make. Making a Murderer reminded me how important it is to be humble when working with issues that impact people in such enormous ways.

One person in Making a Murderer, Len Kachinsky (Brendan Dassey’s first attorney), completely astounded me with his total lack of humility. Mr. Kachinsky had all the necessary education, training, and experience to do a sufficient job defending Mr. Dassey. Despite all these qualifications, he assumed the knew “the truth” about his client’s guilt before even speaking with him, and proceeded accordingly.

Humility reminds us that we don’t know everything. It also helps us remember that people are people, regardless of social class, education level, and life circumstance. Brendan Dassey is described in the documentary as “learning disabled” and “slow,” making it difficult for him to understand who was advocating for him and who was working against him. Mr. Kachinsky did not take the time to listen to Mr. Dassey, or even to explain to him that he was supposed to be on his side.

In an effort to help myself avoid the same mistakes made by Mr. Kachinsky, I compiled this list of questions to ask myself before I make any recommendations or decisions. I think these are important questions to ask in order to remain humble, regardless of what field of work we are in.

  • What don’t I know? I don’t necessarily need to know everything, but I do need to be aware of what I don’t know. Arrogance often creates problems in this area; I need to be humble enough to admit what I don’t know.
  • Do I know enough? Do I have all of the relevant facts I need to make this decision or recommendation? If not, are the facts attainable? Do I need to consult another expert in my field to get a second opinion?
  • Am I in a hurry? I am an impatient person with a long to do list. Have I taken the time I need to collect the information I need?
  • What are my biases? Just like everyone else, I bring my own preconceptions, judgments, and values to my work. The best way to remove bias is knowing what these are so you can be as objective as possible.
  • Have I kept an open mind? Have I fully considered every alternative? Have I allowed myself to be swayed in one direction or another? If the answer to either of these questions is no, I have more work to do.

Before I started working in this arena I assumed all judges, attorneys, social workers, and other professionals knew what they were doing and had others’ best intentions in mind. Making a Murderer, and my own experiences, have taught me that this is not always true. I’m hoping using this list of questions will help keep me on the “good guy” list.

Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services on a sliding fee scale. She is located in Bloomington. Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366, or erin@resolutiondivorceservices.com. “Like” her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erinkassebaumrds.

Every Kid is Gifted

I can see you rolling your eyes right now.  Yeah, right, every kid is gifted. And every kid gets a trophy just for showing up. And every kid deserves an A in every subject. This is not what I am saying.

What I am saying that every kid is truly gifted. Not gifted in the same way, however. We typically think of “gifted” in terms of academic achievement and IQ scores. Yes, that is one kind of gifted. But there are many other ways kids (and adults, for that matter) are gifted. Some kids have the ability to make people laugh. Some kids have great capacity for empathy and compassion. Others are incredible musicians or athletes. Some are can take apart an engine and put it back together. These are all gifts.

Clearly not every gift is equally valued in our society. At least not in terms of financial success as adults. Scientists will probably always make more money than artists. Investment bankers will be rich while social workers will scrape by. I would argue, however, that we should not steer our children toward what will make them money, but toward what will make them fulfilled.

Of course, we do want our kids to grow up and be able to support themselves financially. Depending on your child’s gifts, it may be necessary for them to get a “day job” and find fulfillment using their gifts in another arena. A financial analyst by day, a rock-n-roll star by night. That is still a formula for fulfillment.

How do we help our kids find their gifts?

  • Pay close attention. Some gifts, like art or music, might be obvious. Others, like being a good listener, may require you to pay close attention.
  • Exposure to lots of different activities. If enrolling your kids in a bunch of different classes, lessons and sports is too expensive and time consuming for your family, try exposure through books or community events.
  • Encourage them to try new things. Praise them for having courage to try something new, rather than how well (or not well) they performed.
  • Let them be who they are, not who we want them to be. It can be challenging for an athletic parent to have a non-athletic creative writer for a child. Remember it’s about them, not us.
  • Let them struggle. Kids learn to respond to challenges and really figure out who they are by overcoming challenges. It can be painful for parents to watch, but struggle is kids’ most effective teacher.

I’m teaching these two FREE parenting classes in January:

  • Discovering and Fostering Your Children’s Gifts: Come and learn how to help your kids discover their gifts, and what you can do to foster them so your children can develop self-confidence and achieve their full potential. January 18, 2016 from 7:00 to 8:00 at Family of Christ Church in Chanhassen.
  • Positive Parenting. This class will teach you how to raise responsible, motivated, confident kids while giving up nagging, anger, threats, and power struggles. Come and learn about “Love and Logic” parenting, which helps kids and parents build relationships based on respect, empathy, appreciation, and love. January 25, 2016 from 7:00 to 8:00 at Family of Christ Church in Chanhassen.

If you are interested in finding out more information or attending one or both of the classes, please contact me or visit my website www.resolutiondivorceservices.com/classes.

Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services on a sliding fee scale. She is located in Bloomington. Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366, or erin@resolutiondivorceservices.com. “Like” her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erinkassebaumrds.

The High Cost of Hate

I tell my kids it’s okay to hate homework and vegetables, but hating people isn’t allowed in our house. This makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite because, honestly, I might actually hate a few people. Like Kim and Kanye. And maybe a few others…

The problem with hate is the power it has over us.  Hating someone takes a lot of time and energy. Plus, hate just feels rotten. If we aren’t careful, hate can take over our lives. Meanwhile, the subject of our hatred is free to live life without feeling a bit or sympathy or remorse, and maybe even glad that we hate them!

That is the real injustice: our hate doesn’t hurt them, it hurts us. Even worse, it hurts our kids.

In divorce, especially high-conflict divorce, mutual hatred is par for the course. Often clients have the ten page emails and long back-and-forth text strands to prove it. Divorce is incredibly painful, terrifying, and frustrating; these are the emotions where hatred is born and thrives.

Many clients might be willing to hurt themselves, but never their children. At least not on purpose. I work with clients to help them understand how their hatred of one another is probably damaging their kids. Children of high-conflict parents are at risk of developing a toxic stress response. Toxic stress literally changes kids’ brains, putting them at risk of developing learning difficulties, physical ailments, mental illness, and addiction (see my former blog post for more information: http://www.resolutiondivorceservices.com/help-kids-manage-stress/).

It’s best if parents can develop an amicable, flexible relationship after divorce but, obviously, that’s not always possible. In these cases, working toward feeling apathy, as opposed to hatred, is the best option. Apathy, not hate, is the true opposite of love. Feeling apathetic requires no time or energy, freeing former foes to be the engaged and loving parents their kids desperately need.

So, what is the best way to stop hating, and start living?

  • Acknowledge the emotions that underlie hatred. Usually hate is caused by our own feelings of hurt, fear, insecurity, and shame, among others. It’s much easier to hate others than it is to focus on our own terrible feelings. However, acknowledging these underlying emotions is the quickest, but hardest, way to stop hating.
  • Focus on loving your kids, not hating your ex. Your time and energy should be spent cultivating a positive, healthy relationship with your kids. If you are busy doing this, there’s little time left over to hate your ex.
  • Let it go. Do everything you can to disengage from any ongoing conflict. Ignore attacks, choose your battles carefully, and find some peace for yourself. (More to come on this in a future post.)

Hatred is a normal emotion everyone feels sometimes. We need to protect ourselves from its harmful effects and do all we can to minimize it in our lives. It’s what’s best for us, and our kids.

Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services on a sliding fee scale. She is located in Bloomington. Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366, or erin@resolutiondivorceservices.com. “Like” her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erinkassebaumrds.

Right or Happy? Pick ONE.

I recently listened to an NPR story about a guy, Adam, who was nearly killed in a car accident. The driver of the car who hit Adam left the scene and, when found by police an hour later, was intoxicated. A few months later, Adam received a bill demanding he pay $12,000 to fix the car of the hit-and-run drunk driver. WHAT!?!?!? How can that be?!?!?!

Adam discovered the police mistakenly named him at fault for the accident. Understandably, Adam was furious and started down the long, difficult road of trying to straighten out the situation. Nobody would listen to him; the police would not admit the mistake, and no attorney wanted to take on his case. It’s no surprise Adam became obsessed, disillusioned, and depressed.

A year after the accident, Adam was out celebrating his wedding anniversary and began drawing the accident scene on his napkin, just as he had done a million times before. His wife said, “I am so glad you lived through the accident, but it seems life since then has become no life at all.” She meant, of course, that his life had become consumed with righting a wrong that was never going to happen. The next day Adam sent in a check for $12,000 and got on with his life.

If we substitute a drunk driver with a cheating spouse, this is a story we often see played out in divorce. The difficult truth is you will most likely have less money and less time with your kids after you are divorced, regardless of what happened during your marriage. While the desire for vindication is a normal and understandable part of ending a marriage, persistently pursuing it in the divorce process is costly, both financially and emotionally.

Divorce should be approached as a problem that can be solved, rather than a battle that can be won.

This is incredibly difficult to do, especially when there’s been infidelity, financial irresponsibility, or abusive behavior during the marriage. It’s understandably infuriating to realize you may have suffered injustices throughout your marriage, only to receive more injustice in your divorce settlement. Unfortunately, however, that’s the reality of “no fault” divorce.

This does not mean you should give up what you are entitled to in your divorce settlement, or agree to a custody arrangement you feel is unsafe for your children. It does mean, however, you need to have realistic expectations, and facts to support your positions.

Here’s a few ways you can help yourself get through the divorce process:

  • Focus on your future, not the past. Regardless of how you got here, you are here. Do your best to get the business of divorce taken care of so you can move on.
  • Have realistic expectations. As I stated earlier, the reality is you will probably end up with less money and less time with your children than you have now. Consult with an expert, such as a family law attorney, mediator or financial adviser to get a clear picture of what you can reasonably expect to receive (and give up) in your divorce.
  • Remain focused on settlement. Remember that designing a livable future, not winning, is the goal of the divorce process.

Divorce sucks. But it does not suck as much as investing years of your life and thousands of dollars seeking justice that may never come. It’s best for you, and especially for your children, to put your divorce behind you so you can move on with your life.

Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services on a sliding fee scale. She is located in Bloomington. Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366, or erin@resolutiondivorceservices.com. “Like” her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erinkassebaumrds.