Divorcing with Kids – and Without an Attorney

Guest Post By: Leza Biankin

There’s not a person I know who gets married only to think that one day the Happily Ever After will end in divorce. It’s just not something one considers while writing out the guest list or trying on that one-of-a-kind dream wedding dress. Then you’re a puddle of tears and wondering what went wrong, and the D-word enters your mind.

I’ve had two marriages fail. The first one produced two children; the second was a blended family, which added three girls to my two boys. Almost a Brady Bunch. Divorcing without an attorney when there are no children to consider is much smoother – it’s just a matter of separating what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours. Divorcing with kids and without an attorney is complicated on so many levels, though I am glad we did it the way we did.

Below, I share with you advice and anecdotes that helped me and my family through the divorce experience.

Court-Ordered Parenting Classes

One minute, you’re considering divorce. The next thing you know, you’re sitting in a court-ordered parenting class listening to the instructor, whose job it is to somehow teach parents how best to go about this process. This class is mandatory in Arizona when you’re divorcing and have children.

I remember the instructor saying that by the time you file for divorce, you’ve been thinking about getting a divorce for approximately half the time you were married. True, by the way, in my case.

The other thing I recall from that class was being advised to make sure the needs of my children came first. Whoa. It was a sobering thought. My children were young, just about three and six when it all went down. Among the sadness of the failure of the union, keeping the well-being of my kids front and center was by far best thing to do.

Tips for an Amicable Divorce

  • Consider saving thousands of dollars by doing it yourself.
  • While you’re in the middle of the process, think about why you loved the person in the first place.
  • No matter what, don’t badmouth your soon-to-be-ex, now or later.
  • Remember that both sides have a part in the reason the marriage failed.
  • Remind your children frequently how much you love them.
  • Tell your children that both of you love them and that the split is not their fault.
  • Ease the transition to two households by encouraging holidays at both places.

Legal Assistance

We both agreed that we were reasonable and amicable enough to complete our divorce without attorneys. With my ex taking the lead, we decided to use a reputable Legal Document Preparer to help us with the paperwork. All we had to do was figure out who got what from our time together.

For the most part, we were able to divide those items accumulated over time. I won’t lie. It was an emotional roller coaster, however, keeping the children in mind, we got through it. We separated what was mine and what was pre-marriage. The rest we divided based on what we thought was an equitable division dollar-wise.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is always a risk for children when they are separated (even part time) from someone they’re close to, such as a parent after divorce. This was something my ex and I wanted to work together to avoid.

Keeping our kids in mind, we shopped for apartments for him, together. While the sale of the house was in process, we had our holidays together – he cooked the turkey at his apartment. Our boys, whose birthdays both fall in December, were celebrated at his new place that was located by good schools, at my request. Christmas was a blur, then came Easter with an Egg Hunt at his place. By then, I had my own house, and we were able to continue to keep our split amicable.

I believe we did a decent job of keeping the separation anxiety at a minimum by focusing on the needs of our children, remaining as positive as possible, and reminding the kids how much they were loved.

About the Author:

Leza Biankin is an author, mother, Realtor® and the founder of Brown Bag Buddies, a non-profit organization. In short, she’s a lady with a lot to say. After the Aussie-raised, Arizona transplant’s second divorce, she returned to the dating world and found it too juicy not to write about. Her book, Dear Spicy_Red42, exposes the always interesting, never predictable and sometimes hilarious escapades of online dating.
Visit Leza’s website here or follow her on LinkedInFacebook or Twitter.