Should I get a divorce?

If  this or even  “How do I get a divorce” are the foremost questions in your mind, a Divorce Coach can be instrumental in helping you answer them. The UK and the US have already learnt the many benefits of using a Divorce Coach but here in the UAE I still get people asking me, “Why bother with a Divorce coach?” Some even laugh at the idea, saying “surely a lawyer should be enough?” The answer is simple: divorce coaching will not only save you time, anxiety and worry about if you are doing the right thing, in the right way, with the right lawyer, it will also save you a fortune in legal fees in the long run. My clients who have found me after trying to go it alone all say “I wish I found you earlier” and “Why don’t you shout louder about what you do?”

Here are the 7 steps to help you make the best of this difficult and traumatic situation

Step 1: Marriage Assessment

When you turn up on my doorstep for the very first time I begin by giving you the space and the tools to understand your own situation from all perspectives. Together we look at why your marriage is still alive or inversely what has killed it. Is it love, is it fear, is it financial stresses (to name but a few factors) that are keeping you there?

This is when a good Divorce Coach can figure out if you really need to go down the divorce route or if reconciliation is a possibility. Turning up to a lawyer at this stage, signing on the dotted line, and realising later that a divorce was not quite what you wanted, or even, going through that “start the process, hold the process, start the process, hold the process” journey with a lawyer can be an expensive, draining and anxiety riddled path and often leads to bad judgements and costly outcomes.

When an in-depth discussion shows that there is a marriage to save, we can take steps to salvage your relationship. I’ve helped save countless marriages at this stage which, personally, is the outcome I find the most rewarding. If this is your case we work together on your self-esteem, confidence and self-beliefs so that you are in the best place mentally to face marriage reconcilliation. Once ready we ask your spouse to join us . If you are comfortable with yourself at this stage we ask the spouse to join us for marriage reconciliation straight away.. If your spouse is reluctant to seek outside help and won’t be joining us any time soon, we work on a staying in the marriage plan, which gives you the tools to take back to your marriage and help salvage it that way.

Let’s be realistic though, not all relationships can be saved. Some may have a distinct lack of respect, honesty, trust or love, some are toxic, some unhealthy for all concerned, and some even downright dangerous. If this is the case for you then we move onto step 2.

Step 2: Develop a safety plan and an exit plan

In order to make rational decisions which are not fear based, the first step in this process is to ensure that you are in a safe place, both physically and psychologically. As divorce is one of the most stressful decisions you’re likely to ever make, removing the fear from the process can be near on impossible if you’re going it alone. Finding a good Divorce Coach to help appease your fearscan ultimately lead to  more successful outcomes and more succesful life. Inversely, without the right support your fears may become so stressful that they turn into anxiety and panic.

The right support at the right stage, is a huge part of this process, but the wrong support at this stage can be hugely detrimental too. Some people think seeing a doctor to get medication may help at this stage but in reality it is only serving as a temporary plaster to mask the wound and may even turn into an unnecessary crutch. Some people think a lawyer may seem like the right person at this stage, able to clarify all, but having worked closely with many great lawyers over the years, they willingly admit that they are trained to look at the worst possible scenarios, so seeing a lawyer whilst you are still fearful may result in a very expensive way to confuse you and further fuel your fears. Some people believe that researching on the internet at this stage may be helpful. Yes, collecting the correct information is indeed empowering but, like the lawyers that are trained to give you the worse possible scenarios, the media and the internet are also full of the worse possible stories – scandalous stories that are not representative of reality. This can further fuel your fears. Talking to family and friends lies at the basis of building up your resilience and is indeed part of the 7 steps but sometimes at this early stage it can also be detrimental to talk to certain people who may end up deflecting their own fears of divorce onto you. This is natural because they care for you, love you and don’t want to see you come to any harm, but deflecting their fears onto you may leave you feeling even more vulnerable.

The best divorces I’ve seen are when people take their time, chose a good Divorce Coach to help them conquer their fears, and base their decisions on rational wants and needs. Admittedly a counselor can also be instrumental in helping you conquer your fears but what many of my clients have said is that it is the unique combination of emotional work and practical work toghethr with the insights into the process of divorce that is invaluable in helping them appease their fears and move them forwards.

Practical work can be very empowering as the right information can lead to the right decisions. This includes looking at what your children’s needs are both emotionally and practically; the best ways to help and support your children through this; your living needs; your financial needs, including your schedule of expenditure, what each jurisdiction can offer, which jurisdictions that you are entitled to and what jurisdiction may be the best to serve you. You can of course do the financial work and the jurisdiction work with a lawyer but the lawyers that I work with closely themselves say that doing this work with a trained and experienced Divorce Coach is a no brainer for everyone concerned. They call it a win-win situation as you spend a third of the money getting all your ducks lined up whilst they end up with a client who is prepared, rational and knows what they need to move forwards.

Step 3: Use Cognitive Behavior Coaching tools to tackle all other negative emotions

As we know, negative emotions can lead to misjudged decisions. During the divorce there can be any number of these that you will go through from grief, despair and guilt to shame and sadness. A good Divorce Coach will work through these, helping you change your perspective to a more positive one. After all none of these negative emotions are actually helpful to you or your situation but it can be near on impossible to tackle them alone.

Step 4: Build up your network of support

By now you will be in the right frame of mind to begin seeking the right support that will empower you to move forwards positively. Having already worked closely with your Divorce Coach to know what it is you need to move forwards, this is the perfect time to find yourself the right lawyer that suits your divorce needs. This puts you in the position where you are able to clearly instruct your lawyer and work with them to meet your best interests, rather than the lawyer instructing you. Being clear in what you want also allows you the space to be able to judge if you like the lawyer you meet, can trust them and will be able to work closely with them – after all the lawyer you chose is going to be instrumental in helping you decide the rest of your life. I’ve met with clients who hired the first lawyer they saw, even though their gut was screaming at them that this was not the correct lawyer for them, but because they were scared as well as having paid that hefty initial fee to meet, they went ahead anyway . This then leads to an acrimonious relationship with your lawyer, which quite frankly, on top of the acrimonious relationship that you are already probably having with your estranged spouse, this is the last thing you need.

Many lawyers have approached me over the years to partner up with me and work with my clients. What I have learnt is that there is no “one lawyer fits all”. There are many types of brilliant lawyers for many different types of cases and personalities. Some people may need a more moderate and conciliatory approach, some may need a more forceful approach, whilst some may need a bit of both. A good Divorce Coach will have a list of such lawyers that can be recommended to you, saving frustrations and wasted time, as well as a fortune in initial consultation fees, as you won’t need to go through lawyer after lawyer to find the right fit.

This is also a good time to really be talking to your family and friends , when you are  a little clearer  so hopefully leaving them with no doubts that you are doing the best thing for you and your family, helping to appease their own fears, and wholeheartedly support you. Of course there will always be negative, fearful and pessimistic characters out there. If these people are in amongst your support network, you may need to ask yourself if they are serving you well for the moment?

Friends and family are irreplaceable but sometimes they feel helpless to help you, especially if they haven’t any experience of the divorce process themselves or if they are far away, as in the case of many expats in the UAE. Finding a support group with members that are themselves going through or have been through the same process can be invaluable at this stage. Sharing experiences can lead to feelings of empowerment and hope, rather than feelings of despair, which are never helpful.

As there were no support groups for people going through divorce in the UAE I co-founded Leaves Dubai over 3 years ago precisely for this reason. The group meets once a month, is free, and anyone who is going through the divorce process or has been through the divorce process, regardless of what jurisdiction they used or are using, is welcome. The group setting is friendly and informal, allowing us to share stories and experiences and hopefully learn from each other and spread hope.

Step 5: During the divorce process – focus on your strengths, resilience and resources and on the rest of your life

As we go through the divorce process we often dedicate all our time and energy on the negative state of our failed relationship and we shift our focus away from career, fun and leisure, health and wellbeing, money, family and friends, hobbies, and home, to name but a few. Our outlook on life becomes unbalanced. A good Divorce Coach will use tools that will enable you to move your life forwards in all these other areas. You begin to have more balance and not see your divorce as the be all and end all of your life.

Step 6: During the divorce process – practice using coping techniques

The divorce process can often seem like two steps forward and one step back. This means that progress can be frustratingly slow which allows fears and negative emotions to rise to the surface time and time again. A good Divorce Coach will help you to learn coping techniques such as mindfulness and breathing exercises to reduce stress, visualization techniques to picture the future, and help you learn how to speak to yourself with compassion and wisdom so that you are able to remain positive and administer self-care.

Step 7: Exiting the situation positively

Divorce is one of the most stress filled situations you could go through. Handled badly it can leave you with a life that wasn’t at all what you wanted, maybe in financial dire straits, maybe with emotionally scarred children, or with physical illnesses that have born of stress. Handled well, it can lead you to the best life you could ever imagine and to the most successful version of you. Many of my clients have gone on to be far more successful than they could have ever dreamed of and all involved (spouses, children, themselves) have ended up far happier with a healthier relationship for all concerned than they could ever have imagined. As I said at the beginning, sometimes a marriage is far more toxic to all concerned if kept alive than if dissolved. Mostly when that last divorce paper hits that mat, rather than going into crisis and despair, my clients have already made that jump into their new happy lives so thankfully it’s very much a non-event.

This brings us full circle back to our initial question of “Should I get divorced” or even “How do I get divorced?”.

To me, the best answer to both these questions will always be invest in a good Divorce Coach.