My divorce was final five years ago, so I’ve had some time to settle into a new way of life and reflect back on how my life has changed these past few years, and also what victories and mistakes I’ve made. I doubt a DeLorean set for 2010 is about to drive into my life anytime soon to offer me the opportunity to go back in time and have a “divorce do-over”, but if it did, here’s what I would (and would not) change:
I would still get divorced. No question about it, no matter how gut-wrenchingly difficult this was at times, my life and my children’s lives are better because of the divorce!
I’m not sure how I could have prepared myself better, but I had no idea how much it would shake up my life not having my kids with me every day. I have become accustomed to alternating weeks with my ex; but it ripped my heart out on many occasions to miss so many little things like my daughter losing a tooth or putting them to bed every night. If I had a time machine I would go back and tell myself to really imagine what it would be like. I would still divorce, but maybe I wouldn’t have been quite so crushed by missing them!
I would iron out more of the fine details with my ex about visitation. For the most part, we stick to our alternating weeks and only split up Christmas and Easter. In many ways I’m very glad that we didn’t adopt the court visitation schedule, but I think our lives would have been easier to discuss summer switch off times, birthdays, and other things just a little more.
I wouldn’t assume that just because we alternate weeks that the calendar would be in my favor to have my kids alternating holidays. I’ll be honest that some holidays matter more to me than others, but in the six years since my ex and I separated, I have had them one Thanksgiving, and only because we made a trade. Otherwise, that every other week thing for this particular holiday didn’t play in my favor for Thanksgiving. I have had my kids more on birthdays; but, we should have specified that the most important holidays would alternate.
I would have pushed harder to be the residential parent. My ex and I have 50/50 shared custody and equal rights in all aspects of parenting them, but someone’s address had to be used to register them for school. I left our marital home, meaning that his address was the one the kids were already registered at.
My lawyer didn’t indicate that this could be a problem for me, but as the “residential parent” he clearly receives preferential treatment from the school. I get duplicate e-mails and such; but, if anything official is mailed, they only mail one to the address of registration, and his name populates at the top of the list for contacts at school. It’s been alright (after setting the school straight numerous times), but considering that I am the one most likely to be reached by a teacher or to respond to a problem, it burns me sometimes.
I would have been better informed about my rights and how to protect myself as a co-owner of our home. Again, my lawyer assumed that I knew all about real estate law and mortgages, which I didn’t, so when our dissolution stated that my name would need to be removed from the house within 30 months, I stupidly thought he would just take care of it and it would just happen.
Wrong! He would first have to qualify for refinancing, which he couldn’t because he lost his job a few months after the divorce. At the last moment before we were due back in court for him to face contempt for not taking care of this issue, he somehow managed to find a co-signer to allow him to assume the property without me. Bottom line: ask questions, inform yourself, and don’t just assume anything!
I would figure out a lot quicker not to let my ex control my emotions so much. While we were separating and during our divorce we argued constantly, and it was very stressful. I found myself unable to sleep at night because I constantly worried and thought about our situation, and every evil thing he said or did cut me to the core. I finally decided that his actions could only hurt me if I let them. I couldn’t control him, but I could control my reactions to him. Once I started letting his lies, insults, and hurtful actions roll off of my back, he significantly reduced his behavior to the point where we only talk about kid-related topics, but we are very civil.
I wouldn’t have underestimated the influence a high-conflict ex could have in my life. When I met my (now) husband, I knew that his ex was a very volatile person. I witnessed a parade of nonsensical and selfish behavior including her promising to pick up kids, then cancelling or not showing over and over again. I listened to her cuss him out on a daily basis and watched their kids exhibit signs that she was trying to alienate them from him (e.g. trash talking about him, offering them candy if they said they hated him, and so on).
I took for granted that most people are sane and move on with their lives. The past few months are the first that we don’t have numerous daily texts cussing him out and other petty behavior. She left him, but it took her this long to decide fighting every day wasn’t worth it and to respond to some reasonable boundaries. I love my husband, but if I am ever in the position again to avoid a crazy ex, you better believe I will!
I would learn a lot quicker that everyone’s life will be a lot easier to just stick to our schedules unless there is very good reason to deviate. I often rue the fact that interesting activities that I wish I could take my kids to occur on their weeks with their dad. Every time I have tried to make trades so that they can do something fun with me during his time, it has come back to bite me. No more. It’s sad, but I just have to stick to my schedule and hope I get a chance the next time.
One example of this was when my ex needed me to take the kids for a night over his time, so I asked if I could have the night after Thanksgiving so the kids could be with me for my town’s Christmas parade and tree illumination. At 5pm, as I was on my way to pick them up, he called to tell me it wasn’t going to work because the kids were too tired…because he got them up at 3 am to go Black Friday shopping at a gun store!
Thankfully most of my divorce woes have smoothed over with time. I'd still like to borrow a time machine, though, if someone can lend one to me!