Are you going through a divorce with kids? See what tips one twin mom says are important to remember about surviving divorce with kids.
From the outside, my life looked Instaperfect. Married, with a mortgage, two dogs, and twins. What could possibly be wrong? Behind closed doors, it was another story. One that I’m not going to share in detail today.
What I am going to share is all the things I learned along the way while enduring a brutal, 18-month divorce. I will share all the things I did to protect my twins throughout the process in order to ensure their health, safety, and happiness, all while surviving divorce.
This is EXTREMELY important for surviving divorce. The judge does not care if you are right and your spouse is wrong. They will only rule on the facts of the case and are completely impartial. And, if you are looking to avoid a third party from making decisions about your life, you need everything documented in order to make a stronger case throughout the mediation process.
Things you should document:
- Date, time, and location of where any incident happened.
- Take screenshots of everything.
- Keep a detailed visitation calendar.
- Ask witnesses to provide detailed affidavits.
- Subpoena bank records and other financial information.
- Download all text messages and emails between you and your spouse.
- If there was abuse, document it with a doctor, the authorities, and/or therapist.
It may seem excessive AND overwhelming, but it will literally be a lifesaver when you come before a judge, lawyer, or mediator.
I set up a Google Drive folder for my attorney and dumped everything in there. You name it, I saved it. In the end, we didn’t need everything but now if anything ever comes up I have the timeline, history, and facts of the entire case ready to go in a moments notice.
Mums the word for surviving divorce
Most people who were connected to me online had zero idea I was going through ANY of this. I never posted about it on social media, made sure to keep my circle tight, and avoided the bait when a friend of my spouse would try to talk to me about “life.”
Honestly, it was better for my mental health. You can’t change people’s minds and frankly, if they truly cared about you they would approach it from a perspective of grace and help – not gossip and accusation.
Finally, you don’t want to come across as unhinged or “emotional.” Ridiculous gender stereotypes still exist so the more calm and level-headed you are, the better you will fare while surviving divorce in this stressful time. The less that exists in text messages, recorded conversations, or on social media, the better off you are. AND, if they are calling to “talk things out” don’t fall for it. It’s probably better to go through your attorney. (Try to communicate through email or text so it is all documented and you can avoid the “he said” “she said” game.)
Money, Money, Money
Divorce is expensive. Going from one home to two homes is even more expensive. I highly recommend that you save more than you think you will need for your divorce and practice frugal financial behaviors throughout the divorce.
If you are eating at home, living within your means, and taking care of your kids while your spouse is out on trips, eating out, and buying new things – you will demonstrate your ability to properly care for your children and why you deserve child support and/or alimony.
And kids are expensive. I recommend using your state’s child support calculator to ensure that you are paid every cent you deserve because the other side may try to lower the amount of support.
And a quick note for someone who may not have control of your household finances. If you are being financially abused and only given an “allowance” from your husband, you must work behind the scenes when you are getting ready to leave. Try to set up a bank account in only your name, get a credit card in your name, and save as much as possible. I had to sell things on eBay and Facebook swap groups to make ends meet at first. Surviving divorce financially is hard, but you can do it.
Research good family law attorneys in your area. Without my lawyer, I do not know what would have happened to my twins and me. It is so important to work with someone who knows the law and can keep you focused on what matters and out of the drama.
If you are a victim of abuse, please contact your local women’s shelter or family advocacy center. Often times, you will qualify for a pro bono attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, throw yourself a fundraiser. I’m serious, it is worth it if you get the legal counsel that you need to make sure you are treated fairly throughout this incredibly stressful process.
Also, if you or your children are victims of abuse, please look into getting a court advocate. They are free and here for you. My court advocate was amazing and really helped me understand what was happening at any given moment, gave me clear advice, and didn’t charge me a penny.
The best thing you can do for your twins and kiddos while you are all surviving divorce is to go to therapy. Your kids mental health throughout this process is as important as your own. If you are a victim of abuse, you can often access free therapy for you and your children through your local family advocacy center. My employer at the time actually gave me a scholarship to cover our therapy fees. All you need to do is ask and see what resources are available to you.
There are also books I recommend for little ones. “Two Homes” and “It’s Not Your Fault Koko Bear,” helped my kids understand what was happening and made it easier for them to accept and adjust to this change.
I thought I would be divorced in a few months. Fast forward 18 months you can thank the state for outdated divorce laws. I also panicked if I didn’t hear anything from the judge after we submitted an order or request. Turns out, there are a million other things on everyone’s plate so it is completely normal to not get a response immediately.
If you are filing an emergency order, you’ll get more prompt responses, but in general, after you file for divorce it can take months to get on the docket depending on your family court’s caseload. And COVID has only delayed that process.
Important for cases of abuse – write a safety plan
I cannot stress this enough – if you are a victim of abuse – financial, emotional, sexual, emotional, physical, or cultural – please write a safety plan before leaving. The most dangerous time for a person in an abusive relationship is when he or she decides to leave. This chart is really helpful in identifying different types of abuse. Often we think of physical as the only form of abuse, but this chart walks you through ALL the ways a partner can abuse you.
Click here for a template, but you will want to think about where you will go, keeping your kids safe, limiting contact, and ensuring you have access to money to live. It is stressful and scary but you can do it. And if you are in this situation and need more advice, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or thehotline.org.
Overall, surviving divorce is one of the most stressful things you will go through. The more you can prepare, the more stress you can eliminate. And know, you aren’t going to be your normal self who can bake cookies for the PTO and throw the twins a coordinating birthday party. Reduce your expectations of yourself now and just focus on you and your family. Once you get through this, you can heal, then rebuild into a stronger, freer version of you. Sending you love.
Stefani Zimmerman Drake is a twin mom and lover of rescue dogs. As a nonprofit strategist who works in Charleston, South Carolina, Stefani spends her time capturing all the sweet moments of her girls, while dreaming about her next big adventure. You can follow the #babydrakes adventures via Instagram stories.
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