Rules of divorce: Keep it neat, get help and don’t scar the children
What you need to know:
- If all conflict resolution attempts such as marital therapy have failed, it's time to accept that your union cannot continue to exist and focus on planning a civil separation and divorce.
- Kids should not be separated from family members of either side. Help them to maintain contact with family members on both sides because they need to grow within a village of love.
Unlike breaking up an ordinary relationship, a divorce not only breaks up love, promises and hopes, it also breaks families apart. The divorce process can be dirty and emotionally, physically, and financially draining. But there are ways you can navigate the process without washing your family’s dirty linen in public.
Acceptance and retrospection
It may not be easy to accept that your marriage has come to the end. But if all conflict resolution attempts such as marital therapy have failed, it's time to accept that your union cannot continue to exist and focus on planning a civil separation and divorce. This will however not take away the pain of a broken marriage which could come in the form of shock, guilt, shame, anger, or self-blame. Don’t bottle it up. “Find a therapist or a mature companion to whom you can open up to, walk the journey with, and boost your healing process,” says Susan Gacheru, a family therapist based in Nakuru. “Once you’ve begun healing, you can try and explore what went wrong with your marriage from a balanced point of view.”
It won't be easy to go back to being single after years of being married. You will do well to start thinking about how you want your single life to be early enough. “The last thing you want is to be in a perpetual state of loneliness, regret, and desperation after your divorce. You must quickly figure out what your next move will be if you want a more satisfying, fresh phase of your life,” says Ms. Gacheru.
Divorce is hard on kids. Your children might think that they are the cause of the divorce. Psychologist Dr. Chris Hart says that you should try as much as possible to avoid endless court fights and bitter custody battles. “These fights are very negative for children. Avoid casting their mother as a bad person in order to justify your resolution for the divorce,” he says. Take time to understand how custody rules work. For example, chances of your immediate former wife getting custody of the children are higher than yours. Unless there is a risk of harm, the court will most likely give custody to the mother, and offer you adequate visiting rights. Despite the divorce, Dr. Hart says kids should not be separated from family members from either side. “Help them to maintain contact with family members on both sides because they need to grow within a village of love. Let them know that they have a home at their father’s place, and arrange how they can reach their father,” says Dr. Hart.
You may need a legal team to help you settle your divorce. It is important that your team is made up of professionals with a good track record of divorce mediation and settlement. “When a divorce goes to court, couples involved lose while their lawyers gain. Pick a legal team that has a reputation of negotiating for a mutually fair settlement,” says Dr. Susan Heitler, a psychologist and the author of The Power of Two.
Division of matrimonial property has evolved. Factors such as prenuptial agreements and spousal contributions are considered. Article 45 (3) of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya declares that in the event that you had acquired the property prior to the marriage but went into marriage without a prenup, you and your partner will automatically share matrimonial property equally, irrespective of the contribution either of you made towards the acquisition of the property. The law also protects women who work from home or who are stay-at-home wives. For example, Section 2 of the Matrimonial Property Act No. 49 of 2013 defines contribution towards the acquisition of matrimonial property as including monetary and non-monetary contributions such as domestic work and management of the matrimonial home, child care, companionship, management of the family business, or property, and farm work. Over and above the law, it will be better if you can reasonably and amicably arrive at a solution that will have the kids’ interests at heart.