Dealing with divorce in your family

If problems in your marriage just aren’t getting resolved, your whole world can feel like it’s turning upside down. Divorce is a scary topic, so we’ve put together some basic tips to help you walk out of this situation a happier and stronger person. 

Why people get divorced

Every relationship is unique, so reasons for your marital problems will be different too. However the court only sees two reasons for divorce: irretrievable breakdown, or mental illness/continued unconsciousness of a spouse.

  • What is irretrievable breakdown

    This is when you realise that there is nothing you can do anymore to fix the problems in your marriage. The most common reasons for irretrievable breakdown of a marriage include:

    • Adultery, which is when one of the spouses has/is cheating on the other.

    • Alcohol or drug addiction, especially when it is destructing the family and/or financial income.

    • Criminal offense leading to imprisonment.

    • Physical, verbal and mental abuse.

    • Loss of love and affection between the couple.

    • Long-term unemployment or on-going financial instability.

    • Failing to comply with parental responsibilities.

In 2017 over 25 000 divorces were settled in South Africa. Four in every ten of these marriages didn’t make it to ten years. You are not alone.

Your children come first

If you’re thinking about getting divorced, it’s likely that your children are picking up on some of the tension in the house.  

  • A few important things to keep in mind

    • Encourage your kids to share their feelings. Talk them through the confusing emotions they have and remind them that they’re allowed to feel this way.

    • Thank your children for opening up to you and provide comfort and support if the conversation gets emotionally heavy for them.

    • Remind your kids that conflict is a normal part of any relationship. If you and your spouse have an argument in front of your kids, use this opportunity to show them how issues can be resolved peacefully if people listen to each other’s point of view.

    • Don’t use your children as messengers between you and your spouse. It’s extremely confusing for a child of any age.

    • Don’t say bad things about your spouse to or in front of your children. This can cause unnecessary damage to the relationship between children and parents.

The best way you can take care of your children is by taking care of yourself as well. The power of your emotional strength will help you support them – this is a difficult time for them too.

Potential custody Arrangements

If your marital problems are leading to divorce, you must understand what the court looks at during custody arrangement settlements.

  • Seven main things the court considers

    • Your child’s age, gender and background situation.

    • How strong your child’s personal relationship is with each parent.

    • What attitudes both of you have towards parental responsibilities, and evidence thereof.

    • How well you or your spouse can provide your child with emotional and intellectual support.

    • How well you or your spouse can provide the child with security.

    • Financial stability of both you and your spouse.

    • Physical or mental illnesses that you, your spouse or your child may have.

    Remember that the High Court takes the best interest of the child  very seriously. These points only cover the basics of how the court makes a decision. Every family is different, so a lot more mediation may be involved.   

Coping with your own feelings

Whether your divorce is a smooth process or a rocky ride, you’re going to feel some painful emotions.

Experts say that going through a difficult breakup can have the same effects on your emotional state as facing the death of a loved one has. Understanding this can help you work through your emotions during this difficult time.

  • The five phases of loss

    • Denial.

    • Anger.

    • Bargaining.

    • Depression.

    • Acceptance.

    Breakups are complicated, and so are emotions. You can expect to jump back and forth between some of these phases, and some phases could last much longer than others.

The most important thing to do is focus on your own health and happiness. Remember that change can be a good thing, so let yourself be sad when you need to, but stay strong and keep your mind focused on your new future that is unfolding.

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