The divorce commandments

I am deeply unsettled and I need to talk it out.

The murder of Hannah Clarke and her three kids, plus the appallingly comments by Queensland police, are weighing heavily on me.

The police inspector involved is going through hell over what he [definitely shouldn’t have] said. I don’t think we need to add him to the death tally.

So he shall remain nameless in this post. But I am haunted by his questions:  “Is this an issue of a woman suffering significant domestic violence, and her and her children perishing at the hands of the husband?

“Or is it an instance of a husband being driven too far by issues that he’s suffered by certain circumstances into committing acts of this form?”

No one is ever “driven too far” into committing such a terrible act. Nothing justifies setting your wife and children on fire and watching them die in terror and agony.

How has Australia come to this?

Our country is being broken by domestic violence and ugly divorces.

And I am sick of it.

Why is it so hard to end a marriage without emotional, financial and physical carnage?

People are so determined to hurt their exes that they don’t seem to care what it does to their kids.

We’re adults – we need to grow up and act like it.

But since we don’t seem to remember how to do that, I’ve come up with some Divorce Commandments.

They apply to garden-variety divorces, which is what the majority of marriage break ups should be.

The ones involving mentally ill or violent exes obviously require a different approach.

Although, “Thou shalt not kill” is an oldie but a goodie that fits all situations.

If you or your ex or both of you simply don’t love each other any more, why does it have to be World War 3?

OK, here goes. My 10 Divorce Commandments …

Commandment No.1: Do everything you can to avoid hurting your kids

Having their parents separate is traumatic enough, don’t pile on unnecessary pain. Actually, the nine other commandment feed into this one. Do everything you can to avoid hurting them mentally, physically or emotionally. Give them every chance to grow into adulthood as happy and healthy as possible.

Commandment No.2: Don’t weaponize your children

They should never be pawns in the battle to “win” against your ex. They shouldn’t feel like they have to “choose” between their parents. Let them feel free to love you both equally.

Commandment No.3: Don’t disparage your ex or their new partner to the kids

Your ex is your child’s father or mother. As per above, your children still love your ex even if you don’t. As for the new partner, whether they arrived on the scene while you were still together or after, don’t make it harder on the kids by expecting them to hate the new person. While it’s incredibly difficult to know your child is spending time with someone other than you, it’s not fair to make the child feel guilty or bad about it. It’s much better for your kids’ emotional well-being to be happy wherever – and with whoever – they happen to be staying.

Commandment No.4: Keep your ex-partner in the loop

Your ex loves your kids just as much as you do. When my children are sick with the flu or in Accident & Emergency with a head injury, I text my ex to let him know. And I expect him to do the same when the kids are in his care. This also goes for school results, end-of-year performances, sporting events, parent-teacher interviews and all that jazz. Your ex wants to be part of it just as much as you do. They SHOULD be. Your kids want them to be too. So don’t hide things from them or try to sideline them.

Commandment No.5: Don’t waste good money on bad fighting

We all have bills to pay. We all want our “fair share” when a marriage breaks up. We all think we deserve more than we get. When my ex told me he was leaving, I said he’d be going with nothing. But that’s not the real world, so – when I calmed down – we talked about it reasonably and came to a decision we could both live with.

How does it help your kids to financially ruin your ex? What sort of scenario does that mean they will enter whenever they are in their care?

Why spend tens of thousands of dollars – or even hundreds of thousands – on court cases when there are so many better things you and the kids could be doing with that money.

You might be bitterly determined to triumph over your ex, but the only winners are the lawyers.

Commandment No.6: Keep the co-parenting as amicable as possible

Don’t make your ex jump through unnecessarily complicated hoops when it’s their turn to have the children. Is it really so hard to say hi to them at the front door during handover? Kids shouldn’t dread every interaction between their parents, it leads to lifelong anxiety and stress.

Commandment No.7: Don’t make parenting a competition

It shouldn’t be about scoring points for being the “best” parent. It’s about both of you doing the best you can. Single parenting is hard work, especially if you’re both juggling jobs. Blending families is challenging.

Give each other a break and acknowledge that humans are imperfect and make mistakes.

And it definitely shouldn’t be about bribing or manipulating your child so they love YOU more.

Commandment No.8: Try to be kind

Sure, be angry – for a while – about your marriage ending. It sucks. Rage for a few months about the injustice of it all (just not in front of the kids). Nurse a little fury for a few years even. But then move on. Get over it. Make a new, better life. Happiness really is the best revenge.

When the hurt and anger subside, it’s so much easier to be kind. And it feels so much nicer. Life is too short to waste on letting bitterness eating away at you.

And try to remember you loved each other once. DNA from both of you created your wonderful children

Commandment No.9: Don’t lie to get full custody 

Avoid becoming so consumed by hate that you’ll say anything to stop your ex sharing custody of your kids. Don’t tell porkies about them in the courtroom. Don’t drill those porkies into the kids so hard they start to believe them. And don’t push for custody arrangements based on minimising or maximising your child support payments.

Commandment No.10: Don’t make your children choose on their big day

One day your kid is going to celebrate a milestone birthday or get married or have a baby. And they will want both their parents there to celebrate the moment.

It will mean so much to them if their mum and dad can put their child’s happiness first and their differences second.

They shouldn’t have to worry about whether you will refuse to go to their wedding if the other parent is invited.

And while it may feel like it will kill you to be in the same room with your ex, even more so if their new partner is there too, it won’t.

The new partner has a right to be there too, as they are now part of both your ex partner and your child’s lives.

Even I’m not looking forward to following this final commandment, so hopefully it’s a few years away!


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