Are you trying to get an amicable divorce?
If so, you’re not alone. Virtually every divorcing person in the world would prefer to have an amicable divorce.
True, sometimes there are exceptions. If you find out your spouse cheated on you, lied to you, or gambled away your retirement fund, you might want to fight just to make your spouse suffer. But most of the time, most people would prefer to work things out without waging a war or spending their life savings on legal fees.
Yet amicable divorces don’t happen by accident. They happen when you decide that keeping the peace matters to you. They happen when you decide that you’re willing to do what it takes to prioritize peace.
That’s a lot easier to think about than it is to do.
What's Your WHY?
Understanding WHY you want to divorce amicably can help you stay on track and get the peaceful divorce you want. It will help you focus on walking away from a fight, even when your soon-to-be-ex pushes your buttons or does something stupid.
For example, maybe you know you’re going to have to co-parent with your ex after your divorce. Because of that, you’re willing to work to keep your divorce amicable so that your kids don’t suffer. That's your "WHY."
Or maybe you don’t want to deal with the drama of a contested divorce. Maybe you’d rather not air your dirty laundry in a courtroom. Either of those reasons can be your "WHY."
Whatever your reason, getting an amicable divorce starts with wanting an amicable divorce. (It also helps if your spouse wants an amicable divorce, too!)
After that, you have to actually DO the things that will help make your divorce amicable. You also have to AVOID DOING the things that will start a war.
That may sound simple. But it can be extremely challenging.
Here are 30 tips you can use to keep your divorce civilized, dignified, and amicable.
30 Tips for an Amicable Divorce
1. Stay out of Court.
Courts were made for litigation. Litigation pits you and your spouse against each other. It’s a process that’s designed for fighting.
Mediation, negotiation and Collaborative Divorce, are all more peaceful divorce alternatives to litigation. If you want to divorce amicably, choose a divorce process that keeps you out of court as much as possible. Fight only if you have no choice.
2. Don’t hire a gladiator.
The lawyer you hire for your divorce matters. Hiring a gladiator will turn your divorce into a battle. If you want an amicable divorce, hiring a gladiator will never be your best choice.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire any lawyer at all. Everyone going through a divorce needs legal advice. But you’ll have a much better chance of divorcing amicably if you hire a lawyer who is knowledgeable, yet reasonable. Hiring a hot shot trial lawyer who pumps you full of sunshine and tells you s/he will “fight for your rights” will only embroil you in a war.
3. Get a therapist.
Emotions lie at the heart of every divorce battle. Out-of-control emotions are what will turn an otherwise amicable divorce into a three-ring circus. That’s why getting a handle on your emotions is crucial if you want to have an amicable divorce.
A good therapist or a divorce counselor will help you understand and control your emotions. S/he can help you calm your mind, find your power, and your voice. In short, a therapist can help you bring your best self to your divorce. That alone will help make your divorce way more amicable.
4. Educate yourself.
When you’re going through a divorce you’re going to have to make a TON of major life decisions. The more informed you are about what you’re dealing with, the better decisions you will make. What’s more, the more informed you are, the more you’ll be able to base your decisions on reason rather than emotions.
You don’t have to go to law school or get a degree in finance to get divorced. However, you DO need to understand the basic principles of how divorce works. Knowing that will help you consciously choose to do the things that WON’T ramp up your divorce for no reason, or turn it into a war.
5. Rally the troops.
When you’re going through a divorce you need all the support you can get. Trying to go through your divorce alone will make you feel isolated and afraid. It will magnify your doubts and insecurities. That, in turn, will make it much more challenging to keep control over your emotions so that your divorce stays amicable.
As soon as divorce becomes a reality in your life, put together a support system. That system can include friends, family, and trusted advisers. It can also include more formal divorce support groups.
6. Don’t listen to the “Greek chorus.”
When you’re getting divorced, everyone has an opinion about what you should do. Your family and friends mean well. They really want the best for you. But just because your best friend’s neighbor’s Aunt Susan supposedly divorced amicably and still got everything she wanted, that does NOT mean you should do whatever she did.
Every divorce is different. It’s good to listen and learn from others’ experiences. But don’t forget to listen to your divorce professionals. Then do what’s best for you.
7. Don’t assume that getting an “amicable divorce” will be easy.
No divorce is easy. Even an “amicable divorce” feels like someone is ripping your heart out with an ice pick.
Sure, divorcing amicably is way less destructive (especially for your kids) than creating an all-out war. But don’t expect that just because you’re trying to divorce as peacefully as you can, that your divorce will be simple or pain-free. That’s just not how divorce works.
8. Make sure your expectations are realistic.
The two biggest factors in determining whether your divorce will be amicable are your emotions and your expectations. If you believe you’re entitled to get the sun, the moon, and the stars in your divorce settlement, you will fight like a bobcat to get exactly that. That’s fine if you’re actually entitled to get the sun, the moon and the stars in your settlement. But if you’re not, you’ll be fighting like crazy when you should be settling.
You’ll never have an amicable divorce if what you want to get in your divorce is unrealistic. (Unless, of course, your spouse wants a divorce so badly that s/he will give you everything you want, just to be divorced.)
9. Commit to full financial disclosure.
You can’t negotiate a deal if you don’t know what you’re negotiating about. If you and your spouse are not willing to voluntarily come clean with full financial information, your divorce is NOT going to be amicable. (Or if it is, one of you will get amicably screwed!)
What’s more, if someone won’t fully disclose his/her financial information, none of the out-of-court divorce processes discussed above will work. You WILL be litigating your divorce in court.
10. Get legal advice BEFORE you start negotiating.
Staying out of court does not mean you don’t need legal advice! Unless you have a short marriage, no kids and no property, you NEED to talk with a divorce lawyer! And the time to do that is BEFORE you start negotiating.
Once you’ve already made a bad deal, talking to a lawyer may or may not help you change it. What’s more, even if you can change your deal after you’ve made it, reneging on a deal you agreed on is sure to send your spouse skyrocketing to Pluto. When that happens, your “amicable divorce” will blow up like it was hit with a hydrogen bomb.
11. Listen to your gut.
Divorce is full of emotions. If you listen to them, some of those emotions will undoubtedly lead you astray. But not listening to your gut when it’s screaming, “Don’t do it!” will almost always be a mistake.
Divorcing amicably may be what you WANT to do. But if you’ve got to become a doormat and agree to accept too many things you don’t want in your divorce, then getting an amicable divorce under those circumstances may not be in your best interest.
12. Be reasonable - even if your spouse is not!
The only person you can control is you. If your spouse wants to be jerk, rage against the world, or do stupid things in your divorce, you can’t stop him/her. But just because your spouse is being unreasonable, that doesn’t mean that you have to follow suit.
If you can maintain your head even when your spouse is losing his/hers, you have a much better chance of having an amicable divorce.
13. Ditch the blame game.
Blaming your spouse for every wrong thing that ever happened in your marriage (or for causing the divorce!) is NOT the way to have an amicable divorce.
The minute you start playing the blame game your spouse will either throw up a wall to defend him/herself or will start blaming you, too. That only locks the two of you into a battle where only the lawyers win. If you want an amicable divorce, ditch the blame and focus on dividing up your stuff and taking care of the kids.
14. Wait at least an hour before responding to any text or email that makes you crazy.
Your spouse knows how to push every button you have. If you want to divorce amicably you have to take back control of your own buttons.
When your spouse sends you a scathing text or email – don’t shoot back an equally explosive reply! Stop! Breathe. If you feel like you have to respond immediately, text something neutral. Tell your spouse you will get back to him/her in a few hours. That will give you time to calm down and respond with a cool, clear head.
15. Go easy on the booze.
Alcohol and drugs may make you feel like you can deal with your divorce better, but the opposite is true. Medicating your emotions doesn’t make them go away. It just buries them. Then, when you’re least expecting it, they come raging back out in some totally unrelated (and inappropriate) way. (And that usually happens at the WORST possible time, too!)
Nothing will throw a monkey wrench into your amicable divorce faster than doing something stupid when you’ve overindulged in alcohol.
16. Get enough sleep.
Going through a divorce is guaranteed to cause you many sleepless nights. Unfortunately, being sleep-deprived only makes you even more emotionally reactive than you already are. Because of that prioritizing sleep and self-care needs to be a top priority if you want to have an amicable divorce.
Practice good sleep habits. If you need to, try using herbal teas, meditation, and natural sleep aids. Get medical help if you need it. Do your best to get a good night’s sleep as often as you can. That alone will make your divorce a lot less miserable.
17. Keep your eye on the big picture.
If getting divorced amicably is one of your divorce goals then think about being amicable every time you make any decision in your divorce. Before you act or react to anything ask yourself one question. “Will acting in this way make my divorce more amicable, or more ugly?”
If your ex wants to fight over who gets the toaster, and getting the toaster is not your main goal, let it go. It doesn’t matter whether your spouse gets “more” than you do. It doesn’t matter whether it feels like your spouse is “winning.” Focus on your end game (being amicable) and let the rest go.
18. Think about how each decision you make will affect your kids.
Divorcing amicably will be better for your kids than fighting a war with your spouse. But when you and your spouse don’t agree on how to feed, clothe, or raise your kids, it’s super-tempting to forget about divorcing amicably and to fight for what YOU think is right.
Sometimes what you’re fighting over is worth it. But many times, it’s not nearly as important as it seems to be in the moment. So before you go to the mat on a parenting issue, ask yourself how much that issue will really matter in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, it will. But, if it won’t, then you may want to give up on the battle in order to keep your kids from being involved in the War of the Roses.
19. Stop trying to punish your spouse.
Most people don’t want to admit it. But, deep down, many divorcing people would secretly enjoy seeing their spouse suffer.
Obviously, wanting your spouse to feel bad isn’t optimal. But acting on that feeling will blow your amicable divorce right out of the water. The problem is, it’s often a short step from having a desire to acting on it. So instead of focusing on how you can punish your spouse, focus instead on what you can do to make yourself happy. In the end, that will be the best revenge.
20. Practice gratitude every day.
Very few people are grateful for going through a divorce. Even if getting a divorce was your idea, going through the process of divorce still sucks. Yet finding something to be grateful for is even more important because it sucks.
If you look, you can find something to be grateful for in your life even if you are going through the ugliest divorce. LOOK for something to be grateful for. Focus on what you HAVE rather than on what you’re losing. If you just spend a few minutes every day being thankful for what you have you can change your entire perspective and create the amicable divorce you want.
21. Take the high road.
Hiding assets, draining the joint bank account, and playing all sorts of legal and financial “dirty tricks” on your spouse, will only make your divorce ugly. If you truly want an amicable divorce you have to do what’s right. What’s more, you have to do what’s right even when you want to fight and even when it feels like what’s happening to you is unfair.
That doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat. You don’t have to let yourself get taken advantage of. But you also can’t play dirty with your spouse either.
22. Trust but verify.
Trust is one of the first casualties of a failing marriage. No matter how much you may have trusted your spouse before you were getting a divorce, once you’re in the divorce process you’ll start to be suspicious of each other. (And if you DIDN’T trust your spouse during your marriage, you definitely won’t trust him or her when you’re getting a divorce!)
Know that being a little skeptical at this point is normal. Double-checking things to make sure your spouse is acting on the up-and-up is smart. But if you challenge everything your spouse says or does you throughout your entire divorce you will make your divorce ten times harder.
23. Don’t start dating until your divorce is over.
Going through a divorce is lonely. It’s even lonelier if you and your spouse have been living separately for years. What’s more, the longer your divorce drags out, the more tempting it is to start dating someone new. Don’t do it!
Nothing will blow up and amicable divorce faster than when one spouse starts dating someone else. It doesn’t matter if you’re almost at the end of a divorce that has dragged on for years. It doesn’t even matter if your spouse has already started dating someone else him/herself! If you want your divorce to be amicable, keep the break-up between you and your spouse. Don’t add anyone else into the mix.
24. Walk away from all trash talk.
When you’re angry or upset, you shoot for the kill. You threaten to do things you know will hurt your spouse just because you can. Your spouse does the same to you. But trash-talking each other is the opposite of what you need to do if you want an amicable divorce. What’s more, listening to your spouse’s trash talking can be just as damaging.
When your spouse gets angry and screams, “I’ll take you for every dime you’ve got,” or, “You’ll never see the kids again,” don’t freak out! Don’t react. Talk with your lawyer. Assess whether your spouse’s threats are realistic or just trash talk. Do what you need to do to be proactive. But don’t do more. Overreacting will only increase the drama.
25. Don’t rush.
No matter how much you might want to do so, you’re not going to get divorced in a day. Forcing yourself to get divorced NOW will only put more pressure on you. That’s pressure you don’t need.
Although it might not feel like it, you will have a way better chance at divorcing amicably if you take the time you need to process your emotions first. While giving yourself a little breathing room may make your divorce take a bit longer, it’s also likely to help the process go way more smoothly.
26. Don’t try to rush your spouse.
Divorce only goes as fast as the slowest person.
Pushing your spouse to get divorced when s/he is not ready is the surest way to make your spouse dig in and fight. That makes your divorce take longer. It also makes it less likely to be amicable. While it seems counterintuitive, if you give your spouse the time and space s/he needs to deal with his/her emotions, your divorce will be easier and more amicable.
27. Don’t take anything personally.
People say horrible things about each other when they’re going through a divorce. Those things can be incredibly hurtful, especially if you take them to heart. However, most of the time, whatever your spouse is saying about you isn’t really about you. It’s about your spouse. Remembering that can be extremely helpful.
Is your spouse telling you that the divorce is all your fault? Maybe that’s because your spouse can’t take responsibility for his/her own actions in your marriage. Is your spouse telling you that you will never find love again? Maybe that is his/her own fear. The bottom line is: your spouse’s proclamations about you are not Gospel truth. They are simply your spouse’s opinions.
28. Remember the power of an apology.
No one is perfect all the time. No matter what you try to do, there will be times in your divorce when you do stupid stuff. When that happens, apologize.
Few things are more disarming than saying “I’m sorry” to your spouse – especially when you are going through a divorce. (Of course, you have to really mean it, too! A fake apology is worse than no apology at all.)
29. Don’t expect to be friends in an instant.
Many people want more than an amicable divorce. They want to be “friends” with their ex after their divorce is over.
Being “friendly” with your ex during your divorce can be challenging, but it’s possible. But actually “being friends” with your ex takes time. You need to heal. Your spouse needs to heal. Trying to force yourselves to be friends before you are both ready and able to do so will just be awkward. Take your time. Respect each other’s boundaries. Keep the lines of communication open. See what develops.
30. Remember that you are enough.
Divorce can make you feel like you’re not “enough.” You’re not successful enough, fit enough, pretty or handsome enough, smart enough, fill-in-the-blank enough. Simply put, you’re not enough.
None of that is true. Divorce can be unbelievably challenging. It can make you question everything about yourself that you ever believed, But deep down, you know the truth. You are enough. If you can start to really own that, you will reclaim your power. Once you do that, your whole life will change.
This post was originally published in June, 2017 and updated on May 19, 2022.