Nature, when left to universal laws, tends to produce order out of chaos
~ Immanuel Kant
What if the best way to get an amicable divorce was to follow laws that your divorce lawyer never told you about?
These laws apply no matter what state or country you’re in. They apply to everyone equally: young and old, rich and poor, educated and ignorant.
These laws transcend conventional wisdom. You won’t find them included in court rules anywhere.
They are unwritten, largely unacknowledged, and very often ignored. They’re often uncomfortable to follow.
Yet, they apply unfailingly to everyone … and they produce amazing, consistent and predictable results.
They are the laws of responsibility, control and karma.
The Universal Law of Responsibility
The law of responsibility is simple. You are responsible for your own actions.
It doesn’t matter that you had the best of intentions when you did something that turned out wrong. It doesn’t matter that you’re a good person who only acted out of anger or pain. What’s more, it doesn’t matter if YOU were the one who was wronged, or if getting a divorce wasn’t even your idea.
You are still – first, last, and always – responsible for everything you do.
What Responsibility Is … and Is Not
When people hear the word “responsibility” coupled with the word “divorce” they immediately think of one thing: Blame.
But being responsible has NOTHING to do with blame!
“Blame” is a judgment. Blame is a way of saying: “You did a bad thing. You’re at fault.”
But responsibility isn’t about fault. It’s about ownership.
It’s about saying, to yourself and to the world, “Yes. This is my job. This is my life. I OWN this!”
And that doesn’t just mean owning your part in causing your marriage to end – no matter how big or small your part may have been.
Responsibility also means owning what happens during your divorce.
Here’s the harsh truth.
No matter how devastating your divorce may be, your emotional state doesn’t give you a free pass to act like an idiot during your divorce. It may EXPLAIN why you’re acting the way you are.
But it’s not an excuse.
You are responsible for how you act and what you do – before, during, and after your divorce.
The Story of George and Adele
George, a handsome, charming, self-employed contractor, had been married to Adele, a self-made millionaire for five years before their marriage fell apart. Adele was smart, hard-working, and had the Midas touch. Every company she created turned to gold.
George, on the other hand, was a big dreamer and a great talker. But he hadn’t made ten cents in his entire life.
In spite of being a financial disaster, George loved living the high life. It was a life he never could have afforded if it weren’t for Adele.
At first Adele loved George. But she soon got tired of supporting him and bailing out his failed enterprises. So, she filed for divorce.
Knowing that George had a temper, and that he would fight for what Adele regarded as HER money, Adele immediately took the offensive in their divorce. She retained a high-powered attorney who filed for an order of protection, claiming Adele was afraid of George.
And So It Began …
When the police served George with the Order of Protection, George’s temper flared. Although he hadn’t done everything Adele claimed in the Order of Protection, he did do enough when he was served with it to get thrown into jail and kicked out of the house.
Because he ran his business from home, George’s work suffered after that. He lost all his contracting jobs and couldn’t make any money.
Adele responded by cutting George off. She refused to pay for his truck, his rent, his credit cards, or anything else. George’s bills quickly went past due. His car got repossessed. His credit tanked … and so did his health.
George developed bleeding ulcers, which caused him to have a mini-stroke.
Because they were still married, Adele was responsible for paying all of George’s medical bills, as well as thousands of dollars a month in spousal support, since George was clearly unable to work.
What’s more, several of George’s bills were also in Adele’s name. In the process of ruining George’s credit, Adele seriously damaged her own.
George and Adele each blamed the other for all of their troubles. Neither could see or admit the role they BOTH played in wreaking havoc on their lives.
Taking Responsibility in Your Own Divorce
Understanding that responsibility is a universal law, and that the ONLY way to avoid causing more pain (for yourself and your family) is to take ownership of what’s happening in your divorce, isn’t easy.
It feels unfair. It feels wrong.
You WANT to blame your spouse for all the pain and heartache you’re feeling in your divorce. You WANT to blame your lawyer if your divorce takes longer or costs more than you think it should. (…and it ALWAYS takes longer and costs more than it should!)
The problem is that blame doesn’t solve problems. It creates more of them.
What’s more, blaming others for whatever is happening in your life robs you of the power to change anything. It turns you into a victim.
Taking responsibility for what’s happening – in your divorce, and in your life – gives you your power back.
That’s why it’s so important to shift AWAY from blame and towards responsibility.
Once you understand that YOU are responsible for how you act in your divorce, you will act differently. That alone will make your divorce more amicable.
Once you realize that YOU are responsible for your finances from this point forward, you have a better chance of making a financial settlement that serves you.
Once you understand that NO ONE – not your lawyer, not your kids, not your spouse – is going to care more about your divorce than you do, you will gladly take responsibility for staying on top of your divorce.
The Universal Law of Control
The second universal law is the law of control.
You are responsible for controlling yourself, and only yourself.
It sounds so simple.
On paper, pretty much everyone would agree with it … until their spouse pushes their buttons and they lose it in court! Then suddenly, their lack of control becomes their spouse’s fault.
Make no mistake about it. Controlling yourself during a divorce is HARD.
It’s HARD to get a grip on your emotions – especially when your spouse seems to be able to do whatever s/he wants and no one cares!
But, you can’t control your spouse. You can’t control your lawyer, the judge, or the divorce system. At times, if they’re still young, you may be able to control your children. But that’s about it. And even that doesn’t last forever.
The only one you can control is yourself. Ever. Yet, just doing that much – controlling yourself – can make an enormous difference in your divorce.
The Story of Arthur and Kathy
Arthur and Kathy had been married for six years when Arthur filed for divorce. Arthur was a banker with a Type A personality. Kathy was an artist and stay-at-home mom of three children, aged 6 months, 2, and 4.
Money had always been an issue in Arthur and Kathy’s marriage. Arthur was convinced that Kathy didn’t understand how to spend money wisely. So he controlled the purse strings. If Kathy wanted anything, she had to ask him.
Naturally, Arthur didn’t think that should change, even after he filed for divorce.
When Arthur moved out, he had all the household bills forwarded to him. He paid Kathy’s mortgage, utilities etc., just as he had always done. But he didn’t want to give her a dime in cash. He suggested that Kathy email him a grocery list each week, so HE could buy the groceries and household items that she and the kids needed.
Not surprisingly, Kathy’s lawyer disagreed and took Arthur to court.
You can imagine Arthur’s dismay when the judge ordered Arthur to turn over more than half his income each week to Kathy so that she could pay the bills for herself and the kids.
Taking Control versus Being Controlling
Arthur’s need to be in control may seem extreme. But the truth is, we ALL need to feel like we’re in control of our environment to some degree.
When divorce turns our entire world upside down, and everything seems out of our control, it’s only natural to want to control SOMETHING! The problem is that the first thing we try to control is generally not ourselves.
We try to control our spouse. We try to control our situation.
What’s worse: we don’t even see our actions as being controlling. We see them as being “necessary” or “helpful.”
Like Arthur, we think we’re just trying to make sure that the bills get paid or the kids get fed.
We don’t view ourselves as being controlling.
That’s actually not surprising.
Taking control of ourselves is hard! … especially during a divorce!
It’s hard to not let yourself get sucked into having the same argument with your spouse that you’ve had a hundred times before when your spouse is pushing every button you have. It’s hard to force yourself to talk to your spouse with respect when respect is the last thing you feel for him/her at the moment.
Yet, learning to control yourself, while letting go of your urge to try to control your spouse, is one of the keys to minimizing the conflict in your divorce.
The Universal Law of Karma
A lot of people get the idea of “karma” wrong.
They think karma is some kind of crazy, New Age, spiritual thing. Or, if they’re old enough to remember “Instant Karma,” they think it’s something the Beatles dreamed up in the 1960’s, probably during a drug-induced haze.
In reality, karma doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with New Age spiritualism, the Beatles, or psychedelic drugs.
Karma, simply stated, is the law of cause and effect. In other words, what goes around, comes around.
The Story of Melissa and Tony
Melissa, a beautiful and naïve young woman, was married to Tony, a talented and successful international businessman. Tony had income and property all over the world. He and Melissa lived the high life. But, on paper, he and Melissa didn’t make much money.
Melissa loved her life with Tony – until she discovered Tony’s multiple affairs.
Insensed, Melissa filed for divorce, sole custody of their son, and exclusive possession of their mansion. She also rang up significant credit card debt.
Tony responded by folding his business, allegedly because of the bad economy and new import regulations. The couple spiraled into debt. By the time they divorced their multi-million dollar estate had dwindled down to a paltry hundred thousand dollars.
Melissa accused Tony of purposely wrecking his business just so he didn’t have to pay her support. She accused him of hiding his income and assets in other countries. But she couldn’t prove anything.
They both hired high-powered attorneys and went all the way to trial. In the end, Melissa got most of what was left of the marital estate. But that was still only a fraction of what she thought she should have had.
Bitter and angry, Melissa bided her time. After the divorce, she organized a small mountain of financial paperwork … which she delivered to the IRS. When they got done with Tony, not only was he unable to restart his business, but he found himself doing time in federal prison for tax evasion.
While Melissa was ecstatic, their 12 year old son was not. He resented his mother for sending his father to prison. Over time, his relationship with her disintegrated, and he ended up with a drug habit and serious behavioral issues.
You Reap What You Sow
Sometimes, as Tony learned, the law of karma strikes fast and furious.
Other times, as Melissa discovered, it evolves over time.
Either way, karma happens. Always.
If you treat your spouse with hatred or violence, that hatred or violence will come back to you. If you insist on holding your spouse to the letter of the law, so too will you be required to dot every “I” and cross every “t” later in your life.
On the other hand, if you treat your spouse with kindness and respect – even when s/he has treated you badly and doesn’t “deserve” kindness or respect – then kindness and respect will one day be yours too.
What you do comes back to you.
It may come back to you in a different form or from a different person. Like Tony, you may screw your ex, only to have someone else the screws put to you by someone else.
It may take years to catch up with you.
But it will catch up with you.
The one thing you MUST remember, though, is that it’s not YOUR job to make sure that karma happens.
If, like Melissa, you do something to purposely get back at your spouse, ultimately you will reap the rewards of your malicious behavior. Then you will suffer as much, or more, than your spouse.
So, if your spouse is acting like a spoiled two-year-old in your divorce, don’t lash out. Stand up for yourself quietly yet firmly, with dignity and respect. Then sit back and let karma do the rest.
How You Can Use These 3 Universal Laws in Your Divorce
Whether you like it or not, the universal laws of responsibility, control and karma will be at play in your divorce. The key to having a reasonably amicable and civilized divorce is to work WITH these laws, rather than against them.
That’s not always easy.
In fact, it’s often damned hard.
It goes against what you WANT to do, what you feel like doing.
It doesn’t feel fair that you have to be responsible for yourself when your <center>spouse is acting so irresponsibly (… and getting away with it)!
Controlling yourself (or at least trying to control yourself!) when everything in your life is spinning out of control takes a herculean effort.
And waiting for karma to do its job when you’d much rather take matters into your own hands can be maddeningly frustrating!
But bucking these laws will only increase your pain, intensify your suffering, and make your divorce worse.
In the end, then, knowing these laws, respecting them, and following them, as hard as that will sometimes be, will get you through your divorce in the healthiest way possible. What’s more, when you do that, you’ll find yourself on the other side of your divorce, with your integrity and self-respect intact.
This article is loosely excerpted from the book:
When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially and Legally.
I have made every effort to work with these 3 universal laws during our divorce proceedings. Taking responsibility includes both parties complying with the fundamental principles of financial disclosure, but I have also had to take responsibility for proving that the Respondent has not complied. I would not agree that I’ve been malicious, it’s been about uncovering the truth so that transparency prevails as part of arriving at a fair and reasonable financial settlement. Taking control in this way has been really difficult. It has cost me more time, money and energy when I could have simply thrown in the towel so many times. However, I have stuck by the principles of frank, honest, truthful and accurate financial disclosure and in doing so, my efforts have paid off. The element of karma will, I think, unfold further as part of arriving at a financial settlement.
Karma always happens.
Thank you for the words of wisdom regarding Laws for amicable divorce. I am trying to obtain a non-contested divorce. I will review this article often over the next several months.
I signed up for a friend because my divorce is 25 years ago! This clearly demonstrates cutting your nose to spite your face! It’s written clearly and concisely and importantly shows how kids are affected as well! Great job!
As always, Karen Covy tackles tough issues head on with no-nonsense truths that can help every couple untangle divorce more easily and effectively. She cares and helps clients make smart decisions for everyone in the family.
Thank you, Rosalind. Coming from you – a noted expert on helping children through divorce – I take this as quite a compliment!