Years ago, when I was going through my divorce, a pivotal life moment occurred. It was random and quick. I could have missed it entirely, but instead, its memory stays with me as a life-changing encounter with a court usher in the lift of the London Family Courts.
It had been a difficult day. A difficult day in the courtroom. I was divorcing my husband, and we had just finished the divorce process’s second court hearing (FDR). None of what had just happened or what had been said made sense to me. The judge gave its recommendation on what my soon-to-be-ex should be paying in maintenance. I was advised to consent, be happy and move on. Going through with a final hearing would be too expensive. I conceded not fully understanding the system or the process. My barrister on the day did not seem to know my case and made a feeble submission to the court. My solicitor could have easily worked on behalf of my husband. That is how it felt. I was like a lamb to the slaughter. On top of everything, my barrister had invited me for a drink at a nearby wine bar during one of the hearing breaks. Naively I went with him where he proceeded to get me drunk. Nothing felt right that day. Everything felt uncomfortable and wrong. I was drowning amongst the grey building brick of central London. It felt like everyone was trying to take advantage of me, and I was the only one who did not know what was going on.
As I left the courtroom and got into the lift to exit the Central Family Court in High Holborn London, one of the ushers got in the lift with me. He looked at me and endeavored to make small talk. He must have seen that I was feeling devastated, deflated, and lost. He suddenly turned the conversation and asked me, ‘Are you going to be bitter or better?’ These words crystallized something in my mind in that split second, and I emerged from the lift with a different mindset. I did not want my divorce experience to define the rest of my life. From thereon, I walked into the sunshine with a promise to myself that I would make everything in my power to come out of the divorce as a better person. No way was I going to let this process turn me bitter. Instead, I realised this was my opportunity to create a better life for myself and my children.
So, if you think that divorce is the end of life, think again. Realise, it is an opportunity to transform it. It is the make-over you have wished for. After all that time of pain, the endless nights of worrying, the tears, the drama, it is your chance to finally express yourself authentically and find your individuality and inner peace. From here on, you can do everything over. You can re-create your life by focusing on developing fantastic relationships with your children and friends. You can design your place of home the way you want to live it. Many people make the mistake of rushing into new relationships. My advice is that you take your time and allow for time to do the healing. You will need it. There are many lessons your failed marriage would have taught you. Choose not to repeat those less good choices but allow your new life to unfold at the beat of your drum. The only truth about divorce is that there are no ‘winners.’ It typically involves many different issues such as division of finances and property but most importantly, where children are involved, child custody. You may be awarded a Child Arrangement Order which says you are the primary carer, but your spouse may be ordered to pay less spousal support if any. Divorce ends your marriage, but your relationship with the other parent must continue for years to come. After all, it is not your children who are getting divorced. It is you, and as a parent, it is essential to be a ‘big picture’ role model.
Here’s what I did after my divorce:
I invested the money from the divorce into a new property and transformed it into a beautiful home on a budget. I did not have the option to stay in the marital home. Today I am glad. It gave me the choice of doing it up entirely to my own liking. Although it was a much smaller house, it was my own, and when I closed the front door behind me, it felt safe. At one point, I was invited to enter one of the ‘design programs’ on TV, and I won!
I worked hard to make end meets. It forced me to become good with money and learn how to budget accordingly.
I set up my design consultancy to keep my passion for design and style. My self-image and confidence were shot to pieces because of my divorce. I wanted to help other people in the same situation. It also allowed me to work flexibly around my tiny children who still were not in school.
I balanced children and a career without the support of a family network (not wishing that on anyone, but I did it), not always successfully, but I climbed the corporate ladder in between. I had moved from Norway at the age of 19, leaving any family behind.
I had to be creative which brought out my style and flare. I became comfortable making my own decisions.
I created better and more meaningful friendships and enjoyed nights out, and hosted Sunday dinners and single mum Christmases. Always seek your tribe.
Friday movie nights with the children became a much-loved ritual.
I had my toolbox, easily accessible under the stairs. I was always looking for ways to improve my home on a budget without always depending on somebody else.
I created a space to cry, mourn and heal with the help of an excellent counsellor and have always sought out inspiration, counsel, and empowerment courses to better myself. Continuous investment in yourself is crucial.
Friends of friends started seeking my advice as they were going through a divorce, but my passion was to help other women and men with limited resources and family support. I turned my most significant pain and suffering into a blessing. I have just started the second year of my law degree.
I made friends with my ex-husband and created a family bubble with his new partner and children. Today we enjoy birthday parties and family gatherings together.
CourtTogether offers the valuable service of helping women and men through the process of divorce. In or out of court, we are with you, ensuring you get the best outcome and follow the correct procedure. However, the real essence of our service is to show you a way of TRANSFORMING the relationships you have with yourself, your ex-partner, and your children. Lessening the negative impact of divorce and unlocking the key to a happier future is our gift to you.
Talk to me today; I am Anita Johnson, the founder of CourtTogether. Together we can discover your pivotal, life-changing moment!