The Foreign Service Journal - December 2013 - page 20

20
DECEMBER 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
to cover your retirement benefits. So
consult early with the retirement team in
the Bureau of Human Resources.
This, too, is a lesson we learned the
hard way. So learn from our mistakes and
make sure to e-mail the divorce decree to
the folks in Retirement when you begin
the discussion of a property settlement,
to ensure that your final divorce decree is
acceptable to them. They will then issue
you a determination letter, making that
one fewer thing to worry about when you
finally leave federal service.
Step 8: Don’t wait. It doesn’t get easier.
We mean this in both the macro sense
(the issues that are leading you to the
decision to divorce won’t miraculously
disappear at the next post) and from a
practical perspective. If you think it is
hard to agree now, just wait until you can
no longer rely on the legal bond of mar-
riage to get you to a consensus.
You may be tempted to put off some
decisions, since you will face so many
complicated issues in so short a time,
but we urge you to confront and resolve
everything possible during the divorce.
We know it seems easier to say, “Well,
we’re not living in the house in Arlington
now, so he can sell it later and get me off
the mortgage then.” But let us assure you
that you’ll regret not sorting that out now.
Even if your divorce decree mandates
a time by which the house must be sold,
that verbiage is pretty toothless without a
court date, and with any luck you’ll be on
to a whole new (happier) chapter by the
time that deadline arrives. The last thing
you’ll want to do then is to revisit this
issue. So resolve whatever the outstand-
ing issue is now so that you can both
close this chapter and move on.
Step 9: Bring school(s) into the loop.
You should let your children’s teachers
and the school administration know
as soon as possible about the massive
seismic shift that is coming in your kids’
lives. They can offer support, counseling
for kids who need a safe place to process
their feelings, and a sense of normalcy
for family members who may not feel it
anywhere else.
This isn’t always an easy thing to talk
about. One school in a city with a large
expat community told us it had never had
a case where the kids stayed at post after
a divorce. But despite a lack of familiar-
ity with the process, that school really
stepped up for us, as I think most respon-
sible teachers and administrators will
do. And as more families stay overseas
during and after divorce, it will become
even more vital to get your kids all the
resources their school can muster.
You should also consider looping in
the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Office of
Children’s Issues if you think disagree-
ments with your estranged spouse put
your children at risk of parental child
abduction. CA can assist with a hold on
passport applications for your child while
you get a court order detailing custody,
which is a huge weight off your shoulders.
Step 10: Believe that the end is in sight
and that it will all be OK.
This is the hard-
est part. One of us took more than three
years to reach agreement on a frame-
work for sharing custody internationally,
and there were times when we literally
thought we’d be embroiled in the divorce
struggle forever. But it will end, you will
move on, and your kids will be fine—and
so will you.
Like so many things in life, if we knew
then what we know now, we would have
had faith. So I hope we can pay it forward
now by offering some reassurance. We
are happily remarried, as is one of our
former spouses, and the other is happily
pursuing the career of their dreams.
As we told ourselves in our darkest
hours, “everyone will be happier eventu-
ally,” and that has turned out to be truer
than we ever realized. Our kids look at
this as another variation of the “third
culture kid” life that was already familiar,
and they are thriving, despite our worst
fears.
We wish each of you luck, and what-
ever peace you can find in an inherently
stressful process, and extend our hope
that the future will be better and happier
for everyone involved.
Feel free to e-mail us with questions,
and we’ll do our best to answer them and
give you our informal “divorce advice”
(
and
).
n
As more FS families stay overseas during and after divorce,
it becomes even more vital to get your kids all the resources
their school can muster.
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