You've decided to get a divorce. Or worse, your partner has just brought up the "divorce" topic.
Hurt, anger and uncertainty are paralyzing you.
Your emotional response to divorce is normal and understandable.
Divorce is one of the most difficult and overwhelming transitions we will ever face.
Divorce creates change on every front our lives including finances, housing, parenting time, friends, and in-laws. It’s a heart-wrenching transition that rocks our world emotionally, financially and socially.
Finally, it is a journey through an unknown legal landscape requiring attention to detail, decisiveness, and effectiveness...but you are drowning in reactiveness and overwhelm.
The best way to navigate this difficult season is simply one small step at a time.
Here are 7 steps to getting started on an effective, pain-free, and successful divorce.
The Emotional Journey
1.) Be gentle and compassionate with yourself
Divorce is filled with fretting the past and worrying about the future. With that comes a lot of self-criticisms and ‘should haves’.
Your future ex may also be pouring judgment and criticism on you.
In order to stay emotionally grounded, it is vital that you approach yourself with kindness and gentleness. You did the best you could at the time.
It takes two to make a healthy relationship and two to dissolve it.
The more compassionate you are toward yourself, the more emotional energy you will have to manage the journey ahead.
2.) Create a Support Network
This is not a trip you should take alone. On a personal note, list the people you trust the most that are emotionally healthy and can help keep the focus on you and moving forward. That is your support team. Ask for help.
If this is hard for you, consider it your first lesson. If you have been a giver more than a receiver, this is the time to learn to receive help.
Also, take the time to invest in your personal growth through the process. Hire a divorce coach or therapist so that you can shift your focus off your spouse and onto you and your part in the dissolution of your marriage.
The Finances of Divorce
Marriage is all about love.
Divorce is largely about money.
Make sure you are well informed in the following three areas:
3.) Learn what you have.
Most people know where their income is. Often only one partner manages the family assets and investments.
If this is you, great.
However, if your spouse has been in charge of finances, you want to find out all the financial accounts that you own. And by the way, all funds earned during a marriage belong to ‘us’, not him or her alone.
You want to know about retirement funds, investments, bank accounts, real estate holdings, etc.
Get the name and account numbers and the total value of each.
4.) Assess what you owe.
If you do the bills each month, you’re set.
If your spouse does, you want to find out what your monthly bills add up to and what your debt is.
List every household, medical, school, childcare, healthcare, automobile, and housing bill that is paid monthly.
Also, gather every credit card, loan, and mortgage that are outstanding. If you don’t have access, you can call most of these companies and find out.
5.) Determine what you need.
Once you know what your household brings in each month, what it costs you to live and what assets you have accumulated, you want to consider what you need.
If you have children, you want to take all their expenses into consideration.
While most people ’s lifestyle takes a hit, you want to begin by assessing what you would need if you had the same standard of living.
If you are not the monied spouse, you will use this information to negotiate for child support and alimony and to realistically plan for your financial future.
Whatever you do, do NOT stick your head in the sand, trust your soon-to-be-ex and enter your divorce uninformed. This approach will result in you feeling like a victim and getting the short end of the stick.
You are your most dedicated advocate. Make sure you are well educated on your finances.
You can learn more by listening to our program on “Divorce Finances: 5 Essentials to be Financially Prepared”
The Legal Landscape
6.) Understand your legal options.
Depending on the level of conflict and complication involved in your situation, you will have to choose between litigation, collaboration, mediation, and a do-it-yourself divorce. It is vital that you understand each legal approach and assess which one is best for you.
For instance, if you are facing a reasonable, straightforward divorce with no children, have a reasonably amicable relationship with your spouse and uncomplicated finances, mediation may be a much better choice than litigation.
Each one is valuable and serves a particular audience best. Get educated.
Listen to our programs on ‘Choosing the Best Legal Approach’ so that you are setting yourself up for the best possible outcome.
7.) Find a Matrimonial attorney.
Once you understand the different legal approaches, you want to meet with a few attorneys to determine who is the best fit for you. (If you’re in the greater NYC area, here’s a good divorce attorney for you.)
Just because your brother or girlfriend recommends someone doesn’t mean that they are a good fit for you. You are exiting a relationship that isn’t working. You have trust issues.
Make sure that you feel comfortable with the person you are about to hire. You will be investing a lot of money in their expertise. You will be relying heavily on them.
The outcome of your divorce will impact the rest of your life.
Make sure that you interview each individual and are comfortable with the person you choose.
Have they handled your type of case? What is their client support style?
How long can you expect to wait to hear a response from them? How patient are they in answering your questions and ensuring that you understand their answers?
There are dozens of questions to ask.
You can find a wealth of questions in the ‘Legal Guidance’ series within our Roadmap Through Divorce.