When divorce is inevitable, the next question that needs to be answered is “Now What?”
Getting a divorce requires you to make critical decisions at a time when you are feeling unsettled, vulnerable and overwhelmed. This is why it’s important to create a strategy from the beginning which will support you in starting your journey on the right foot.
Now is the time to focus.
Lean into your strengths and embrace the work.
While there will be many decisions that require your attention, the following Five Steps to Move You Forward can greatly ensure a better result—once you’re on the other side of the divorce process.
Step 1—Consult an Attorney
Educating yourself about your rights and responsibilities is a crucial first step. Both parties are entitled to a just and fair outcome. Be sure to work with a family law attorney. Family law attorneys understand the implications when it comes to agreeing on matters such as child / spousal support, parenting plans and final decision making rights. They will know how to advocate for your best interest, as well as your children’s best interest. Additionally, start listening to divorce podcasts and reading articles to familiarize yourself with the many unfamiliar terms and facets of divorce.
Step 2—Know Your Income, Debts & Expenses
Become intimately familiar with your family finances! If you don’t pay the bills, now’s the time to figure out your true costs. While you don’t want to underestimate the costs of running your household, it’s importance to also not exaggerate. If you don’t regularly manage the finances, ensure you have login details for all your joint accounts.
When able, it’s best to pay debts down or pay them off while things are still amicable. Dividing debts after filing for divorce can add angst to what’s already a difficult situation. Pulling a current credit report is also a good idea. Finally, ensure that you’re fully aware of all sources of income. Neither spouse should be “hiding” or “setting money aside.” Be thoughtful to check that the income which normally supports the family is still making its’ way to the bank.
Step 3—Gather Important Documents
Now is the time to get organized and start gathering those essential documents. You’ll want to place them in a three ring binder, or other filing system. Documents such social security cards, passports, birth certificates, past tax return records and car titles are difficult to replace. Make a copy of all your documents store them in a secure location. Here is a short list of documents you’ll want to find:
|· Birth Certificates / Passports||· Medical Records|
|· Social Security Cards||· Pay Statements / Tax Returns|
|· Bank Records / Credit Card Statements||· Current Credit Reports|
|· Family Trust / Estate Planning||· Retirement Account / 401k Statements|
|· Insurance Policies||· Car Titles / Property Deeds|
Step 4—Seek Professional Support
Taking care of your emotional wellness during this time is key in helping you make sound decisions. While family members and friends provide a safe place for letting off excess steam, remaining objective will prove challenging—because they care about you! Screen different divorce coaches, therapist or counselors to find a good fit. Attend your appointments consistently and trust that you’re in good hands moving forward. While religious leaders have their place, most are not trained and should not be put into the position of acting as a mental wellness professional. This said, your mental health professional and spiritual leaders are just a few of the key players you’ll need in your corner. Grab my Build a Support Team for more details.
Your divorce is your business! Explanations are not required.
Step 5—Focus on Your Children
Chances are good that children will be involved. Give great consideration as to how you want to share this news with them. Regardless of their ages, children are deeply impacted by divorce as it is a loss for them as well. Strive to work with your partner to create a short term game plan before announcing your divorce. Your children will look to you to have answers so it is best to have the most basic details in place. While you’ll not be able to resolve all of their concerns at this stage of the process, knowing how you will share parenting responsibilities can ease their fears. Finally, assure your children that they are deeply loved by both parents. Let them know that while you no longer desire to be married, your love and concern for their wellness is the highest priority and is always steadfast.
Conclusion—There isn’t just one way to “get divorced.” Each divorce is unique. Treat yourself with grace, patience and compassion as you move through this unfamiliar and demanding experience.
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