Most of us, when we get married never think about how to prepare for divorce. In my work, I have heard about spouses who left a note on the counter, or sent a text, or after a trip or date night told their partner that they weren’t happy and needed to find themselves and wanted a divorce. Just like that.
Or sometimes we find out our spouse has a lover and left the marriage emotionally long ago. Occasionally spouses will make things so miserable that we have to take the step to file for divorce ourselves … something we wouldn’t have ever imagined doing. In fact, I had to file for divorce after my ex would not give up his girlfriend. Most of us never think about How to Prepare For Divorce like we do other devastations like How to Prepare for a Tornado? Or How to Prepare for a Fire In Your Office? Or even normal things like How to Prepare for Retirement?
In the beginning of married life, and during all of those busy building and child-rearing years, most of us never even consider how to start a divorce. I never thought about divorce planning during our first 30 years. Even after I found out my spouse was involved with someone else, it was hard to think about first steps to divorce, or how to plan for divorce.
I never thought our life together would end like that. We had been through thick and thin. We had 30 years of a good marriage. We had great kids, grandchildren coming along and a solid financial situation. Blessings everywhere! I thought: Divorce can’t be happening to us after 33 years together! But it did.
Consider The Divorce Carefully
Some people know early in a marriage that the person they married is very different from who they thought they were marrying. People can put on a good show during courtship, but after vows are said, and promises made, things change…and not in a good way.
You may decide early that you are not going to stay in a toxic relationship and start thinking about divorce after months or a few years of marriage. You carefully (and usually secretly) figure out the best steps to getting a divorce in your situation.
Others know that the marriage is not what they dreamed of and hoped for, but they stick around indefinitely in a ho-hum, or even damaging, relationship … afraid to even think about how to go about getting a divorce. Whatever situation you find yourself in, divorce is a serious, costly, emotionally difficult and life-changing decision.
Make sure you are prepared for the consequences of divorce … for you, for your children, for your finances and friends and extended family. Everything in your life changes when you make the decision to divorce. Make sure you’re emotionally, physically and financially prepared for the fallout.
Get Emotional Support
If divorce is actually happening in your life, and you are looking on the internet for divorce recovery help, you are probably facing the possibility, or the reality, of divorce in your own life. Especially if you were in a good marriage for years, this is probably the most emotionally devastating thing you will ever experience. Please! I speak from many, many years of experience in helping people through divorce – Get all the help you can get!
Talk To Someone Who’s Been Through Divorce
You never have any idea how hard divorce is until you experience it. Before my divorce, I didn’t reach out to friends who were going through divorce. I had NO IDEA about the loneliness, isolation, sadness, anger, hopelessness, fear, despair they were probably experiencing.
Find support from people who have actually experienced divorce first hand. Other advisors can help, but they absolutely cannot personally identify with the despair that you are feeling. It’s easy to give advice about divorce, but as far as understanding that gut-wrenching pain of an unwanted divorce, you almost have to live it to understand.
Others can listen and comfort and be there for us. But they should not be trying to tell us to “just get over it,” or “It’s been long enough.” People who love us just want us to feel better, but most have no idea how complicated the grief and healing work of divorce is. Find people who have actually been on the road of divorce and will help you move forward. Also avoid anyone who refuses to do what is necessary after divorce to heal and rebuild — and stays bitter forever.
Build A Support Network
Once you see that divorce is going to happen in your life, whether you want it to or not, find a support network. One of the first things Midlife Divorce Recovery does is get you into our private, protected MDRcommunity of RADiCAL women from all over the world who are also on the divorce recovery road.
Everyone helps each other by sharing what has worked or hasn’t worked for them. When we have people bringing so many different perspectives to the table, the best solutions bubble to the top. Everyone is encouraging each other. It’s powerful how that works. And it feels so good to be free to be truthful about how you’re really doing.
Understand Your Finances
When we are figuring out our divorce preparation checklist, knowing exactly where we stand financially is vital, regardless of how much or how little we have. It gives us a place to start. If we are going to get a realistic view of what our financial situation is going to be after divorce, knowing everything about our finances now is mandatory.
Talk to a financial advisor if possible. Our MasterPlan includes a “Getting Financially Fit” section, and it includes an Expert Interview with a financial planner who became a certified divorce financial analyst after two divorces of her own.
Make A List Of Assets
A big part of understanding your finances is filling out an Expense/Budget Comparison Worksheet and an Asset/Liability Comparison Worksheet. Until you know exactly what you have coming in and going out, you will never know where you stand. We help point out common concerns and mistakes, and help you find hidden assets. Do this before you file for divorce!
Think Of Your Living Situation
When we contemplate how to start the divorce process, one of the first decisions to make is what the living arrangements are going to be after the separation or divorce is filed. Are we going to stay in the marital home? Are there legal ramifications if we leave? Are we (and possibly our children) going to stay with a friend or family member?
That decision depends on how amicable and your spouse are, and if you have children at home. Can you “separate” by living in two parts of the house until the separation or divorce is final? In some cases the divorce is so stressful and volatile that living under the same roof is not a good idea. In others, finances make it the only option. Those choices should be part of your divorce preparation checklist.
Find Somewhere To Live
After discovering multiple instances of cheating, I told my wasband he would need to move somewhere else during the separation. We both needed space and time to figure out if we could repair our marriage. For a while, he lived with some friends in their basement. Some live with a relative or stay in a short term residential space.
If children are involved, make them a priority when planning those first steps of divorce. Figure out what living arrangement is best for your children, your finances and your ability to move forward gracefully after the divorce.
Get A PO Box
Getting a Post Office Box can be tremendously helpful as a safe, confidential place to receive mail, if you are living together and the spouse is not expecting a divorce. Sometimes, your physical safety mandates that you live apart. If domestic violence is a threat or a problem already, it’s best that your soon-to-be ex doesn’t have access to your mail. Put a “no contact” order in place if necessary. Start documenting and reporting every instance of physical harassment or danger.
Plan How To Tell Your Spouse
Steps to getting a divorce should always include figuring out the best way to tell your spouse. Sometimes, couples discuss openly the option of divorce. Some people frequently threaten divorce during their marriage, and then are surprised when they are served papers by their spouse.
If your relationship includes any kind of verbal, financial or physical abuse, carefully consider how best to tell your spouse. Be in a safe place before you announce your decision to divorce or before your spouse is served papers by the court.
Get Ready For A Dispute
Even if our spouse is doing things that make staying married impossible or dangerous, they often are angry and threatening when we take a stand and hold them accountable. They often blame us for their adultery, addiction or abuse. When we finally say “Enough is enough!” and file for separation or divorce, it’s easy for emotions and actions to escalate. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you and your children are safe.
Most of us never have a “prepare for divorce checklist” in our files just waiting for a good time to use it. It sounds so cut and dried like “prepare for winter checklist for your home.” Getting and staying organized is a must during divorce. Start collecting and making copies of important documents and records like the marriage certificate, important family, financial, legal documents, tax returns and so on.
Divorce is overwhelming and exhausting, so staying organized as you go through the process makes everything easier. Get a file folder for all of your physical documents. Keep copies of divorce expenses and credit card statements with unexplained charges.
Research/Hire An Attorney
When you first start preparing for divorce, research, interview, and ask for recommendations about attorneys in your area. Beware of a spouse who just wants to “do this ourselves.” That’s a red flag! Never sign anything without at least having an attorney look it over. Attorneys are expensive, but they are usually worth it in the long run. You can also check out Legalzoom.com for divorce advice for uncomplicated situations.
Consider The Kids
Telling our kids about the divorce is one of the things we are most worried about. Nothing prepares you for this! Most kids already know something is up. Children usually handle divorce better if they are kept informed about what is going on. Of course information should be age appropriate.
What kids need to know most of all is that we will all get through this and life will be good again. Kids take their cues on how to deal with divorce from us. They will all face tough stuff in life, and how we handle the divorce can either be a “great example or a terrible warning”. Our Parenting Through Divorce program is an honest, encouraging program by a child of divorce who interviews some of his 30-something peers about what our kids really need from us.
Getting resources during this divorce preparation stage is very helpful because you get stronger physically, emotionally, spiritually and you make better decisions. Having access to a support group of other women also experiencing divorce is empowering and makes the trip less lonely. Please join us…Especially now when there is so much disruption going on everywhere. We’re here to help.
I want to join your divorce support group. How do I do this? Kate
Excellent. I wish I had had this in 2003. My Divorce was protracted out until our third child was 21! Despite the Divorce being finalized in 2006!