Although many marriages end in divorce, that doesn’t make facing the end of your own marriage any easier. No one goes into a marriage with any thought other than total commitment to spending the rest of their life with their spouse. Reality, however, often has a different plan. When your marriage is over and it’s time to begin divorce proceedings, there are some steps to take that will ensure you survive the process, emotionally and financially.
Clear your mind and put your emotions aside for the moment. Although a divorce is mentally exhausting, you need to step away from your feelings of anger, hurt and despair long enough to focus on the big picture. Underneath it all, a divorce is about legally separating the finances and doing what is right for any children you may have.
Compile your papers before seeing an attorney unless you are in an urgent situation. Most divorces, although emotionally draining, benefit from careful financial planning. Gather your income tax records, your banking statements, accrued savings and retirement plan figures, real estate evaluations and other investment documents and debt assessments.
Separate from your spouse if you haven’t already. In many states you are required to live apart for a specified amount of time before can obtain a divorce. Go to your local library and ask to see the laws that govern the divorce process in your state. Alternately, check out online resources for the divorce laws where you live. (See Resources)
Find a divorce attorney with a proven track record in divorce court. Unfortunately, running into the closest lawyer’s office and begging for representation may not be in your best interest. Many attorneys do not handle divorces, and you could suffer as a result. A good divorce attorney is imperative at this stage of the game, so ask the right questions when you interview one. (See Resources)
Make the divorce as easy as possible on yourself. No matter how angry you feel, you will recover quicker if you and your spouse can agree on the basic tenets of the divorce and keep the lines of communication open. This is especially important if you have children.
Get to safety if you or your children are at risk of physical violence. This step supersedes everything else. Emotions run high during the initial phase of some divorce proceedings and if there is any chance that you are in danger, contact your local police department and ask for a list of safe houses where you can go. Alternately, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline for help at 1-800-799-SAFE.
Keep your spirits up when the divorce starts by making plans for the future and taking steps to make them happen. Once you’ve hired an attorney, the ball is rolling and you can begin to
- Let go and move forward. Avoid living in the past. You will have good days and bad days so take it one day at a time and lean on good friends and family to help you over the rough spots. You’re not alone, and you’re not a failure.
- Resist turning your divorce into an all-out war. Messy divorces hurt everyone. You may feel angry and vengeful but avoid doing something you will regret later.
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