Going through a divorce or separation can be complicated and emotionally draining. If you and your spouse have decided that this is what you want, you are probably wondering what first steps to take. Ideally, you want to make this process and quick and drama-free as possible.
Below are some tips to help you prepare for your divorce.
- Get organised
The more organised you are during your divorce, the better your negotiations (and final settlement agreement) will be. Planning your finances before you start your divorce can be very beneficial. If possible, work with your spouse to put together a list of your assets and debts, and start to collect copies of all financial records (e.g. tax returns, bank account statements, insurance policies).
Have back-up documentation handy to support your positions; this includes copies of financial records, notes on how many hours you each really spent per week with the children (if you have) prior to the discussion of divorce. Navigating your divorce with a qualified professional will be easier if you have a clear and documented picture of you have been.
- Set your focus
It is best to start the divorce process with the end in mind, and concentrate mainly on the specific goals you need to achieve to move forward with your life, post-divorce. There will be conflict regarding a number of issues, so it is best to use this conflict to find what you most need to concentrate on.
Regarding custody or parenting time issues, the focus should be on the children and what they need. With financial issues, try to leave your emotions out of it as much as possible, seeing it as a business concern instead. You don’t need to love or even like the people you work with, but you can still work with them, make compromises, and avoid hurting one another. Keeping strong (and often negative) emotions out of it will allow you to exert your rights and make decisions in a respectful and clear manner.
- Get support
Having a good support system during your divorce will help you to process the many feelings you are experiencing, and help you to deal with them in a healthy and constructive way. Find someone who can emotionally support you (a friend, or better, a therapist), so you can stay grounded even when facing emotional pain and tough decisions. Or you could search for a divorce support group in your area. Surround yourself with people who can support you in a balanced way and with whom you can continue to have mutually giving relationships.
When you can manage your emotions, you will be better prepared for divorce negotiations and can approach them calmly and rationally. If you have children, it would be best to have them speak to someone as well – a school counsellor, a therapist, or even another adult family member whom they can trust.
- Hire a good professional
You will definitely require professional advice during your divorce. Make sure you find a divorce lawyer who can provide excellent advice. Seeking out the strongest expert in this field is worth the time of interviews and research. Finding the cheapest lawyer in your area is not the priority here you need an experienced professional whom you can trust.
If you choose an efficient professional to help you with your divorce, they’ll take you through an in-depth process to help with how to financially prepare for divorce negotiations that will follow. Contact a forensic accountant if you think there may be hidden assets. Hire a divorce financial adviser who can help determine the best settlement options for you. Though this may all be costly, it is not worth skimping on hiring professional help during one of the most financially crucial experiences of your life.
- Stay connected
When going through divorce, people usually feel the foundation of their life change in major ways. Their entire life structure has changed. To have a peaceful divorce, it is important that you stay connected to friends and family, and avoid isolating yourself. Find ways to stay in contact with people and places that bring you comfort. Remind yourself that after this ordeal, you will find a new kind of structure in your life.
- Prepare your children
If you have kids and are preparing for divorce, it is important that you find the best way to tell them, to prepare them for the likely sad and stressful road ahead. It is usually best to share the news of divorce with the whole household present, and then to follow up with each child separately. Keeping communication simple, and speak in a way that your children will understand. Stay as honest and clear as possible, keeping in mind your child’s age and emotional maturity.
Your kids will need and want to know how their schedules and activities will be affected by your divorce. If you can, tell them the plan; you can just explain the basics. You can tell them who will stay in the house, who will be leaving the home, where that parent is going, where the children will be staying and with whom.
During this shift, kids need to know that they still have a system of guidance and help, so that they can adjust and adapt to these changes. Let them know that even the most painful emotions will ease over time; this will help them to recover while remaining open about what they’re feeling.
- Take care of yourself
Divorces are often emotionally exhausting. Try to maintain a sense of routine and establish forms of self-care. Maintaining healthy eating, sleeping and exercise routines will help both your mind and body to cope with the stress. Remember that any divorce-related decision made out of anger, resentment or bitterness can cause further stress, tension, and emotional difficulties.
Tending to your personal well-being will put you in a better position to deal with the changed circumstances and mixed emotions involved in divorce. You need a reasonably clear head and healthy mind to make sound decisions during this crucial time of change in your life.
See related article: Financial pitfalls of divorce.