One of the questions I get asked the most by women who’ve just decided to divorce is ‘What do I need to do now?’. Of course, some of this will depend on your individual situation. But if you’ve decided to get divorced (if you’re on the fence, start with my ‘Should I Get Divorced?’ Guide here), then there are some key pillars to get in place. Here are the top 5 ways to get divorce ready.
Allow your feelings
Please don’t roll your eyes! The very first thing I tell my clients to do is… absolutely nothing. (This doesn’t apply if you’re in an abusive or dangerous situation: get help making a safety plan from professionals.)
Divorce is like a grenade in your life. Even if it was your idea. The proverb ‘more haste less speed’ applies to many things, and divorce is definitely one of them. When you rush to act once the decision to divorce is made, you are more likely to:
- React emotionally rather than respond wisely
- Communicate poorly with your soon-to-be-ex
- Jump to decisions you regret later
- Repeat patterns in future relationships.
So let the dust settle for a while. Journal out your feelings. Talk with a therapist or divorce coach (like me!) to understand how you’re feeling right now. But let your body and mind absorb the news. Divorce is a big deal, and when you do act, you want to do it with both feet on the ground, not dazed with shock.
Know what you want
The next thing you need to do is check in with yourself. If you’re getting divorced, something isn’t working well in your marriage or life. So, what would a well-functioning life and relationship look like?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to go hunting for a new relationship, now or ever! But understanding what living well looks like to you will guide you as you navigate the divorce process and beyond.
It’s really important to know what you want, but to hold it lightly. It’s unlikely every single detail of what you’d like from a divorce settlement will come to pass. You will have to negotiate, and compromise. This is why having a foundation built on values is important. It helps you sift between options.
For example, if freedom is an important value for you, you may feel more able to let go of some valuable furniture that your soon-to-be-ex would like. It’s not worth battling over. But you’ll stand your ground over getting proper financial and childcare support.
Know your numbers
It is absolutely essential that you understand your financial picture, and, as far as possible, your soon-to-be-ex’s. If you go through the courts, you’ll need to do a full disclosure. Spoiler: not everyone is as open as they should be about disclosure, so have a keen eye for what your ex-spouse declares (and doesn’t). You have a right to query.
Knowing your numbers means looking at your assets, then your liabilities. Your assets are anything you own that’s worth something. If you own your home, that’s likely to be the biggest asset. You need to get it valued. Consider whether you have any art, jewellery and antiques, and who brought it to the relationship. Not everything will need to be part of the marital pot, but you need to have a case for why or why not. You’ll also need to track down bank accounts, savings, investments and pensions.
Then you need to work out everything you owe. This will include loans, debts, mortgages and charges.
Getting all this information together can be a daunting job. Take it slowly and do it step by step.
Agree how to tell the children (and what next)
Children don’t have to suffer in divorce. You can decide now to have a child-centred divorce. You really can.
And, unless your soon-to-be-ex is a complete tool, they can decide that too. Does it mean you’ll have a smooth sailing, wonderful, co-parenting relationship from hereon in? No. You will definitely have disagreements about parenting. But you can both do your very best to set your egos aside so you don’t use your children as pawns in power games.
It can feel terrifying getting ready to tell your children. But, usually the anticipation is worse than the event itself. Before you have the big conversation you and your soon-to-be-ex need to agree:
- What’s happening now? For example, is anyone moving out?
- What’s happening next? Will the children spend their weeks with both of you? Which days will they be where?
You probably won’t have all the details and all the answers. And that’s fine. Have the main messages in place, and be honest if you don’t know. A simple ‘We’re still working that out but I’ll let you know as soon as I can’ is better than making things up that you’ll have to go back on.
Get your support team in place
You cannot do divorce alone. At the very least, you need to make the people in your life (and your children’s lives) aware. Think about what you need to tell them and what you want from them. For example:
- Your boss: I wanted to make you aware I am getting a divorce, and so am likely to be under pressure these next few months. I may occasionally need some flexibility to attend solicitor’s meetings. Thanks for understanding.
- Child’s school: I am separating from [child’s name’s] dad/other parent, and wanted to make you aware, in case they are upset or not themselves at school.
- Friends: We’re separating. Are you up for me ranting at you at 1am?
- Siblings: I’m separating from [name]. Please don’t say ‘I told you so’ or ‘but they’re so nice.’ But I’d love a hug sometime.
As well as the people already in your world, think about who you need to add in to support you:
- A therapist can help you work through difficult emotions, historic patterns and trauma
- A financial adviser can help you get to grips with your numbers
- A solicitor can help you come to financial and child agreements if needed
- A divorce coach, like me, can walk with you through it all, helping you make the decisions that are right for you.
Decided to divorce: ready for more?
If you’re serious about getting your divorce on track, you need to come and join us in The Absolute Academy!
The Absolute Academy is a private community for women who want to take control of their divorce and feel better while doing it. You may not need to use a solicitor at all. And if you do instruct a solicitor I’m confident you can use them more effectively than you are now. So you’ll save thousands of pounds.
But it’s not just about the money. When you take charge of your divorce you put the power back in your hands. What would it feel like to make the right decisions for your divorce, backed up with my support and a whole community of women behind you? You’ll feel unstoppable.
Come and join us today.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com