When it comes down to it, divorce is a legal process. One that brings a lot of emotional upheaval, for sure. But at its heart, it takes you and your soon-to-be-ex through a legal process of separating, so you can get on with the rest of your lives independently of one another. And all of that requires paperwork. When you are ill, the additional burden of divorce paperwork feels like the last thing you need. So on this blog I share 5 ways to stay on top of divorce paperwork when you have ill health.
Have a system
None of us can always rely on our memory to keep on top of everything, and that is triply true when you have ill health. Most of us will have had those ‘where did I put the car keys’ moments in our lives. And most of us will know that if only we’d left the car keys in the basket in the hall where we’re supposed to, we would’ve saved ourselves a lot of hassle!
When it comes to divorce paperwork, you need systems to do the heavy lifting for you. If you’re not a naturally organised person it can feel dull or overwhelming to start filing. But, believe me, you will thank yourself. When you’re having a bad day, or fatigue has hit, you will save yourself so much time and energy by having a single place to go to for your divorce paperwork.
And it doesn’t need to be complicated. If the most you can manage right now is a box file where you put everything connected to your divorce, do that. The same goes for your digital world: create an email folder and make sure all correspondence gets saved in there. Put all your electronic documentation in a digital ‘divorce’ folder too.
If you can drill down more, you’ll make it even easier for yourself. Separate out documents relating to finances, housing and children. The key is finding the sweet spot that works for you, your health and your personality. If you know that the ‘dump it in the box and it’s there to deal with later’ works for you, great. If you find it more efficient and reassuring to have colour-coded micro systems, wonderful.
Remember the system is there to serve you, not the other way around!
Set aside time
Setting aside time when you’re ill is both vital and unpredictable. Maybe you’ve set aside Tuesday morning after the school drop-off to go through your paperwork and call your lawyer’s office. And maybe Tuesday morning turns out not to be a good day for you. But you can’t just expect to fit your divorce paperwork in around the edges of your weekly routine.
There was a famous time management clip that did the rounds a few years ago. Someone was asked to put rocks into a jar half filled with sand. They had a good go, but the jar was simply too full, and the rocks wouldn’t fit. Then they tipped the sand out, put the rocks in first, and tipped the sand around them. Everything fitted.
The moral of this story for our purposes isn’t that clever planning can solve everything. Your illness is going to throw you some curveballs, and there will be times at which you have to stop. The point I am making is that your divorce paperwork needs to become one of those rocks, not the grains of sand. If you set aside time to deal with it, you have more chance of making progress. Schedule it in. Try to have 2-3 short slots in the week set aside for your divorce. Then if you end up missing one, there will be other opportunities to get on track.
Pace and prioritise
So how do you manage time when you don’t know how well you are going to be from one day to the next? Keep an eye on your energy levels. A good day doesn’t mean you have to get your divorce done and dusted! Make good use of your energy, but pace yourself so you don’t burn out. If you’re on a roll, always stop before you feel like you need to. Save that energy for another day.
Often, smaller periods of time with regular breaks are easier to manage than one longer chunk. And they give you that satisfying dopamine hit of ticking something off a list. So break your paperwork into micro tasks.
Don’t think about ‘submitting Form E’. Think about printing off bank statements, or going online to check the insurance policy terms. Make a list of small manageable tasks. If you aren’t good at doing this, ask a trusted friend to help you, or use the list in my book ‘How To Be A Lady Who Leaves‘. Having smaller tasks means it’s easier to delegate too, if there are people around you who can help.
If you are struggling to cope, speak up. Let your solicitor know that you are ill or fatigued and need some more time. Don’t let yourself be pressured by your soon-to-be-ex or their legal team: your divorce will happen, but it’s not a race to the finish line. Your health is more important than anyone else’s deadline.
Let your employer know, they may be able to make reasonable adjustments to your work to make it more comfortable and workable for you. Many chronic and complex illnesses are considered a disability in the UK, and you do have protection against discrimination.
Take time away
Your number one priority is you and your health. Of course it comes before your divorce paperwork. And to look after your health it’s important to take care of the basics. As far as possible make sure you can get enough sleep and you have nutritious food. Alongside that, allocate some time to relaxing. And by relaxing I don’t mean time not on your divorce but managing all the other demands in your life. I mean doing something just for you, that’s workable with your health.
Maybe you can spend some time outside. Perhaps you can have a friend over and share a bottle of wine. It may be that you have an hour losing yourself in a book. It may simply be some time with Netflix. Whatever it is, it’s important. Giving your body and brain time to rest and relax is beneficial to your health, and, ultimately, will help with your divorce paperwork too.
Get my help
Members of The Absolute Academy have access to Get Divorce-Ready, the ultimate step-by-step guide to getting organised about your divorce. It takes the strain out of any planning and thinking, because the tasks and decision-making points are laid out for you.
And on top of all that, members join a fantastic community of supportive women, offering experience, empathy and a virtual shoulder to cry on if it all feels too much (and everyone’s been there at some point).
It’s probably the best investment you could make for your divorce right now. It will save you time and energy. You’ll have that divorce paperwork sorted before you know it. Come and join us.
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