How to Navigate Your Divorce in Seven Steps
Just like any major life-change, divorce is a big process. How to navigate your divorce in seven steps breaks this process down into manageable, logical chunks. Most likely, it will challenge you. Some of that challenge will come from others around you – your soon-to-be-ex-husband, family, neighbours, friends. It might feel as though everyone has an opinion.
In truth though, YOU are the main player here. Your needs and your children’s needs are paramount. Which means you need to get yourself on side – minimise the challenges you create for yourself and get your head divorce ready. This blog takes you through the seven steps you need to do just that. The eagle-eyed among you will notice the steps make up the DIVORCE acronym to make this easy to remember!
Of course, the first step is the decision to divorce. Just as with marriage, deciding to divorce isn’t something you do lightly, after a single row. If you have read previous blogs you’ll know the difference between a calmly-made, thought-through decision to divorce and an impulse reaction you might regret. Check back here if you’re not sure, so you can feel confident in moving forward.
Invest in you
One of my biggest bugbears is seeing people try to navigate divorce alone. I know what you’re thinking – of course I’d say that, I’m a divorce coach! But divorce ranks as the second most stressful life event you’ll encounter, second only to death of a spouse or child. Why is it that we invest so much in ourselves during the good times: planning a wedding, booking a holiday, gym membership… yet when it comes to one of the most significant, potentially difficult life experiences we resign ourselves to solicitors fees, grit our teeth and try to battle on alone?
Divorce can be made so much simpler if you follow the right steps, the right way, in the right order. Divorce will be life-changing: what many women forget is that it can a positive transformation, liberating you from old, unhelpful patterns of behaviour as well as from a marriage that’s no longer working. It doesn’t have to be just about stress. So, whether you choose to work with me or not, take the opportunity to invest in yourself at this most important stage in your life.
Before you can know what you want from divorce, you need to know what you stand for. How to navigate your divorce in seven steps doesn’t work unless you are clear about this. What’s important to you in life? This might be a question you’ve not asked yourself in a long time (or maybe not at all) but now it’s more important than ever. Your values are your guideposts through life. Tap into them and they help you find your way forward when you consider your practical choices and emotions. I’ve written extensively on values in this blog – work through the exercises in here to get started.
Some of us are more natural planners and organised personalities than others, and if you’re a more spontaneous sort, that’s fine. But when it comes to divorce, bring some organisation into play, and you’ll feel a whole lot better. Divorce is a legal process, it requires you to take specific steps and provide accurate information. This is especially true when it comes to finance. Being organised also means being informed and having evidence on your side. It means if things get heated with your soon-to-be-ex-husband, you’re armed with the facts. So if you’ve tended to be the person who leaves the household management to your spouse, it’s time to do things differently! If you don’t know what’s in the joint account and have no idea what pensions or credit cards are in your name, now’s the time to get your paperwork together, including digital records.
Getting started is the hardest part. You will feel so much better when tackle the admin and you are in control. It’s also useful to get organised on the divorce process, rather than rely on your solicitor to lead you through. If you know what to expect you are more able to plan your life and to save money when it comes to working with your legal representation. You may even avoid having to instruct a solicitor until you have made significant progress. My book ‘How To Be A Lady Who Leaves’ is described as ‘a crash course in divorce’ and is a good, low cost, place to start.
Once you’ve checked in with your values, and you know where you stand financially, it’s time to take a clear look at your situation. If we had magic wands we might all want to live in penthouse apartments, or a beachfront house after divorce. But this is about what’s realistic for you and your family, including any children. Think about what you need to live a life that aligns with your values. This may actually be less than you are entitled to, but you decide that freedom from your soon-to-be-ex-husband is a priority. Or it might be that your ex has a totally unrealistic view of what you can manage with, in terms of housing and living costs. Bring it back to reality, using facts and evidence rather than heated debate and accusation.
We’re at the point when you need to be clear about those wants and needs. You identified these when you looked at your values, getting organised and reality checking. You and your ex will need to reach an agreement. There are a number of ways you can do this:
- On your own
- With a mediator
- Through solicitors.
Most people try the first option first. This can work wonderfully for some, the divorce proceeds smoothly and there is minimal external input. If this is your situation – fantastic. You will be in a position to instruct solicitors to do your bidding without using them as negotiation services, which ramps up the costs in no time. Your chances of being successful with this approach are higher if you plan your communication and stick to facts, rather than get drawn into blame and other emotional name-calling. I can help with this.
If communication becomes difficult a mediator can help change the tone so you can communicate more constructively. Mediators can help you plan and express your wants and needs. These might be related to finances and housing, arrangements for the children and parenting or shared business interests. Mediation is usually a more cost-effective way of reaching decisions than working through solicitors and the courts. Many people use solicitors to plan and negotiate their divorce and post-divorce life. This is generally the high-cost, high-stress option – raising the stakes so the nature and tone of communication can escalate rapidly. My advice is to involve solicitors only when you need to – and to be informed when you instruct them so they carry out your wishes clearly.
Finally, it’s important to plan your exit. Divorce can feel all-consuming. But it is a means to an end – and that end is the rest of your life. Divorce isn’t simply the end of your marriage, it’s a new start. Divorce coaching can help you move on personally. When you know what you want your post-divorce life to be, you can start to build it, based on the values you’ve identified. You can ditch unhelpful thought processes and behaviours and surround yourself with people who love and support you. You deserve all of this.
Whether you decide to take the opportunity of coaching or not, think about your life after divorce, in both practical and emotional terms. Have a plan so the months and years after your divorce are ones you can look back on with happiness and gratitude that you have achieved this amazing thing for yourself. Everyone deserves to live a happy and fulfilled life. Don’t let a bad marriage or a battle-ridden divorce process dominate you.
I can’t take any new clients now until the end of April 2019, but if you’d like to chat about how working with me could work for you as you go through this life-changing process, contact me to book in a call.
The Divorce Alchemist
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is 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 practising family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self study and group programmes. Emma is featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com