The introduction of no fault divorce in April 2022 brings with it new time frames. There’s a minimum wait of 20 weeks between your divorce application and the conditional order (decree nisi in the old system). It was rare to have a ‘quickie’ divorce in a matter of a few weeks, but it’s now impossible. Add to that court backlogs due to two years of pandemic, and you can see you’re in for a long haul. That’s why it’s important to treat your divorce as a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t want to run out of steam too early. So let’s look at how to manage your divorce marathon.
Set a pace you can manage
Experienced marathon runners know it’s about getting to the end as effectively as possible. If you charge ahead in the early days of your divorce, it’s likely two things will happen: 1. You make some decisions you regret, which create work further down the line, and 2. You burn out quickly.
So take your time. If you’re filing under the no fault system you can’t beat the clock anyway. You still have to wait for the stipulated 20 weeks to pass. And there’s plenty to do. You’ll still need to agree financial arrangements, and resolve issues around children. You’ll begin to bed into the reality of no longer being in a couple, and living independently (or coping with still living together if that’s your situation).
Take a deep breath and make a plan. Start with what’s important: your values. They underpin everything. Make sure every decision you make stems from them. You can read more about exploring your values here.
Once you understand your values you’re in a better position to act calmly and wisely. Which is likely to save you money, as well as energy.
Make time to switch off from divorce
One of the hardest, but most critical, skills to master in your divorce marathon is segmentation. Divorce is a big, stressful deal and there’s no getting away from it. Except, to maintain your wellbeing, you need to get away from it mentally, just for a while.
Breaks are vital to your long-term health, not just when it comes to divorce. But how can you turn that into reality when your soon-to-be-ex’s emails and complaints, or worries about the children are playing on your mind 24/7?
One technique that many of my clients find useful is time blocking. Treat your divorce like a job. Yes, many of us have boundary issues with our work too, checking our emails at 11pm. But we know we shouldn’t! And the same goes for your divorce. It won’t help you to keep fretting over whether your solicitor has replied at 2am.
If your brain knows that there’s time set aside for concentrating on your divorce, it can be easier to let it go the rest of the time. Find a schedule that works for you.
You might decide to set aside 30 minutes every morning before the children wake. You can use that time to reply to emails, do research or make a plan. And then have a longer block of time once a week, maybe at the weekend. Or you may decide that you’ll use the hour after the children go to bed every weeknight to focus on your divorce, and, unless absolutely necessary, have time off at the weekends.
A related technique is ‘the file’. This can be digital, or an actual file you carry around with you. Every time you have a question, idea or thought about your divorce, add it to your file. So your brain can let it go. And then, at scheduled times, maybe twice a week, go through and move things forward.
Assemble your divorce cheerleaders!
Runners will often tell you they beat their personal best times during races. And that’s down to the atmosphere – the crowds, the camaraderie, the support. It’s tougher on your own. So surround yourself with the people who will cheer you on. These people tend to fit into three groups (and some wonderful people fit into all three!):
- People who offer practical support: they will help you go through forms, look after the children, make you dinner when you’re sick of cooking
- People who offer emotional support: these people will listen, and let you be you – whatever you’re feeling. They won’t project their own emotions or story onto you, but they’ll help you get a fresh perspective
- People who bring the fun: we’ve seen how important it is to take breaks from your divorce. It’s important to have people you can relax with, and let your hair down. You are not your divorce, and it’s important to remember that!
Know why you’re doing it
Understanding why your divorce is worth it will give you so much energy, even when you think you can’t go on. Your divorce is both a move away from something, and a move towards something. If you haven’t done this exercise before, try it now:
Write out all the elements of your marriage you want to move away from in your divorce. What are the things you want to leave behind? What causes them and how do they make you feel?
Next, write out what you’d like your future to be like. How do you want to feel? What sort of daily or weekly routine would you like? What sort of person are you in the future?
Do this exercise and put the results somewhere you can see them regularly. It’s a great way to reconnect with why your divorce is vital to your current and future wellbeing.
The Absolute Academy
I’ve just talked about the importance of cheerleaders. When you join The Absolute Academy you can have a ready-made squad of them, including me! This community of women making smart decisions in divorce will have your back. As will I. Got questions about what to do next? I’ll answer them. Feeling like you just want to walk away? We’ll remind you why you’re worth so much more than that. Need to weep and vent? You can do that in full knowledge that we get it.
The Absolute Academy is your port in a storm. And not only will it keep your wellbeing intact, it can save you thousands in solicitor’s fees. 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