In some ways divorce is simple. It’s an administrative process: you and your spouse complete some forms, which are signed off by the court, to end your marriage or civil partnership. In reality, though, it’s so much more complicated than that! And complications can lead to stress, and stress can lead to burnout. So in this blog, let me share the divorce processes you need to get to grips with, and, more importantly, how to do it.
It’s not just divorce!
People who are new to the divorce process get quite a shock when they realise divorce itself is only part of it! You see, the legal process of getting divorced simply ends your marriage or civil partnership: it means you are no longer legally a unit. However, it does nothing to untangle the rest of your life.
When you marry (or enter a civil partnership, but for the sake of brevity I’ll just mention marriage from now on), you and your spouse are tied together financially. Your assets, and liabilities are considered to be joint. This includes bank accounts, debts, property, pensions and inheritance.
So one of the most complicated, emotionally-laden aspects of divorce is coming to a financial settlement: one that is fair to both parties. You can do this between yourselves, with the help of a mediator or solicitors, or through the court.
The other agreement you may need to reach concerns arrangements for children. Again, this can be emotionally explosive. Most importantly, you children must not be used as pawns in a power game between you and your soon-to-be-ex. Their needs are paramount. Again, you have the option of coming to an agreement between yourselves, or seeking a child arrangement order through the court. If you do work things out without the court, be sure to get everything in writing so it’s clear and can be referred back to.
I will be covering these processes in more detail in future weeks. You can also read all about them right now in the brand new edition of How To Be A Lady Who Leaves: The Ultimate Guide To Getting Divorce Ready.
Don’t go it alone
Life doesn’t stop because you’re getting divorced. All of a sudden you have all of the decisions to make, forms to complete, emails to reply to, as well as cope with the emotional and practical fallout of separation.
So,what can you do to prevent burnout? Outsource. It may seem counterintuitive to spend money on support at a time when you’re having to think carefully about your financial future. But in truth, careful investment in expertise can save you thousands. (Of course this depends on your financial situation: if you are in a low asset marriage I have some tips for you coming up).
However heartbroken you feel, it’s important to approach divorce with the cool headedness of a CEO. You are in charge of your divorce. You can’t control what your spouse says and does, but you can control what you enable and allow. And you can control your own decisions.
How a CEO does things differently
A CEO doesn’t do everything themselves. They offer direction and delegate. For example, I’m the CEO of my business but I can’t run it alone, especially as I’m a full time carer. I have an awesome team around me:
- Lynsey, my Online Business Manager who manages me and the business – she tells me what needs doing, stays on top of my content and doesn’t miss a beat
- Michael, who manages the money
- Gayle, who looks after the words for my blogs and newsletters
- Rae and Kelly help me provide the best possible support and training to members of The Absolute Academy
A good business owner recognises they can use expertise appropriately to save both time and money. I always advise against using friends and family as your experts. They might be great at providing shoulders to cry on. They might even have experience of divorce themselves. But they don’t have the breadth and depth of knowledge that comes with expertise, and that means any advice they offer comes with partiality. And, of course, they can’t be impartial because they love you!
So who do you need on your divorce team?
There are five main areas you can invest in expertise. Whether you do will depend on your individual circumstances:
- Legal processes: completing the divorce application in itself is simple. And whether you need a solicitor at all will depend on your situation. It is often a good idea to use a solicitor tactically if you can, to get regulated advice on how the law relates to your specific case. You do not usually need to do this straight away: it is often much more cost effective and productive to have done some thinking first
- Decision-making: a coach is invaluable here, and can help you make the right decisions first time. A coach will not make decisions for you, or tell you what to do, but will help you understand the full picture, including your own emotional situation. A specialist divorce coach (like me) should also be well-versed in the legal process, but remember no-one other than a lawyer can give you regulated legal advice.
- Emotional support: divorce is one of the most stressful experiences you’ll ever have. If it’s taking you to difficult emotional places, a therapist or counsellor can help.
- Money: if there is any wealth in your marriage it is worth speaking to an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA). You don’t need to be in the millionaire bracket for an IFA to be a worthwhile investment. Something as simple as the right advice on savings accounts can save you thousands.
- Pensions: pensions are worth a separate mention as they are a complex part of the marital assets. An actuary can advise you on how to divide pensions fairly.
If your resources are limited and you have to be tactical about where to invest, ask yourself:
How can I best support my future self?
Want to chat?
Take advantage of free initial sessions to get a sense of the support an expert can provide you. Many solicitors, for example, offer a free 30 minute consultation, as do I. Use these sessions wisely: be prepared with the specifics of your situation and the issues you’d like help with. Hopefully you’ll get some useful guidance there and then, and at the very least you’ll have a sense of how much they are likely to be able to help you.
For example, if you and your soon-to-be-ex have an amicable relationship, but there are complicated money issues, you may be able to avoid the cost of a solicitor but seek independent financial advice then come to an agreement yourselves, or with the help of a mediator. Or if you are struggling to make a plan, an initial session with a divorce coach can get you on track, and you can take it from there.
If you can’t invest in expertise
If you can’t invest in expertise, don’t despair. Here are my top recommendations for avoiding burnout:
- Read How To Be A Lady Who Leaves: The Ultimate Guide To Getting Divorce Ready. One of my readers said it’s like having me right there next to you, talking you through it all step by step. This book is an essential companion to divorce, and provides you with all the right questions to ask, and the order to ask them in.
- Make decisions from a place of calm. One of the important roles of an expert is providing a sense of perspective. They can provide some emotional distance, and help talk you down from catastrophising. It is never a good idea to make divorce decisions from a place of despair or rage. So find ways to get yourself into cool, composed mode before firing off any emails.
- Use friends and family as emotional and practical support, not experts. There’s definitely a role for your loved ones in divorce. It’s in supporting you, so you can make your own decisions. Be confident in asking for help, whether it’s with childcare, food or having some mental time off. All this will set you up to do your own research and think more clearly about your divorce.
Want to get serious about your divorce in 2023? Start now! Book in your free 30 minute chat with me here.
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