You know you want to divorce. Now what?
You know you want to divorce. Now what? is for you if you already know you want to divorce. If it’s something you’re considering, take a look at this blog about decision-making.
So you know you want to divorce, but now what? Chances are your head’s spinning and your heart’s hurting a bit. You may also feel relief or a sense of clarity now you’ve made the decision. It’s all valid and all normal. This blog will take you through what you need to do next – and some things you do NOT need to do just yet!
First up, let’s look at some of the feelings that might be bringing you down.
Swamped by guilt
If you’re full of guilt because you want to divorce you are not alone. It’s one of the most common responses clients share with me. Especially if it was your choice, not your ex’s. Especially if you have children.
You will not be able to wish away your guilt. All the rational talk from me will most likely still leave you with guilt. We are socialised to please others, and to put others needs before our own.
But remember this. If your marriage is no longer happy or healthy, and you have explored all the options, divorce is a good thing. It’s good for you, for your ex, and for the rest of your family in the long run.
No one wants to live their life knowing they could be freer and happier elsewhere. No child wants to live with angry, resentful, withdrawn or wilted parents. Children want to see their parents happy and confident. It is fine for you to meet your own needs and go after what’s important to you. It is good for everyone.
Feeling the fear
Often, when we’re afraid of something we avoid it. We want to feel safe. We don’t want the discomfort of the fear. The trouble is, we stay stuck. Some of our most invigorating, feeling alive moments are ones that make us feel fear. Think of the tension and exhilaration from riding a rollercoaster. Think about something you were really nervous about – an exam, interview or presentation maybe – and how satisfied you felt afterwards.
It’s often scary doing the things we value. Facing our fear is an essential part of living life. If we don’t, we never get to the good bits. And we never get that sense of achieving what is important to us, even though it’s hard.
So don’t wait to feel less afraid before you get started on your divorce. Only by stretching yourself will you start to feel more comfortable. Your fear will just have to come along for the ride. You can read more about working with fear here.
Hold onto why
You may also be flying high – the adrenaline buzz of making the decision and knowing you’re ready for change. And that’s great! Embrace it. Just a word of caution – you will come down off that buzz at some point. The truth is that divorce will be hard work. Just like all things that are worthwhile in life. There will be some downs at some point. And they will rock you.
When that happens you need to hold onto why. Why you are doing this? Think about the past you want to leave behind and the future you’re building. What’s at the heart of it? What do you most care about that your marriage isn’t giving you? Hold onto that.
Write it down: ‘My marriage brings me xx [current negative value or feeling]. I no longer want that in my life. My divorce will enable y [value or feeling that’s important to you]. I am building that future now.’
Keep those sentences close so you can return to them again and again.
Now we’ve looked at your internal landscape – let’s look at two things you definitely need to do next.
Do: know what you want
We’ve just looked at your why. It’s the foundation of the new life you are building with your divorce. You can use that foundation to work out your next steps. What’s important to you? Is there anything you want to keep from the life you have now? What do you want to change?
When I ask these questions I’m not talking about things. It’s not about who gets the wedding silver, or even the cat. I’m talking about the way in which you live your life. Is connection important to you? Do you want to stay connected to important people? Is security important to you? That will inform your financial and home planning. Is adventure important? How can you bring more of that into your life now?
One of the lines I’m famous for saying when it comes to divorce is ‘You take yourself with you’. Divorce on its own won’t be the answer to all your problems. But if you’re clear on what you want, and create more of that now, you’re on track. You know you want to divorce. Now what? isn’t about waiting you don’t need to wait for your decree nisi to make your desires happen.
Do: get organised
I know – it sounds boring. It might sound obvious. But it’s true. You need to get organised: with your time, your energy, and your paperwork. Let’s take each of these in turn.
Let’s start with time. Unfortunately, we can’t create our perfect divorce process. While each divorce is unique, there is a particular legal sequence to go through to make it happen. There’s no getting around that. So you will be required to supply information, probably attend appointments, make decisions. These will most likely be things you don’t want to do. But you need to prioritise them and you need to make space for them. That might mean temporarily dropping other things – evening classes, or volunteering, or extra responsibilities at work. Be professional and open about what you’ve got on. Be clear that your divorce will be a priority for the coming months. You may well be pleasantly surprised at how many people cut you slack and offer to help.
Now – your energy. There are so many demands on our energy and attention! It’s your most precious asset, so protect it. Decide who and what to give your energy to. Are you someone who tends to find themselves scrolling through Facebook, getting caught up in other people’s dramas? Do yourself a favour, and stop. Give your energy to the people who matter to you, and to the activities that move you and your divorce forward.
Finally – your paperwork. It will save you so much hassle if you know where everything is! Invest in some files, and invest time in setting up a digital system. This sets you up for smooth running as you progress through your divorce.
Do: get a solicitor in these situations
You will need a solicitor at the start in some situations. If you’re in a high conflict divorce with a man who is financially controlling – moving money, hiding assets or denying you access to funds. You may also need a solicitor straight away if you’re experiencing physical or significant emotional abuse – check whether you’re eligible for legal aid.
Now – what about the don’ts?!
Don’t: lash out
The ideal divorce is smooth, co-operative, and peaceful. Sadly, many women don’t get that. And even the most collaborative of divorces will have its sticky patches. Your ex, their legal representation, or friends, or family will do or say things that have you gnashing your teeth.
Whatever you do, don’t react in anger. I don’t mean you have to take whatever bad behaviour is coming your way. You can definitely respond, and set boundaries. If your ex has overstepped the line in how they communicate, keep a record of it. Make it clear that’s not acceptable. Auntie Nora’s chipped in with how divorce is bad for the children? You can certainly let her know that you have your children’s best interests at heart.
The key thing is to keep calm. This is easier said than done, I know. But if you’ve decided to divorce, you know that divorce is what’s important here. Not power games with your ex. Not soothing the egos or worries of friends or family. Your calm leadership in your divorce will show them you know what you’re doing.
Don’t: instruct a solicitor- yet
One of the first actions many people take when deciding to divorce is to instruct a solicitor. Don’t! This may come as a surprise, but you don’t need a solicitor yet. You may not need one at all if you have an uncomplicated situation until you reach an agreement.
The key here is in the phrase ‘instruct’. Your solicitor is there to provide legal advice and then act upon your instructions. But how do you know what those instructions are? You need to get clear on what you want first. And you need to find someone else to do emotional processing with. Solicitors are usually both an inadequately trained and an expensive source of emotional support. Leave them to do what they’re good at – the legalities.
So if you’re not going to instruct a solicitor, what are you going to do? You’re going to get clear on what you want and need, and get your paperwork in order, of course!
You can find all the basics for the legal system in England and Wales here. And my Amazon bestseller How To Be A Lady Who Leaves is your one stop for not only the legal side, but also the practical and emotional too.
The support you need
Just because you’re not instructing a solicitor straight away doesn’t mean you need to go it alone. Get Divorce Ready is happening this autumn – an eight week programme in which I walk by your side as you get going.
If you’re not sure of what to do first, this is for you. Feel a cheerleading squad will help? this is for you. If you want to make sure you’re asking the right questions and planning for the future, this is for you. It’s everything you need to ensure you take control, and stay in the driving seat, whatever comes your way. Places are strictly limited so you get the support and attention you need.
For more information and to get on the wait list, read all about Get Divorce Ready here.
And if you want to chat about other ways I can support you as you divorce, book in a chat here.
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 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. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com