Getting a divorce is complicated for so many reasons. Personally, when I set out to do just that, I had absolutely no idea how much would go into the process.
I thought I was completely ready because I’d been unhappily married for many years. I believed that just because I wasn’t happy in my marriage, I would be able to easily settle into unmarried life — and even get to the “unmarried” part easily.
I had no idea what was in store.
Getting divorced took a lot of hard work and was incredibly emotionally draining. One of the most difficult challenges was making sure I would be even remotely stable on my own, financially speaking.
And if I could do it all again, chances are, I’d probably spend some time planning exactly what I was going to do before I pulled the trigger. Maybe it sounds selfish, but the truth is, things would have been a bit easier for both me and my ex-husband if I’d done a bit more to prepare myself.
Here are six important things to do to prepare for a divorce:
Set Aside an Emergency Fund
If you think divorce might be on the horizon and there’s any possible way you can start setting aside an emergency fund, you should. If you don’t have a ton of savings to pull from — and chances are if you’re married, you may not have any savings with just your name on it at all — start saving ASAP. Maybe it sounds dishonest, but having no money to your name is extremely scary when you’re trying to navigate how to physically separate.
Even having a small savings account with a few hundred dollars in it can make you feel like you have something that is yours. You can navigate all the tough financial stuff later, but simply beginning the process of branching out on your own starts with having your own money. You can always add to your savings, and over time you will, but simply opening a new account with just your name on it can feel like a big step and set you off in the right direction.
Go to Talk Therapy
If you’re thinking about a divorce yourself, or you feel that your spouse is, go to talk therapy. Of course, couples therapy is a great idea if you’re still trying to work things through together. But if you know that things are past the point of saving, it’s important to have someone to vent with, air your frustrations to, and just help you begin to wrap your head around the split. It’s even better if you can be open with friends or family, but if you aren’t at that point yet, going to therapy is essential. After all, this is a huge life change, and with it comes a lot of mixed emotions that you’ll need help sorting through.
Think About Future Living Arrangements
It’s never too early to start thinking about what is going to change. A big part of those changes will have to do with living arrangements. Start thinking of your own tentative plan, knowing that it will likely change when you begin hashing things through with your spouse. What might work best? Should one person stay in the family home to give the kids some stability? Should you both move out and start from scratch? Some couples even take turns swapping in and out of the family home so the kids can stay put. There are a lot of options, but you’ll have to think about what will work best for your unique family and what everyone will be the most comfortable with.
Connect With Someone Who Has Been Through It
Having friends who are separated or divorced feels like a saving grace when you’re about to embark on the same journey. If you don’t have any divorced friends, seriously, go and make some. Most people won’t understand the different emotions and challenges you’re about to face, but your divorced friends will. Whether it’s online, a support group, a neighbor on your street, or a best friend, friends who have walked in single-parent shoes are key for helping you navigate your new life and feeling supported in it.
Research Lawyers and Mediators
If you’re like me, you probably think you can do it all on your own. After all, you and your spouse don’t hate each other! But the process of dividing your lives and things and sorting through all the ins and outs of divorce can really make emotions run high. Like a lot of people, my ex and I tried to work things out on our own, then we went to a free mediator. When that all failed, we both finally got lawyers. Everyone is different, but if I had been more proactive, it may have saved us about two years of fighting.
Lawyers aren’t cheap. In fact, mediators can be expensive, as well. Review your options. Find out if you have a relative or close personal friend in the business who will cut you a deal. Also, talk to others about their experiences and get recommendations. Prices for these services can vary drastically from person to person.
Think Positively About Your Fresh Start
Divorce can be devastating, but if you can remember that there is so much joy on the other side, hopefully, that will help you through the tough stuff. It may take a long time for you to find fulfillment again after a devastating loss like a divorce. Still, your life isn’t over. In many ways, it’s just beginning. You’re older, wiser, and have so much to look forward to — without a marriage that wasn’t happy or right weighing you down.
Keep the happy thoughts coming, or at the very least, hold onto the idea that at some point, you’re going to feel a whole lot better when you’re grounded in your own life with a renewed sense of purpose.