7 considerations from an expert who has been there!
As a Divorce Coach, I never want to tell you whether you should or shouldn't get divorced. Unfortunately, this very difficult decision must be yours, and yours alone. Talking with your marriage counselor or therapist can really help you with that decision. It did for me. Still, what therapy didn't do was tell me what to expect, or how to prepare my life for when my decision was made. And that's how I aim to help you.
1. Talk to a lawyer— Finding the right lawyer is an important step and who you choose depends on the kind of divorce you think you will have. I had friends refer me to the "big guns lawyer" who is aggressive and won't let you go down without a fight. He wasn't for me, because I didn't want to "fight." Options to consider:
- There are mediators who will work with both of you, but not represent solely you (a far more economical option).
- There are pre-paid legal options — you join a legal group and pay a monthly fee and you get unlimited free advice via phone and discounted legal services. They can also assist with a Do-It-Yourself divorce, giving you all the paperwork and telling you what to do, except you file it yourself via courthouse and represent yourself in court (I had a client that went this route and she paid only $1,000 for her divorce). Legal Shield is a company I would recommend researching.
2. Get a Separation Agreement— This is a legal document stating who gets what, custody arrangements, alimony/child support, etc; it's the nut of your entire divorce. Now, in many cases this agreement can take MONTHS if not years to agree upon. For me, I wasn't willing to wait so I left our marital home without a legal agreement, HOWEVER, my husband and I kept an excel sheet of bank account info, our stuff of who gets what, kid arrangements – and we agreed via email before I moved out. My lawyer said that while it wasn't ideal, I had proof that we both agreed. My biggest mistake I made was not agreeing to receive child support before I left, because I felt guilty. Don't make the same mistake. Make sure you have alimony and child support figured out if you are the one who leaves. If he is leaving, then you are in a better legal position because he "left" the home, not you.
3. Look at your finances— Whether you have a lot of money or not enough, you need to make sure you have enough money to pay the rent/mortgage and basic living necessities for at least 6 months. If you don't have that separation agreement that legally states he owes you alimony or child support, he owes you nothing until that agreement is signed. Often times this gets agreed upon between the couple, without lawyers, so if this is your case, make sure you get it signed, in writing, and agreed upon via email.
4. Decide who is moving out— Let's face it, if you stay put and allow him to move out, life will be a lot easier. Personally, I wanted a new home, a place that belonged to me, with neighbors that didn't know me, and I didn't want any memories of my old home. However, I regret making this choice for a lot of reasons (long story, another blog).
5. Think about your stuff— Forget about the fancy dishes and the expensive gravy boat you use just once a year. Think about your baby photos, videos, college photos, children's artwork – all of your personal keepsakes. That's all that matters – try to keep all of it.
6. Think about your career— If you've been a stay at home mom and have relied on your husband's income don't let this prevent you from going through with a divorce. You will find a way to work and make money, trust me! There are countless ways to make money. And if you receive alimony, you do not need to make this decision right away. You have a talent that someone needs! You are hirable, awesome, and you WILL find work.
7. Honor every emotion you have— You're gonna feel scared. Really scared. So scared that you feel sick to your stomach and you won't be able to sleep. You might get so scared that you don't take any action at all, so you remain stuck and still married. Or you might feel relieved, elated, excited, angry, sad, guilty – these emotions are all normal! Divorce is a life-changing event – there would be something wrong with you if you didn't feel these emotions. Just honor them and accept they are there, and they will pass soon. Just remember: the one thing waiting for you is HAPPINESS. And that will come. I promise.
Do you have a friend who is going through divorce, a break-up or a life changing event that could benefit from this article? If so, please share this with them. Or, use the social media tools to your left and share it!