GET A GRIP + More In-Your-Face Advice For Anyone Getting Divorced

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divorce process

Reality check: This is going to be hard. Here's how to deal.

Do you think that getting divorced is difficult, expensive and time consuming? While it's true that divorce is all of those things, it's also true that if you know what you're doing, you'll spend less time, money and angst in your divorce than you will if you stumble through it blindly, hoping for the best.

The problem with divorce is that most people have NO idea what they're doing.

That’s not surprising because most people don’t think about divorce until they, or their friends or their relatives are in the middle of one. By then, they're so emotional that seeing the system clearly is next to impossible. That’s why getting expert advice is so critical to getting through the divorce process without going crazy.

Here's what most divorce lawyers know about divorce that you don’t:

1. You need to see a therapist.

The first person most people go to see when they're facing divorce is a lawyer. Divorce is a legal process, so getting a divorce lawyer seems like the logical first step in handling the divorce process.

Except, it’s not. 

The truth about divorce is that, first and foremost, it's an emotional journey. When you go through a divorce you feel like someone just drove a dagger into your heart and pulled it out by way of your stomach. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. You cry all the time.

The truth is that you don’t just need a lawyer. You need a therapist.

2. You need to get you emotions in check.

What most divorce lawyers will never tell you is that, for most people, divorce is about 80 percent emotional and only 20 percent legal and financial. While getting legal advice is important, unless you have just been served with court documents, getting a lawyer is not necessarily the first thing you should do.

You have to get a handle on your emotions before dealing with the legal issues.

When you're going through a divorce, you will have to make major life decisions that will affect you and your kids for a very long time. You will need to analyze your finances and divide up your stuff. You will need to create a schedule and a parenting plan for your kids. To make these and other divorce decisions, you have to be able to think clearly.  

3. You need to prepare important information.

The next thing you need to do to deal with your divorce is gather information. 

Divorce is a document driven process. Even if you haven’t seen a bank statement or a credit card bill during your entire marriage (which is a mistake you will never make again!) you're going to have to become a document collector.

Why? Because you can’t make good decisions without complete information.

Once you have all of your financial information, you need to educate yourself. You need to learn how divorce works, understand your legal rights and responsibilities and analyze your options. While you may think all you need to do is to hire someone (like a lawyer) who will handle your divorce for you, thinking that way would be a giant mistake.  

You can’t out-source your divorce.

4. You need to assemble a professional team.

While it's important to take an active role in your divorce that doesn’t mean that you should try to get through the process alone. If you want to get through your divorce with confidence and clarity, you're going to need to get legal, financial and emotional help. You may also need to consult with experts in real estate, child psychology and stress management. 

In other words, you're going to need a team.

Now, before you start to break out in a cold sweat thinking about how you're going to pay for an entire team of experts, relax! Not all of your team members are going to cost you money. If you have educated yourself properly and you're willing to do some leg work yourself, there are ways that you can get affordable legal and financial information. Divorce support groups also provide lower cost divorce resources.

The bottom line is that, once you learn the ropes, you have more control over your situation than you think.

5. You need to plan for the future.

The last step in starting your divorce off right is to make a plan. Yes, that sounds cold-hearted. But, why? Unless you eloped, you probably spent a whole lot of time, effort and money planning every detail of your wedding. If your wedding (which was ONE day!) was important enough to warrant that much energy, what makes you think that your divorce (which is a process that will affect the rest of your life) will not require at least a similar amount of your attention?

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Your plan needs to cover the basics of where you will live, how you will support yourself, and how you will manage your expenses. You need to figure out a parenting schedule and a parenting plan for your kids. You also need to consider how you want to get through your divorce (i.e. through litigation, mediation, or collaborative divorce). Finally, you need to make a budget for the time and money you will spend to get divorced. Then double your budget and your time frame. Why?

Divorce is like construction: It always takes longer and costs more than you think.

Once you get these things in order, you can move forward with confidence.

Divorce is a process, not an event. Once you understand the process, you can start to manage it. If, like many people, you stumble through your divorce in an emotional haze without taking the time to identify and analyze your options, make a plan, and methodically move forward to your new life one step at a time, you will spend more time and money than you need, and you will still end up unhappy once your divorce is over.

What do divorce lawyers know that you don’t? There is life after divorce. 

You may not feel like it now, but you can and WILL be happy again. In the meantime, how you get through your divorce matters. While putting in the extra time and effort now to deal with your emotions, get organized, educate yourself, form your own divorce “team” and make a plan may seem overwhelming, doing it now, rather than waiting until your divorce is over, will put you in a much better place at the end.

What’s the real secret to getting through your divorce without going crazy? Just take it one step at a time.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Adviser, Lawyer and Coach. To get more divorce advice from Karen, you can to KarenCovy.com or check out her article: 50 Pieces of Divorce Advice that Your Lawyer May Not Have Told you (But Should Have!)