Exactly How To Get A Divorce Once You've Decided Your Marriage Is Over

Photo: Unsplash: Brooke Cagle
How To Get A Divorce: From Filing Papers To Practicing Self-Care During The Process
Family, Self

You got this.

You've finally made the painful but necessary decision that your marriage is over. It’s been a long haul and not something you've taken lightly, but you know for sure that it is really is done.

Now you're wondering what happens next. You've never been through this before, and figuring out how to file divorce papers or hire a family law attorney or choose a mediator or whatever other legalities you're supposed to take on in order to initiate the process can feel nothing short of overwhelming.

I'll be frank. Divorce can be hellish. Everything familiar in your life is about to change. Keeping your spirits up for the kids, trying to focus on (or even find) work and even something as simple as deciding what you're going to cook for dinner feels like more than you can bear some days.

RELATED: How To Get A Divorce Online

I've been there. I get it.

And because I do, I can tell you without a doubt that you can and will get through your divorce with your sanity and well-being intact — and, perhaps, even better then ever.

To help ease your path along the way at least a bit, here's exactly what you need to know about how to get a divorce, from filing papers to making staying emotionally and physically healthy.

1. Create a safe space for yourself right from the start

When I was getting divorced, I met a woman who had been through one the previous year. Because I had never been through the divorce process before, I had no idea how to cope. Luckily for me, she was able to help because she had just been through it.

I'd moved out of our family home and found a rental, and I'd left my things at our house so that it could look good when we tried to sell it. My new friend told me, in no uncertain terms, that I had to get my things and bring them to my new house.

For women, when we are going through a hard time, our surroundings are very important. It’s something almost primal — our nesting instinct.Women want their space to be a comforting, happy place.

I had my things moved to my rental and I filled our family home with furniture from a professional house staging company. And did it make a difference? Oh yes, it did.

Being surrounded by my own furniture and pictures, sleeping in my bed with my bed linens and seeing the little things that I had accumulated over the years on the shelves all gave me such a sense of comfort. My life was so confusing because of the many changes, and coming home to my things provided me more comfort than I can even explain.

2. Set up a strong support system

For many women, filing for divorce can be embarrassing. It feels like failure on so many levels.

And because of this, we often try dealing with divorce alone. We think we can tough out the heartbreak and get through it, and that we will be just fine.

But the reality is that we all need support when we leave our marriage. We aren’t familiar with how to get a divorce, and have no idea what we’re doing. So, it’s very important that we align ourselves with people who are informed and supportive, people who have been through it before.

Here are the types of people to have on your support team:

  • A friend who's been there

For me, my friend who had been through a divorce was an invaluable source of information and support. She could look back on her divorce and talk to me about her successes and her failures so that, as I went through my divorce process, I knew what to look out for.

Without her, I am not sure I could have made it through it all as well as I did.

  • A therapist

I found myself a therapist who I talked to every week. I really felt that I was the biggest loser on the planet because my husband had decided he didn’t want be in a relationship with me anymore. She was incredibly helpful, pointing out that divorces don’t happen because one person didn’t do something right, and that there are always two people in marriage and both share some responsibility for things going wrong.

  • A massage therapist

Another person who really helped me when I was going through my divorce process was my massage therapist.

My husband left me right after my youngest child went off to college, so I was left completely alone. For the first time in 18 years, I wasn’t being touched regularly. So, I indulged and got a massage once a week for three months as a form of self-care. Having somebody touch me for 60 minutes each week significantly helped me get through those turbulent times.

  • A good, ethical lawyer

Right away, I got myself a lawyer. Not a pit bull lawyer, as many people suggested I should get, but a lawyer who I knew to be strong but reasonable.

I didn’t want my divorce to be about two lawyers trying to prove who was the better lawyer.

She was able to walk me through the reality of getting a divorce and what being divorced would look like. She also explained how to file for divorce the proper way by helping me with the divorce papers.

She was also upfront and realistic with me about how much it would cost. Information is powerful. For me, makes me feel like I have some control of my outcome. Talking to her gave me the clarity I needed to be able to move forward.

RELATED: 3 Reasons Getting Divorced Could Be The Best Decision You'll Ever Make

3. Roadmap your vision of the future

After talking with my lawyer, I realized that, for the rest of my life, I was going to have to take care of myself, and I was scared out of my mind.

I had been mostly a stay-at-home mom for 20 years and, all of a sudden, I was going to be responsible for taking care of myself financially, for doing my own taxes, for finding healthcare and for figuring out how to fix something that was broken at the house.

I was overwhelmed and didn’t know how I was going to handle it, so I sat down to create a roadmap for myself.

First, I thought about where I wanted to live, what I wanted my life to look like, and what I wanted to do now that I was on my own.

I realized that, while being alone was scary, it would also give me a certain amount of freedom. For the first time in 20 years, I could live the way I wanted to live. Realizing that really helped me stay more positive about the divorce process and how things were going to turn out in the end. I felt almost hopeful once I had a picture of what the future might look like.

Next, I made plan.

I came up with a list of things I was going to need to consider for my future and came up with a list of people who could support me when I needed support. I found myself a financial planner. I found a CPA to do my taxes. I found a handyman who could help me with those things around the house I couldn’t take care of myself.

I knew that I had to keep my life moving smoothly if I was going to survive this process, and getting help with things I couldn't do was a big part of that.

Lastly, I did the math.

I figured out what my expenses were so I knew what kind of money I was going to need going forward to survive. Armed with that knowledge, I was able to secure the kind of alimony that I would need to get myself back on my feet.

Making a plan, having an idea of what my future looked like and knowing how I was going manage it all really supported me during the divorce process.

4. Practice self-care

Fortunately for me, when I was going through my divorce, I didn’t drink.

While I hadn’t been much of a drinker for the past 20 years, I have to admit that the inclination to drink a bottle of wine on a lonely night at home was often very attractive. I think had I indulged in a bottle of wine, I might’ve struggled with figuring out what I needed to get through the divorce.

Instead of drinking wine during this time, I took up yoga. I did yoga every single day. When my brain started running out of control, I would use yoga to bring it back. When I started feeling like I was not going to survive I used yoga to make my body feel stronger.

I also made a big effort to spend a lot of time in the sunshine, because the warmth of the sun made me feel healthy and strong and the vitamin D from the sun helped alleviate the depression I, at times, felt.

And, of course, I ate well — as well as I could at least — and made a big effort to get enough sleep.

In retrospect, I know that taking care of myself and keeping my mind my body strong helped me get through my divorce intact and helped alleviate my pain when the divorce process became briefly contentious.

5. Don’t give up

I know that going through a divorce can be incredibly difficult. Even people who are divorcing amicably struggle to get through it all without some hurt feelings and drama.

And divorce can take a long time, so you might be tempted to give up, to put aside your own needs to end the dreadful process and get on with your life.

Don’t do it!

More than anything, it’s important that you take the time to get your divorce done right.

I know many women who have walked away from a difficult divorce and struggled for the rest of their life, financially and emotionally. They didn't get enough money to make a new start, or they found themselves burdened with regret and anger for longer than they should.

So, don’t give up. Make a plan and stay the course. It’s worth it.

Knowing the steps ahead of you when you are starting the divorce process is an important part of successfully getting through it all.

I know that the divorce ahead of you might seem to be a daunting thing. You don’t know how it’s going to all turn out and that can be scary. And you are wondering how you could possibly be happy again.

I know you might not believe it right now because from where you sit, things look pretty bad, but I can promise you that the view from the other side is a rosy one.

Since I’ve been divorced, I have moved to New York City from New England, started my business, dated a bunch of wonderful men, made a whole bunch of new friends, maintained a great relationship with my kids, and developed a truly healthy sense of my own self-worth.

The few years after my divorce were definitely a struggle but, in the years since, I’ve learned more about myself than I learned in the previous 46. I know now who I am, I know what I want, and I’m not afraid to get it.

So, make sure that you are surrounded by the things that make you happy, reach out to get support from whoever you need to get support from, make a plan for the future, take care of yourself and don’t ever give up.

You can do this. I promise.

RELATED: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting Divorced

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Mitzi Bockmann is a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. She works exclusively with women to help them to be all that they want to be in this crazy world in which we live. Follow her on Facebook for more life and relationship advice.

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