“Above all be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
- Nora Ephron
We are living in a time where women are increasingly being bullied and intimidated during divorce. Don’t let that happen to you! Take control of your divorce process for a successful outcome that creates your brightest post-divorce future.
Where do you start? We’ve got that covered. After counseling divorcing women for over a decade, I want to share the following tips.
1. Take a deep breath and move away from the, “I just want this over with” mantra. In most states you have to wait a certain period of time until the divorce is finalized, so use this time wisely. DO Not sign anything until you have clearly identified your legal and financial rights.
2. Divorce takes a team so gather your team of professionals as your first action step. You will need legal, financial, real estate and tax advice. Choose professionals who will collaborate with one another and have your best interest as their priority. Ask others who have transitioned through divorce for referrals. Make sure you feel comfortable with your team and understand that they work for YOU. Many women have shared with me that they feel intimidated and were unaware they could fire one of the professionals they were working with. Yes, you can and you must fire them if they aren’t listening to you or strongly advocating for you. National statistics show that the majority of families find themselves in post-divorce litigation, which is costly, both financially and emotionally. Make sure everything is done right the first time so you are not one of those families.
3. Everyone wants to know they will have a roof over their head, during and after the divorce. Assess your housing so that you feel safe, and accept that your choice might be a temporary decision until the dust settles. Many attorneys say that when a divorce is on the horizon the first call isn’t to a legal provider, but to a Realtor. Most women want to know that they won’t have to uproot their kids or, if they do need to move, they have a plan in place. If you own your home, make sure you have a Realtor and lender who will help you understand your options regarding your home and are very experienced in working with divorcing families. If you want to keep your home, don’t let anyone tell you that it is not possible until all options have been explored. A Realtor and lender who specialize in working with divorcing families can help you figure this out, with your goals as the driving force.
4. Take care of yourself, especially if you have children. You will need emotional support from friends or a mental health professional. Now is the time to reach out and let others support you. They want to be there for you: let them. A friend told me “It’s your turn at bat and we are here on the bench for you. Next time you will be on the bench and one of us will be at bat”. It was so true and very helpful to give in to that idea.
5. Research your legal options. Perhaps mediation, or collaboration would be best for you rather than assuming you will need litigation. Mediation and collaboration can be less expensive and usually create a more cooperative environment for your family. Check out some divorce resources. https://www.wildflowergroup.net/divorce-resources-for-women
6. Get your finances organized and understand that you are now in charge of your financial future. This area seems to be a challenge for many women who have not been involved with the family finances. That’s okay. That was then and now you are in a new place. You might be very surprised to find that taking this step is very empowering and actually fun!
7. Check out some divorce apps to help make your transition smoother. There are a lot of apps available to address parenting, communication, organizing and finances. This is especially helpful when communication between the parties is strained. You each have access to posted information through the apps so you’ll know what is going on which limits the need to communicate directly.
8. Avoid “knee jerk” reactions. Emotions can be running high, so rather than making a quick response to a communication, take a moment to respond. Or better yet, suggest that you’d like to think about it and will have an answer within a short period of time. That gives you more control of the situation and gives you time to ponder your options.
9. Create goals for both the short term and long term. This is a wonderful exercise to focus on the future and reinforces that there is life after divorce. You’ll find it is often more fulfilling and wonderful than you could have imagined!