People get divorced for a thousand different reasons. Maybe they tried out this whole marriage thing and found it wasn’t for them. Perhaps their spouse is a different person than the one they were dating.
Whatever the reason, divorce is a necessary evil. It’s also painful, messy, exhausting, and expensive.
If I could talk to my pre-divorce self, here are nine things I would tell her.
Hire a Good Attorney
Even if you and your soon-to-be ex are on good terms, having a good attorney in your corner can help make the process easier. Filing for divorce requires a lot of extensive — and expensive — paperwork, and forgetting to cross an I or dot a T can be costly. You might not need someone to fight for you in court, but consider an excellent attorney to help streamline the process.
Try to Keep Things Civil
Messy divorces might be great for TV or movie drama, but no one wants to deal with them in real life. Even if you and your ex aren’t on speaking terms, try to keep things civil. Screaming at each other across a mediator’s table or courtroom isn’t going to get you anywhere. That behavior in a courtroom could even get you held in contempt, making things worse.
Have a Financial Plan in Place
Don’t rely on alimony, especially if your divorce is less than amicable. You’re dropping from two incomes to one, so make sure you plan accordingly. Collect all your paperwork, including joint and singular debts and info about any joint accounts you share with your ex, and make sure you have all your ducks in a row. You may want to set up a solo account in your name, but make sure you double-check with your attorney before making any changes to joint accounts.
Court Isn’t The Only Option
We often think of divorce court as the only option when a split isn’t amicable, but it isn’t the only option available. Consider divorce mediation. An impartial third-party mediator will help negotiate your divorce contract. Mediation might not be necessary for amicable splits, but some states require mediation if you’re not planning to go to court. Mediation can be helpful if you can’t agree on particular data points, such as custody of children or the division of assets.
Don’t Bring the Kids Into This
You and your significant other might be getting divorced — the kids aren’t. Outside of cases of abuse or violence, your kids will probably still have a relationship with their other parents. You don’t have to like the person to co-parent amicably. Don’t be that person that uses their kids as pawns in divorce proceedings.
Think Your Decisions Through Carefully
The decisions you make throughout your divorce proceedings are going to impact the rest of your life. Don’t make them rashly or emotionally. Take the time to think through all your decisions carefully and ensure that you’re not leaping into the deep end without so much as a life preserver to keep your head above water.
Build Your Support Structure
You might be saying goodbye to your spouse or significant other, but that doesn’t mean you must go through this alone. Build up your support system and surround yourself with people who know what you’re going through and are willing to build you up when you feel like you’re falling apart. This list can include family, friends, coworkers, support groups, or anyone else you have in your life that will help you make your way through your divorce proceedings and on to the rest of your life.
Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Up For Yourself.
Divorces are stressful and emotionally draining, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of letting people walk all over you. Don’t be afraid to stand up and advocate for yourself. Even if you have a good divorce lawyer in your corner, you might find yourself in a situation where no one else will stand up for you if you’re not willing to do it yourself. You don’t have to yell and scream and make a scene, but you need to be ready to stand up and say no, I’m not going to let you treat me like that.
Don’t Focus on “Winning.”
There’s a lot of pressure surrounding divorce proceedings — especially if they’re hostile — to be the winner or the one who comes out on top. Drop this mindset. Instead, worry about getting all that paperwork, all those dotted I’s and crossed T’s, so you can move forward with your life. This arguably horrible event is just one stepping stone that you can use to propel you forward. Forget winning and work on getting through it to build your future.
You’ve Got This
When we get married, no one ever thinks about getting divorced, but unfortunately, it does happen. It’s not an easy process, even if the split is amicable, but once it’s over, you have the opportunity for a fresh start and to move on with your life. If I had a chance to talk to myself before the divorce, I’d tell her to surround herself with the best support structure she can manage and focus on getting through it. Everything that happens afterward is what you really want to look forward to.