Preparing Yourself for Divorce – The Journey of a Lifetime
It feels like it was just yesterday. The memory of walking into that room, six mismatched chairs lined up in a row waiting for my siblings and myself, my parents sitting next to each other facing us. They were getting a divorce. I was 12 years old and little did I know that was the beginning of my journey into the world of divorce and family law.
When I decided to pursue a career in law it was never even a thought to practice family law, it was just the first job I was offered and I didn’t think much of it. Within a year of taking the job I was getting married and starting a family. I never thought it would be me in the position that I had helped so many clients navigate over the 15 years I had been doing family law at the time. I was certain I would never divorce. Although this was very familiar to me both personally and professionally, still dealing with the residual effects of my parents’ divorce 30 years before, processing divorces day in and day out and helping my clients navigate these murky waters, I somehow still found myself unprepared when it happened to me.
No one ever thinks it will be them. We all want that fairy tale ending, we want the person we fell in love with and said “til death do us part” to. But unfortunately half of all marriages will end in divorce.
So what can you do to prepare yourself? Whether you find yourself in the position of divorce, the sudden death or disability of a spouse or anything else that might put you in the position of being completely responsible for yourself, your household and possibly kids, you need to be prepared.
First, you must realize that treating your divorce like the death that it is may actually make it easier to get through. It is the death of your relationship, the death of your identity as a spouse and the death of the lifestyle you have been living for many years. You must accept, grieve, and move on.
There are several things you can do to prepare yourself but these are the top 5.
- Make sure you have a good support group. Ensure that you have family, friends, an actual support group, a therapist, anyone you can talk to when you need it most. The more people you can rely on the better as to not overwhelm any one person with your issues. ABSOLUTELY do not include your kids in this group, no matter their age. They should never be put in the middle of your divorce and feel as though they need to take sides.
- Make sure all of your finances are in place. Know where all of your accounts are, what’s in them and how to access them. Make a list of your assets and approximate values. Don’t be caught off guard.
- If you have kids make sure you have a plan for telling them. Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page about what you are going to say and when. NEVER ask your kids what they think or with whom they want to live. Have everything sorted out beforehand so that you can inform them and be ready to answer any questions they may have.
- Know what you want. If you would like to keep the house then make sure you have an idea of what that will look like, how will you pay for it, can you afford it on your own? The same for any other assets or debts, what will that look like? You don’t have to have everything figured out but having a good idea of what you want is a good place to start.
- If you haven’t worked in many years, have been a stay-at-home parent or have only worked part-time now is the time to update your resume and see what’s out there. Depending on your situation this may not be an issue for you but many women in particular, have been the primary caregiver without working for years, leaving a gap in your work history as well as potentially falling behind on advances in your field. If you have time go back to school, community college is a great place to start, update your skills or even learn a new one!
These are just some of the things you can do to prepare yourself for the journey ahead. Divorce will affect you in one way or another for the rest of your life. Don’t let your anger, bitterness and emotions guide your decisions, those must be dealt with separately. Use your logical decision making skills when negotiating the end of your marriage and you will be better off for it.
It’s up to you to define your divorce and your life, do not let it define you!
Learn more about how to get through a divorce during one of the workshops available through Workforce & Community Programs at ACC. Workshops are offered for:
Workshops start at 6pm and are $79 each. Register today and get the support and resources you need.