The decision to divorce will alter your life forever, so it’s critical that you plan your exit wisely. Ready to take the first steps towards a brighter future? The following tips can help you kickstart the divorce process with greater clarity and calm.
Do your homework before you file for divorce
If you’ve been languishing in a miserable marriage, you may be so hasty to leave it that you don’t adequately prepare yourself for what life will look like on the other side of divorce. Before you proceed, take the time necessary to understand the specific legal, financial, and emotional circumstances facing you:
- What does the divorce process in New Jersey look like? (We’ve got an easy NJ Divorce 101 road map to help you with this!)
- How is child custody determined in New Jersey?
- What will happen to assets like your home or 401K?
- How do you begin rebuilding your future?
- What can you do to support your emotional health in divorce?
Finding the answers to these questions that apply to your specific situation requires identifying the appropriate professionals to guide you on your journey. It’s a good rule of thumb to start off by consulting with a family law attorney to learn your rights and strategic options. You may also wish to consult with a therapist, and depending on your needs, meet with a financial advisor or accountant during this initial planning phase of divorce.
Buy a notebook and divide it into three different sections, one each for legal, financial and emotional aspects of divorce. Take notes when you speak to the professionals on your team. You will be absorbing a lot of new information quickly, so you will want to review your notes later. Having a notebook – that you store in a safe place, away from prying eyes! – will not help you feel more organized and more in control of your situation. [Learn some more good divorce habits.] If preferred, you can use your phone’s Notes function or make voice memos for yourself. Just be sure to double-check that your phone is in no way digitally connected to your spouse’s (via a cloud service or shared ID, for example).
If you have children and will need to co-parent with your soon-to-be ex, invest in a good calendar system (on paper or via a co-parenting app) to help keep track of parenting time.
Take charge of your finances
If your spouse has been the one managing the money, you must develop financial literacy skills. This includes keeping track of all expenses, preparing a monthly budget, and making long-term plans for saving and retirement. One of the first tasks your attorney will assign you is to gather all financial documents: tax returns, bank statements, brokerage accounts, credit card bills. [See our list of divorce financial information checklist for what to collect.]
If you don’t know where these are, you need to get your hands on them. You can work with your attorney to estimate what you will owe or receive in spousal and child support. The most important step in empowering yourself before, during, and after divorce is to manage money realistically and effectively.
Start the divorce on the right foot
How you begin your divorce will set the stage for the rest of the process. Avoid costly divorce mistakes, including the mistake of hiring an overly aggressive shark attorney. If you go into divorce with a bully attorney, there’s a good chance that you’re about to initiate a lengthy, expensive war that will have devastating financial and psychological consequences for you and your children. So think long and hard about how you start the process and be smart about the attorney you hire. If you begin the split as amicably as possible, you will maximize the odds for a time- and cost-efficient divorce. Having an amicable “low conflict” divorce doesn’t mean that you need to be friendly with your ex. It simply means that you are both willing to set aside your emotions and approach divorce with a businesslike settlement-minded attitude. Read more about the benefits of low conflict divorce.
Learn how to manage stress
When we experience a threat, our sympathetic nervous system responds in one of four ways: fight, flight, freeze, or fawn (over-accommodating to avoid conflict). Knowing how you tend to respond is the first step to modifying problem behaviors. If you hang out in “fight” mode, you need to calm down so you don’t take actions you’ll regret. If you’re a “fawner,” you need to assert yourself so you’re not trampled by an aggressive spouse. Seeing a divorce therapist or practicing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and other divorce stress reduction tips can help you learn to self-regulate and function effectively.
A final word of caution as you begin to prep for divorce: gather your information from trained professionals only! Your best friend’s cousin who got their divorce in a different state ten years ago – or any other layperson – is not someone you should be listening to! Make sure to heed the advice of actual experts when you decide it’s time to divorce.
About to file for divorce or already in the process of divorce and have questions? We can help. Schedule a consultation today with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys and get answers and a detailed strategy for moving forward on your best options in divorce. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the green button below.