Making a to-do list is a simple, but powerful tool to help you keep your calm and feel greater clarity about your future. When you are the beginning stages of divorce, it’s often helpful to make two specific kinds of to-lists: a procedural to-do list to organize the legal aspects of your divorce, and an emotional to-do list to tend to your inner life. Items to put on these lists? Here are some things to think about when you’re getting ready for divorce.
Your Procedural To-Do List:
Begin gathering your legal and financial documents – and your questions — before you schedule your initial divorce consultation. The more information you bring, and the more questions you ask, the better able your attorney will be to advise you about your rights. Some must-haves for this initial consultation include:
– A list of your most pressing questions. How much will I receive, or pay, in child support? What happens if my spouse and I can’t agree on a custody arrangement? How do I find out if my spouse is hiding assets? What are the costs of mediation vs. litigation? Make sure to ask your attorney what your best and worst possible outcomes are, especially if you’re considering court litigation.
– Copies of important documents. These include prenups, your marriage license, tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and mortgage statements. For a more complete list, see our printable Financial Checklist for Divorce. It’s helpful to organize your documents in a 3-ring binder so you don’t spend time thumbing through an unwieldy stack of papers when you meet your attorney.
– A list of assets. These include separate property (what you brought into the marriage) and marital property (what you acquired during the marriage). Ask your attorney to explain New Jersey’s laws on division of marital assets; some items acquired during the marriage may not be subject to distribution, and your spouse may be entitled to some items you believe to be your separate property.
Your Emotional To-Do List:
Even if you’re relieved to be divesting yourself of an unhappy marriage, going through a divorce is like tossing your life in a blender, pressing puree, and waiting to see what comes out. People realize that splitting assets and time with children will be wrenching, but they often don’t anticipate the psychological impact of other losses: social station; circle of friends; the societal stamp of approval from being part of a couple. And, if a vengeful ex attempts to pressure a child to turn against the other parent, the alienation can be devastating. Here are some proactive steps you should take so you don’t burn out during divorce.
Take care of your physical health. It’s easy to ignore routine medical care when you’re overwhelmed with the logistics of undoing your marriage and tending to anxious children. The last thing you want is to develop a medical issue that could have been prevented if you’d visited your doctor and dentist for regular check-ups.
Take care of your psychological health. Yes, divorce therapy can be an added expense, but one that’s well worth it if it helps you function better. If you find yourself unable to sleep and eat, consider visiting a psychiatrist for medication. Mindfulness meditation is a great way to calm a busy mind, and it’s free. And if you lack the discipline to meditate on your own, there are great apps like this one to guide you.
Make time for a social life. People tend to isolate when they’re depressed, or feel embarrassed about their divorce. But withdrawing from friends and family is likely to make you feel even worse. Now is the time to schedule social engagements with friends, or hang out with family members. Feeling part of a community will help offset the loss of your marital relationship.
Ask for support. Those who care about you often don’t know what to do to help and will be more than happy to help ease the load of running a household solo if you ask them to drop off a pre-made dinner, pick up your dry-cleaning, or take your kids so you can have an afternoon off.
While divorce is rarely easy, following these guidelines will prevent it from being harder than it needs to be. Getting clear about your needs and developing self-care habits may even give you the sense of control that you lost in a conflict-ridden marriage – and create a blueprint for a better future.
Have questions about your divorce? Our attorneys are here to guide you through the process. Please contact us to schedule your initial attorney consultation.