Make Sure You’re Ready for Divorce
How do you know when it’s time to quit? That is a question many women ask themselves as they think about getting a divorce. It’s an important question because giving up on a marriage is a huge decision.
Here’s what I recommend. Unless your spouse is emotionally, verbally or physically abusive (in which case, hire a good therapist and get out as fast as you can), make sure you have tried everything to save your marriage.
Once you know you’ve done that and your marriage has not improved, then you probably do need to quit. Do this, and you will be able to look back and know that you did everything you could to avoid divorce.
But sometimes divorce is the right choice. So how do you start the process?
The First Steps: Finances
The first thing you need to do is realize that while marriage is about love, divorce is about money. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. This is one of the single most important financial decisions you will ever make.
So, go through your house and collect every piece of financial information you can get your hands on. Do this before you tell your spouse you’re planning to file for divorce. If you don’t know where this information is kept, find out and start studying it. This includes bank statements, retirement account statements, tax returns, and documentation of debt, such as credit cards and your mortgage.
If you don’t take this kind of financial inventory before you file for divorce, your spouse might make it difficult for you to get that information. If he tries to play hide-the-ball, your divorce will likely be more time-consuming and more expensive.
The second thing to do is remove from the house the really personal things that you love but that have no real “value”, like pictures from your side of the family and old family heirlooms, for example. Store them with a trusted friend. This way your soon-to-be-ex-husband will not be able to hold those objects over your head during divorce settlement negotiations.
The third action step is to get a private email account. You’re going to need to have confidential communications with others during your divorce so make sure only you have the password to that account. If you and your spouse share a family computer, consider the fact that there may be a key stroke progam on the computer designed to watch your communication. You may want to have your computer examined, or you may just want to send all confidential emails from a different computer. Also, be aware that phone records and texts can be traced. Privacy is difficult to keep these days. And of course, be sure your use of social media sites does not give away any information!
The First Steps: Child Custody
If you have children, your first task is to learn about the child custody laws in your state. There is lots of information online, but beware, every state is a little different, so look at your state laws on child custody.
Next, you want to read up on the effect of divorce on children. Find some good books and study them carefully. Before you decide how you want to approach your divorce, you need to consider how your divorce will affect your children.
Do not discuss the pending divorce with your children. And don’t bad mouth your spouse to them. If you end up in a custody battle, a court will not look kindly on you if you put your children in the middle of the parental conflict. Remember, you are divorcing your spouse, your children are not divorcing their parents.
Gather Your Divorce Team
When you get a divorce you need to put together a group of people who will support you through the process. Your team will hold you accountable to your Divorce Vision (we’ll get to that in a minute) and help you make good decisions.
The purpose of your team is to provide emotional and practical support in this life transition. And that’s what divorce really is – a life transition.
It’s probably not best to include people on your team who will take sides. That’s not what you want or need. You need a team that will support where you’re going, not where you’ve been.
It might be your best friend, a therapist, a pastor or member of the clergy, or maybe a co-worker who understands your professional as well as personal goals. Whomever you choose, these should be people you trust or who have a duty to keep what you talk about with them confidential. But beware, in the legal process anyone can be subject to subpoena, so be careful what you share, and what you email.
Create Your Divorce Vision
This is a really important first step in your divorce process and here’s why: whatever we envision for ourselves in our life sets the tone and the pace and creates our reality. And when you get overwhelmed at points in your divorce, you can go back and read your Divorce Vision. It will help you remember that you have a choice about who you want to be in this process.
Don’t let the divorce process itself set the tone for the rest of your life. You take control of that part of it. You decide how you are going to behave, what you are going to be remembered for, and what your life is going to look like when this process is over.
Remember, divorce is not the end of your life. It is the end of your marriage. It is a transition in your life. You will have a big future ahead of you after your divorce is over. You might as well decide what it’s going to look like.
After you have taken the steps outlined above, then it’s time to make an initial consultation appointment with an attorney, or the decision to go ahead and file for divorce yourself. If you decide to use a lawyer, interview several and see if you can find one with whom you have chemistry. Remember, you will be going through a pretty intense life transition with this person, so choose someone who you like, and feel you can trust.
Amanda DuBois is a Seattle Divorce Lawyer with 20 years of experience helping women out of complicated marriages. She is a published author, a radio personality, and the developer of the Divorganize Divorce Support and Education Program, a 17 video series covering all aspects of Divorce Strategies for Women. If you live in the Seattle area, and need help from a great and caring Seattle Child Custody Attorney, contact Amanda at (206) 547-1486.
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