Making the decision to get a divorce isn’t easy.
You’ve built your lives together, invested so many years into the relationship and perhaps even added children to the equation. It certainly isn’t something that should be taken lightly.
If you’ve reached this point, you’re likely to be feeling understandably confused and even anxious about the future. As much as you want the marriage to end, you don’t want to hurt anyone, you don’t want it to affect your kids and aren’t entirely sure what your next step should be.
Here at Clarity Divorce, we understand this is a difficult time and you’re likely to need extra support to get through. That’s why we’ve put together a short guide that can help you through the next steps in the process, as stress-free as possible.
1. Make 110% sure that you want to divorce
Deciding to call it quits on your relationship is a big decision to make, especially if you have kids. It’s also very difficult to go back on your decision once you’ve actually taken the step of filing for divorce, let alone the emotional heartache.
That’s why you should always take your time when coming to your decision. Ask yourself questions such as;
- Have you really exhausted all hope?
- Have you and your partner ever spoken openly about your relationship problems?
- Could marriage counselling help?
- Is there any other way you could save the relationship?
If there’s even the smallest twinge of doubt, it’s important to address these feelings. You could do this alone, although you should be careful when it comes to using a journal or other written method to work through how you’re feeling. Trusted friends and family members can also be a fantastic help, as can a relationship counsellor.
Of course, feelings of uncertainty, doubt and fear of the unknown are perfectly normal, especially if you have spent many years together.
2. What you want your life to look like after your divorce?
You should next take time to consider what you’d like your life to be like post-divorce.
Where would you be living? Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Are there any dreams that you hope to fulfill once you’ve separated?
By taking your time to imagine that bright future that lies ahead, you’ll be able to battle through the more emotionally challenging or stressful aspects of the divorce process much more easily. You’ll see that light at the end of the tunnel, and it will give you the strength you need to get through this milestone.
3. Do your homework
Before you breathe a word about the divorce to your partner, you must get yourself as educated as possible, especially when it comes to important matters such as your finances.
Make it your priority to find out about:
- Cash in your accounts
- Credit cards
Then do some number crunching and figure out where you might stand. Will you really be able to cover your rent, grocery bills and other expenses when you live on your own? Or would you need to make changes in order to afford a ‘single’ life?
Once you’ve done this, make copies of all these documents and any other important papers and file them away somewhere safe. However reasonable your partner may seem, there is a chance that he or she could freak out and lock you out of your accounts. Don’t let that happen.
It’s also worth considering putting a small amount of money aside to help you get through the divorce, especially if your partner does take the news badly.
4. Tell your partner that you want a divorce
Once you’ve gathered your information, you can finally break the news to your partner. Even if your relationship has been in tatters for months, your partner is likely to find this difficult to hear.
Wherever possible, aim to come to a mutual decision and avoid telling your partner that you’ve already decided and/or spent weeks researching your next steps. This is likely to hurt your partner even more and make them far less likely to be cooperative when it comes to negotiating the finer details of the divorce.
Give them time to digest the news before you start any of the formal divorce proceedings, no matter how eager you are to get started.
5. Discuss logistics
It can feel tempting at this point to keep a distance from each other and communicate only through attorneys.
However, if you want a smooth and relatively stress-free divorce, you must do everything you can to discuss the details of your divorce with each other and come to a mutual decision.
Although every couple is unique, your conversations are likely to include the following;
- Housing: What will happen with the marital home? Will you sell or will one of you stay? If so, who? How will you split it?
- Custody and access: How will you arrange custody of the children? Will they alternate between home or spend most of the week with one partner and visit the other? What schedule will work for everyone involved?
- Breaking the news: Who will break the news of the divorce to your children (if you have them) and mutual friends?
- Pets: What about the family pet(s)? Will one of you keep your dog, cat or other pet or will you share ‘custody’?
If you find that you can’t agree on certain topics, don’t worry. This is perfectly normal for couples who are getting a divorce. These issues can be resolved at a later date.
6. Ask for help
Having the right support at times of stress can make a huge difference so don’t be afraid to turn to friends and family when you need advice, especially if they’ve been through a divorce themselves.
It’s also worth hiring a divorce coach and an attorney to help you resolve any sticky situations with your partner and make the divorce as pain-free as possible.
When you’ve decided to divorce, it’s normal to feel confused and overwhelmed about your next step. This is a big deal, after all! But if you make sure it’s the right decision for your relationship, get prepared and find the right support, the process will run much more smoothly.
7. Mediation vs. Litigation
It is important that both you and your partner have a clear understanding of mediation and litigation. In short mediation is the process where both parties come to the table to negotiate, and litigation is where both parties have separate lawyers. We advocate towards mediation because of its emotional and financial benefits.