Getting a divorce is often beneficial in the long run, but that doesn’t mean the process is easy. There will be multiple emotional and practical challenges you’ll face while you are negotiating a divorce. These challenges are only compounded if you add children to the equation.
Navigating a divorce will be one of the hardest things you have ever done, but there are things you can do to make your life easier.
Here are six tips that will help you avoid screaming into your pillow each night (unless that is a good self-care ritual for you, then keep it and see tip #4!)
Tip 1: Have a Trustworthy and Discreet Support System
You will benefit from having a network of family and friends to help you through this difficult time. Having people who can help you emotionally and physically will lessen your burdens more than anything else.
Who to Choose
One of the hardest parts about a divorce can be replacing the person who was once your number one supporter and confidant with other people.
So where do you start and who do you choose as your support system?
Friends and Family
You want to start by thinking of people who you trust. Getting a divorce is a vulnerable experience. You don’t need to add more vulnerability to your life by surrounding yourself with people you are unsure about.
Close friends, family members, and a therapist are great places to start. These are people who have already shown you unconditional love and support during other periods of your life. These are people who also typically make you happy. Surround yourself with people who uplift you.
Regardless of the support system you do or don’t have, you will benefit from professional help as well. Find a therapist and a group therapy practice where you can meet others in your situation.
Unconnected From Your Ex
It will be important to find others to rely on who aren’t associated with your ex. If you have mutual friends or are close to his family, you won’t want to rely on them for emotional support for a few reasons.
First, you don’t want to put them in an uncomfortable position where they feel like they need to pick sides. You also don’t want to give them the opportunity to feed information you share with your ex-spouse.
You can still ask for help with your children or in other areas of your life from people connected to your partner, but find others to get emotional support from.
Even if someone isn’t close to your former husband or wife, you don’t want to rely on them emotionally if they have a tendency to gossip. Set boundaries with everyone you rely on so they know that what you say shouldn’t be shared with others. Let them know that if they can’t follow these boundaries, you will stop sharing with them.
Tip 2: Don't Try To Do Everything On Your Own
Even if you are a highly capable person, you shouldn’t try to do everything on your own.
You can probably do everything independently, but at what expense? Your mental, physical, or emotional health will suffer at some point if you try to do everything you have always done on top of co-parenting and divorce proceedings.
It is important to remove things from your plate as you adjust to your role as a single parent and single adult. Delegating responsibilities will free up space in your life and keep you from becoming unnecessarily overwhelmed.
Delegating to Your Children
Parenting with someone else can be difficult even in the strongest of marriages. Continuing to parent with someone you are divorcing can be tiresome and enraging.
If you take time to create a solid plan with your children’s other parent, co-parenting can be an asset instead of a headache.
Sit down with your partner and look at your kids’ lives. Take an inventory of what they are involved in, what their normal schedule is, and what their habits are. Then decide who is in charge of what.
Family and Friends
Chances are there are friends or family in your life who love you and want to help as well. If you have siblings, parents, or close friends nearby they can offer support and help with your children.
Even if they are only available for last-minute emergencies, it helps to know you have someone who can step up when you need them.
Relying on acquaintances that you don’t know as well is daunting, but very helpful. Creating a carpool group is one example of delegation that also benefits more than just you. You can also ask another parent or two if they want to start a group text where you can ask questions or offer reminders for activities your kids are in together.
Extending your network to include the parents of your kids’ friends and peers is a good way to create a new social circle and lessen the workload of multiple parents.
Paid Outside Help
If you have the budget to outsource responsibilities, this is the time to do it. Use recurring services or hire help from time to time as you have the money to do so.
Services to consider:
Meal Prep Service
Teenager in your neighborhood to help with cleaning or childcare a few hours a week
Tip 3: Fight for Your Necessities
You don’t have to be nasty during a divorce, but you do need to be able to firmly advocate for what you need. Do not let necessities slip between your grasp because you don’t want to make a fuss.
If you are a stay-at-home mom going through a divorce, this tip is even more essential.
Identify Your Essentials
Your basic needs have to be taken care of.
As you identify what essentials you need, don’t forget to think about the following:
Ownership of your current home or a buy-out from your partner
Rent (if you don’t own your home)
Child care assistance
A vehicle or buy-out from your partner
Educational costs for your children
Work with your lawyer to figure out what you can realistically expect from your divorce. Various factors that impact your divorce settlement include the length of your marriage, your work history and salary, any prenup documents, etc.
Understand Your Legal Rights
Your spouse and their lawyer might try to intimidate you out of asking for what you are legally entitled to. Make sure you know your legal rights.
California is a community property state, which means any property or assets acquired during the marriage are owned 50/50 by each spouse. This is important, because it means even if you don’t get your home, you are entitled to half of its worth. The same is true of any assets.
It’s important to understand your parental rights and how these rights apply to you and your partner. Make sure you are getting the time with your kids and the support from your partner that you are entitled to.
Additionally, you will want to be versed in what rights can be taken away if stipulations aren’t met. You don’t want to find yourself on the bad end of a custody agreement because you didn’t follow a law you didn’t know about.
When in doubt, ask your lawyer.
Tip 4: Take Time for Yourself
Everyone can benefit from self-care, whether they are going through a divorce or not. Chances are your needs will take the back burner during this stressful time. Don’t let your needs get ignored. Take some time for yourself regularly.
Practical Tips for Self-Care
Self-care isn’t all bubble baths and glasses of wine. Self-care often includes taking care of your physical and emotional needs, even if it isn’t always enjoyable.
Cover the Basics
First, make sure your necessities are covered. You need sleep, food, and water to survive. Yet it isn’t uncommon for busy moms to neglect these things during a divorce. Don’t neglect your needs; no one will benefit from that.
Some women find securing housing during a divorce to be difficult. If you cannot afford your mortgage or rent on your own there are housing resources to explore.
Your emotional needs are important as well. Everyone who is going through a divorce can benefit from even a few visits with a therapist. Beyond therapy, don’t be afraid to reach out to a doctor or psychologist if you find your mental health slipping to the point that medication would be beneficial.
You should also find specific ways to manage your stress. Different things work for different people. Experiment with common stress relievers such as meditation, working out, deep breathing, yoga, or positive affirmations.
Another way to help your mental health is to limit your time on social media. It is easier said than done. Social media can be a quick way to spiral and feel worse about yourself.
Here is where the bubble baths and wine come in!
Find time to do something you enjoy, even when it is difficult to fit in. It can be as simple as listening to an audiobook while your kids are strapped in a stroller and you walk around the block.
Pick something you enjoy and carve out the time needed to do it.
This might also be where you ask for help from your support network. Ask if someone can watch your kids for an hour so you can go to Target alone. Or see if a friend can lend a hand while you see a movie. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or trade services with someone to get some alone time.
If you have the time and money, plan something in the future to look forward to. A girl’s weekend away, a concert, or even just a dinner date with a friend can give you a bright spot in your future.
Tip 5: Ensure That You Have Access to Joint Accounts
Any account or asset that is in both your and your spouse’s name is half yours. It isn’t uncommon for a partner to try to change passwords or lock the other spouse out of accounts during a divorce. Make sure you have access to all of them.
Securing Access to Accounts
The first step to securing your joint accounts is to make a list of every bank account, retirement account, credit card, property, and any other account you have with your spouse.
Once you have a list of everything of value, start to add the usernames and passwords for all of these accounts. If your partner won’t share them with you then contact the financial institution over the accounts. They can help you can gain access.
You will also want to make sure you know the answers to any challenge questions on these accounts. If you don’t know the answers you can usually get help by calling customer service and having them help you reset them.
Some accounts will require a two-step verification to log in. These can be trickier if your partner’s phone number or email address are associated with the account. You might not be able to immediately gain access to these accounts.
If your name is on an asset, such as a vehicle or home, you can usually get help from the financing institution. You will need to have your social security number or another document to prove your identity.
You will have to jump through some hoops if your former partner refuses to help you gain access to your account. It will be frustrating, but worth it to have access to money and other assets during your divorce.
If you can’t gain access, don’t panic. Your partner can be required to produce bank statements with account balances during your marriage. A court will make the situation right in the end.
You will want to set up your own separate checking and savings accounts if you haven’t already. Applying for your own credit card is also a smart idea. It won’t hurt to start accruing points to pay for a celebratory trip once your divorce is finalized.
Tip 6: Retain a Lawyer Who Will Advocate For You
Having a lawyer dedicated to guiding you through your divorce will relieve stress. A good lawyer will make sure you get a fair custody agreement and a fair cut of your combined assets.
What advocacy looks like
A lawyer who advocates for you will support your needs. They will make sure you are being realistic. Your needs will be met even if your initial expectations have been realistically tempered.
A good lawyer won’t be the angry, rampaging lawyer that you see on tv. They will be firm, but respectful. You don’t want someone who leads with anger. They’re hard to work with and can make mediation difficult.
Find a lawyer that you feel comfortable with. This person should also be knowledgeable about state laws and be firm and calm in demeanor.
You won’t be able to implement all of these tips overnight, so which one will be your first priority? Tip 6 is a good place to start; schedule a consultation so we can talk about your specific situation and how our firm can assist you.