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The Next Step

So, you've decided it’s time to begin. You’re going to talk with an attorney in a few days, and begin the divorce process. Or maybe you’ve already spoken with one, and you know papers are going to be filed soon. Maybe you just received papers from your spouse. Maybe you know what to expect, and you’re handling it just fine. But then again, maybe you aren’t. Maybe you have no idea what you’re getting into. Here are a few things to consider.

Self-Care

This is the single most important thing to take care of. Divorces are stressful, even when they’re uncontested. Your attorney is going to have you gather a lot of financial records, you’re going to meet with your attorney and staff, you’re going to sign documents, going here, doing that, and so on. It’s not going to be fun. And it won’t be easy. Even the quickest divorce case will likely take at least 6 months. A contested divorce might take years.

So, first, make sure you keep reasonable expectations of where you are in your case, where you are in the process, and what progress will look like.

Next, keeping good habits around stress management is key. Since you’re divorce — which is stressful and emotional — will last at least a couple of months, dedicate yourself to staying healthy. This means you should take care of your physical health and your mental health. What this looks like is going to be different for each person. What you do to keep your body and mind healthy will be different from what another person does to stay healthy. Common solutions include eating healthily, exercising regularly, spending time with friends and family, and consistently taking some time out of each day to relax and unwind. This might be a good time to develop a new habit or routine, unassociated with your previous married life.

Divorce Day-to-Day

Once you’ve started focusing on your health, the next step is to focus on the progress of your divorce case. A divorce is an inherently transitory period — many things change, either day-to-day, week-to-week, or month-to-month. At the end of your divorce, your marital property will be divided, and you should have a foundation for a new life outside your marriage. But that’s the big-picture. Your immediate goals need to be getting through the day-to-day. In addition to self-care, the best ways to deal with the stress of your divorce is to compartmentalize, and to over-prepare.

As part of your divorce, you’ll have a lot of tasks to do: Tracking down documents; Speaking with advisors; Appearing at hearings; And so forth. Get started on these tasks early. Gathering financial documents on your property, bank accounts, credit cards, and debts takes a lot of time. Gathering these documents isn’t fun, but it needs to be done. If you start collating these documents at the beginning of a case, you’ll be ahead of the game.

When you’re in the middle of your divorce case, it’s easy to get overwhelmed about how many things need to be done before your divorce is finally finished. Set that aside: Focus instead on the issue in front of you. Everything will be resolved by the end of the case, but the only way to get there is to put your head down and power through.

Planning for the Future

Divorces are a transitory period. At the end of your divorce case, your life likely will have fundamentally changed. It may be tempting to think of a divorce in terms of winning and losing. This is not a helpful mindset. Divorce is about disentangling two people’s lives so they can go their separate ways. Fighting for a greater share of property, or greater custody rights, is focusing on the mechanics of the process, and ignoring the purpose. Instead, put your attention on the end result—where you want your life to be at the end, and what’s necessary to accomplish that. Focusing on the future results will help cut down on unnecessary disputes. Such focus will also allow you to work towards agreements and resolutions. Focusing on the future will produce a more efficient, and less emotionally-draining divorce.

Moving Forward

A divorce doesn’t have to be an unmanageable experience. Sure, there will be stress, insecurity, and more emotional turmoil than anyone deserves. But forethought, planning, and the right mindset can make the entire process much easier to bear. Start small, and get yourself squared away and stable. From there, build outward, focusing on the issues in front of you, and how they relate to your overall desired outcome and your future self. Stay healthy, stay focused, stay flexible, and you’ll get there. Good luck.