Are you struggling to make sense of your divorce? Don’t know where to go? Don’t know who to trust? Does it feel like your whole life is being flipped on its head? Chances are, it is.
All the doubts and emotions that you are experiencing are completely expected and nothing to worry about. For most people, going through a divorce is the most emotionally exhausting and difficult time of their life. Especially if this is your first divorce.
Before we get started: since this is your first divorce, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Somewhere between 40 and 50% of American couples will go through a divorce meaning that the odds are not in marriage’s favor. Because divorce is so common, it means that there are endless support groups, counselors, magazines, forums, and more. These support systems are all designed to help people that are in your exact situation. So, stay optimistic if you can.
If you and your spouse have already signed the papers, then it’s time to get your new life in order. Many things will change for you, and these things are hard to prepare for, so you should start now. Getting your affairs in order is especially important when you have children since preparing to be a single parent takes time and effort. There are no short cuts, just hard work and a little emotional stress.
Surviving your first divorce is no easy feat. But with the help of this basic guide of legal and emotional hurdles that you may come across, the divorce process as painless as possible for you and your former spouse.
First, we will cover a few of the legal woes that might be coming your way soon.
It’s important to understand the two basic types of divorce before talking about legal matters. Essentially, you and your spouse can have an uncontested divorce or a contested one. An uncontested divorce means that you may not even have to involve lawyers and assumes that you and your spouse have come to an agreement on things like child custody, a delegation of assets, etc. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case with divorce, especially not in the case of a first divorce. For the purpose of discussion, this piece will cover the ins and outs of a contested divorce that requires lawyers, court appearances, custody hearings, and the like. All the messy stuff.
Get Financially and Legally Organized
If you and your spouse are going to be battling for child custody or fighting over assets, then you need to get organized ASAP. Unfortunately, if one of you “lawyers up,” the other should as well. After all, when your first divorce goes to court, there is absolutely no reason not to seek legal counsel as soon as you can manage.
The decisions that you make with your lawyers and your spouse will affect your life and the lives of your children for the foreseeable future. Thus, you must take these proceedings seriously and think about every decision with its long-term implications in mind.
Remember that family law can get very messy, and it might be potentially traumatizing for any children that are involved. If your children are involved in the proceedings, you will want a child custody lawyer to help. Child custody lawyers will help you fight for the custody that you feel you deserve, as well as help you and your spouse settle on a fair child support agreement.
Hiring professional help is key here. You will need a lawyer that is good with asset allocation and budget breakdowns. Work with your spouse to make a list of all of the assets that the two of you own together, look at your monthly expenses, and evaluate the household income. Knowing where you stand financially as a couple will make it easier to evaluate how you will be forced to manage expenses once you are divorced and living in different houses. If you have trouble sitting down with your ex-spouse, rely on a mediator with experience in family law to help.
Know Your Mistakes: Be Honest
This is a tough one, especially for your first divorce. These are messy, emotional matters, that are, unfortunately, dealt with through rigorous and logic-based legal proceedings. Essentially, you and your spouse will have to break down this incredibly emotional time with ones and zeros. Not exactly the type of whimsical emotion that brought you together in the first place.
So, you must take a step back from the emotions at play and really evaluate where you and your spouse went wrong. Now is the time to stand up and fight for what you believe in, within reason. If you are an objectively toxic parent, or you know that the kids need to be with your spouse more than they do you, maybe opt out of fighting for full custody. Take an objective look at your qualities as a spouse and fight for what is right.
This is your first divorce, now is not the time to roll over and let your spouse take you for everything you have. If you sit idly by as your spouse’s lawyer takes everything, you’ll think about what you should have fought for. And you won’t be able to remember why you didn’t just stand up for yourself.
There are no pity parties when it comes to divorce. So even if you weren’t the one who filed for divorce, fight for what you deserve. Remember, if you don’t, your spouse will.
Of course, these are emotional times for you. Whether this is your first divorce or you third, it is important to stay calm and collected as much as possible during your divorce proceedings. You will already be dealing with legal matters on a near-daily basis so there is no reason to go making your situation worse by doing something you may regret.
In short, try not to lose your temper, no matter how hurt or betrayed you feel. This is not the time to go breaking into your own house to steal things that already belong to you just to prove a point. Chances are if your spouse kicked you out, she already hired a locksmith anyways. On that note, you should hire a good locksmith when you move out, as well. Every time you go to a new home, you want a new set of keys to stay safe.
If you do perform illegal actions, you don’t want to need a jail bond just because you wanted to get back your old Jimmy Buffet clock. Keep your emotions in check and rely on your lawyer and counselor to help see you through this tough time.
Now let’s cover some of the emotional struggles of your first divorce.
Your first divorce is likely to be one of the hardest times of your life. So below, we will talk about a few basic things that you can do to make this difficult time just a little bit easier on you.
Clear Your Space of Painful Memories
If you’re living in the house that you and your wife used to share, there are inevitably things lying around the house that make you think of your former partner. It may feel a little childish that you can’t look at a set of dishware without thinking of the years you’ve spent with someone. But it isn’t childish at all.
Many people can do without the purging of such items. But even more, people simply can’t look past old memories. So, don’t torture yourself. Give things away, sell things, or simply give them to your spouse if they want them. There’s no reason to hold onto things that make you sad: this is your new life. Start fresh wherever you can and want to.
Take Time to See Your Kids and Family
Divorce is not easy, and it takes up a lot of your time. So take any time you can to stop thinking about the divorce and spend some quality time with your kids. They’re likely having a hard time, too. Understanding that a little quality time can go a long way might be enough to keep both your spirits up. You and your spouse are the ones getting a divorce. Not you and your kids.
Make Things Easier on Yourself
There’s no need to do everything by yourself! Far too many people going through their first divorce think that they’re in it alone but this simply isn’t the case. If you’re being forced to move out of your house, hire a moving company to help. And if you can’t afford moving services, ask a friend, or a sibling, or a coworker for help.
More people have been in the same situation as you than you might think. And when it comes to divorce, even many of your acquaintances might be willing to lend a helping hand or recommend quality moving services. This is a serious time of need for many people, and there’s no reason to go at it alone.
Keep Company and Stay Busy
During your first divorce isolating yourself can be one of the most detrimental things to your mental health, and there’s no reason to do it. The best way to beat a depression cycle is to stay active and keep people around you. Even introverts need support, so try to keep an eye on when your body and brain tell you that you need some good company.
Jogging isn’t for everyone, and if it hasn’t ever been your thing, it probably won’t be now just because you are going through a divorce. So lean into your strengths. Do you love home improvement projects? Then do some roof leak repairs, or start a new building project. Have you always wanted to spend more time hiking or exploring the outdoors? This can be a great opportunity to do things you’ve always wanted to but never could carve the time out for.
Work on Forgiving Yourself and Your Spouse
No one goes into their first marriage hoping for their first divorce. Things change, and marriage changes people. It might feel like your spouse is out to get you right now, and it might be tough to move on and forgive your spouse. But during these uncertain times, it is important that you try to forgive your spouse. Remember that they didn’t want things to end like this either. Moving on is hard, but for your own sake, it’s better to start now.
If you made a critical mistake that leads to the end of your marriage, you’re probably blaming yourself right now. Try not to. Forgiving yourself is often more difficult than forgiving your spouse. Still, in a lot of cases, it can be more rewarding as well. You didn’t want it to turn out this way. Unfortunately, it did. Now is the time to forgive and forget as they say.
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Professional Help
Remember, these are incredibly difficult times. If you feel the need to talk to a therapist, absolutely do not hesitate. Just talking to someone who is there only to listen will inevitably help. Even if you have never been to therapy before, the help of a professional may be the key to starting your new life positively.
Finally, live your life one day at a time. Your first divorce is an emotionally tumultuous time, so cut yourself some slack and do everything you can to be prepared. Focus on your mental health. Remember that this isn’t the end of your life. Rather, it’s the beginning of a new life. And as difficult as this may be, like anything, this too shall pass.