When I filed for divorce I was pretty clueless.
And I was focused on all the wrong things.
I wasted so much time and energy on stuff that didn’t matter at all.
So I’m going to share what I wish I had done differently so you don’t waste as much time and energy as I did.
Because there is never enough time.
And you are going to need your energy.
Before I say anything else, I know all situations are different and there are always exceptions and your attorney/therapist is the best person to consult if you have questions.
Here’s what you need to know first.
Nobody gives a shit about text messages and emails and stupid posts on social media.
Yes, there are exceptions.
But if you are spending a shit ton of time taking screenshots and printing out emails thinking anyone wants to look at them, especially in the early stages of your divorce, you are wrong.
Those may be helpful to you to have documentation of patterns, etc, but you are wasting your time on that stuff.
Here are the things you need to know, especially if you aren’t currently making enough money to support yourself and your kids on your own, and your divorce is not cooperative/amicable.
1) Start focusing on YOURSELF.
This is a marathon.
It’s going to be physically and emotionally depleting.
When you start taking care of yourself you put yourself in a physically and emotionally more stable place.
This is vital.
It’s also important if you have spent most of your marriage of focusing on other people.
You have to get used to being without your kids, especially if that’s the thing holding you back the most.
I promise you, when you start making your physical and mental health a priority, when you start taking care of yourself as much as you take care of other people, it’s a whole new ball game.
And while I’m not a big fan of focusing on other people, self-care is the best middle finger.
Plus, this helps you be able to do the next super important thing.
2) Stop reacting and start practicing letting go.
If you are reactive – if your spouse can say something to you that sets you off and you explode – that is going to 1) make you look like you don’t have self-control (because you don’t) 2) drain you physically 3) create opportunities for you to beat yourself up 4) give your spouse lots of ammunition.
The more you can practice not reacting, the more you are able to not respond to button pushing and whatever it is that normally sets you off, the better.
This is VERY IMPORTANT.
And the more you focus on taking care of yourself, the less reactive you become as a natural result.
If you are used to making all/most of the parenting decisions and your STBX (soon to be ex) wants/has joint residential custody, it is gonna be a big change.
But doing number 1 – focusing on yourself – is going to help you keep the focus on the stuff you can control, and the more you keep practicing letting shit go the better you are going to get at it.
3) Know what your financial situation is.
- Know your credit score, and if it sucks, start fixing it. NOW.
- Know what all your expenses are if you don’t already.
- If your taxes aren’t up to date, you need to get that shit done.
- Know what all your credit card balances are and stop using your credit cards if you can.
- Start making all payments on time.
- If you are having trouble making payments, stop avoiding and call the companies you owe money to. They are very helpful and will work with you, especially now. And getting something put in place will relieve a lot of stress.
You’re going to need a shit ton of financial documentation.
My ex-husband asked for credit card statements and bank statements for the last three years.
I didn’t have any of that stuff and it took forever to get it collected/printed/mailed (and it cost hundreds of dollars to get copies made/sent for the documents I couldn’t access online).
If you don’t have this info already, start a folder now for each credit card and bank account you have and start printing out hard copies of statements from each month. Print out statements from as far back as you can.
4) Figure out what you can afford right now.
If you own your home and want to stay in your house with the kids, you will have to buy your spouse out of his/her/their equity in the house.
In order to do this, you’ll need a realtor to give you an estimate for the market value of the house.
If your house is appraised at $300,000 and you owe $100,000 on your mortgage, you have $200,000 in equity in your house.
In most cases, in order to keep the house, you buy your spouse out of his/her/their half of the equity.
With the numbers I just used, if you wanted to keep the house, you’d need to refinance and get your spouse’s name off the mortgage.
You’d need a mortgage of $100,000, plus a $100,000 payout for your spouse, so you’d need a mortgage for $200,000.
Six months to a year to refinance is a typical amount of time given to most people in a divorce agreement, meaning if you get to stay in the house once the divorce is finalized you have six months to refinance. If you can’t qualify for a mortgage in six months (or whatever amount of time you have according to your agreement), then typically the terms are the house goes on the market and you split whatever profit you make.
So doing a preliminary check can see what you’d qualify for now – WITHOUT having a credit check pulled – will give you an idea of where you are and what you need to do next if you want to stay in your house.
One more thing.
If you can’t stay in your house, your kids will be okay.
You make the house a home, not the structure. Home is wherever you are.
5. Find a good therapist.
Thank God for my therapist. She has been a lifesaver for me.
She’s helped me so much with reactivity and maintaining perspective.
It can also be easy to want to vent to friends about what’s going on, but most friends can only tolerate divorce conversations for so long before the eye rolling starts happening when you aren’t looking.
But a therapist gets paid to listen to that shit. It’s their job.
Find a therapist and don’t be the friend who only talks about her divorce.
Okay, those are my five biggest pieces of advice if you are potentially heading down the divorce path.
Oh yeah – one last piece of advice…