Picture of Steps

Author: M. Samples

The first steps to take in a divorce.

You have determined that a divorce is imminent. What happens next? Below are a few of the first steps that we recommend individuals take when beginning the divorce process. Of course, every situation will be different, but these are great jumping off points and can be modified in whatever manner you may need.

#1: Prioritize self care. Divorce is an extremely taxing process, it will take its toll on the mind and body. It’s important to focus on building healthy habits that you can maintain throughout the process. Good sleep, exercise, and mental health counseling are great places to start. Create habits that you can stick with by starting small; one short walk each evening, start your bedtime routine 30 minutes earlier, think of three things you are thankful for at breakfast each morning, etc. Find small tasks or activities each day that you enjoy and make these a priority. Small changes add up to big results!

#2: Think about the kind of divorce you want. There are many different ways to get a divorce. Among the most common options are traditional litigation, mediation, DIY paperwork, and collaborative divorce. Each of these options have pros and cons. Take some time to think about your goals for the divorce and then pick a process option that aligns with those goals. Think hard about the realities of your situation and the goals and actions of your spouse when choosing the best process option for you. If you aren’t sure which option may be best for your family, you can always consult with an attorney to get their take on the situation.

#3: Identify your assets and debts. Take some time to make a detailed list of your accounts and how to access them. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of the accounts you should identify: checking and savings, retirement, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, stocks, etc. Contact the institutions that hold these accounts to acquire statements- the last 12 months is a good place to start, though you may need to provide more in the future. You will also want copies of tax returns and credit reports. Doing some of this work ahead of time will make your life easier. This can be an intimidating task, especially if you have not historically managed finances in your family. Meeting with a financial advisor or planner can be a huge help.

#4: Routines. Your life is about to incur a lot of change. Take some time now to identify (or create, if needed) routines that your family is familiar with. This is especially important for children. Some examples of this could be: maintaining your child’s school and daycare provider, pick-up and carpool times, bedtime routines, etc. Maintaining these routines throughout the divorce process will help your family feel secure and stable throughout this season of change.

Divorce is overwhelming. If you need help determining your next steps and discussing process options, consulting with an attorney is a great idea. You know what’s best for your family better than anyone- but getting some outside help and advice to guide your decisions is never a bad idea!