The First 7 Steps When Starting Your Divorce

You’ve been wrestling with the idea of a divorce for months – maybe years. You’ve finally decided that you’re ready. (Or you’ve realized that, ready or not, you just can’t take it anymore!) You know you want a divorce. Now what?

The Biggest Challenge When You’re First Facing Divorce

While deciding to get a divorce is certainly no picnic, figuring out what to do once you’ve made your decision is no easier. The reason is simple.

Divorce is a big deal.

It affects almost every area of your life. It’s a dramatic change to every part of your life and you don’t know where to start.  Everything is interconnected. Every change to one area of your life seems to affect some other area of your life.

For example, you know that either you or your spouse is going to have to move out of your home.  But, in the beginning, you may not know which one of you is going to leave. You also don’t know exactly when the best time to move might be. And, of course, you don’t know how much money will be available to pay no matter who moves.

So looking for another place right away seems pointless … unless, of course, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing!

The Second Biggest Challenge When You’re Facing Divorce

The second biggest challenge you’ve got when you’re first facing divorce is not knowing what you are supposed to be doing.

You’re not sure whether you should be looking for a lawyer, finding a new place to live, trying to figure out what’s going to happen to the kids, or taking steps to safeguard your money. Between not knowing what you should be doing, and feeling like you have to do everything at once, it’s not surprising that getting a divorce can feel overwhelming!

The problem is, that sense of being overwhelmed can cause you big trouble.  It can either paralyze you with fear. Or it can drive you into doing something you shouldn’t be doing, but don’t know it.  Since you feel like you’ve got to do something you act before you think.  Usually those decisions don’t work out well!

The First 7 Steps to Take When You Know You Want a Divorce

The biggest key to getting through your divorce with your sanity and your psyche intact is to take every part of your divorce one step at a time.

No matter how much you try to multi-task, the truth is: you can only do one thing at a time. Trying to do everything at once overwhelms you! When you try to do everything, you end up doing nothing. Plus, you exhaust yourself in the process.

That’s easier said than done, right?  How do you know which step to take?

While every divorce is different, the process that people go through when they’re facing divorce is surprisingly similar. The first few steps in almost every divorce look a lot alike.  What changes is the order in which you tackle these steps.

For example, if you (or your spouse) start your divorce by immediately filing papers in court, then you’re not going to have the luxury of trying to get yourself emotionally stable before you start putting together your divorce team. You’re going to need a lawyer now!

On the other hand, if you haven’t filed for divorce yet, and you would like to try to make things as amicable as possible, then following these steps in the order shown will likely make your divorce journey easier.

Here are the 7 steps you need to take when you are first facing divorce. 

  1. Start Getting Yourself Emotionally Stable.

While getting your emotions under control in the beginning stages of divorce may seem like an impossible task, the sooner you start working on stabilizing yourself, the better off you will be. That’s not to say that you need to become an emotionless robot in order to get through your divorce. You do, however, need to get yourself into a place where you can think clearly.

You’re going to have to make hundreds of decisions while you are going through your divorce. HUNDREDS!  You’ll have to decide things as small as when to take off your wedding ring (although that can feel huge!). You’re also going to have to decide things as big as when you get to see your kids, and what you’re going to do with your house.

You can’t decide anything when you’re an emotional wreck.

  1. Educate Yourself.

The more you know about how divorce works (preferably before you’re in the middle of it!) the more secure you’re going to feel while you’re going through the divorce process. Plus, the more you know, the better your chances will be of getting the outcome you want.

There are a ton of myths and misconceptions about divorce. If you believe some of those myths – (like “your lawyer will handle everything,” or “the judge will make sure you get what’s fair,”) you will get burned. Big time. Knowledge is power.

  1. Decide What Matters.

If you are so busy worrying about getting divorced, you may not stop to think about what matters most in the divorce. As a result, you could get blown around like the wind during the process.  If you make each decision in the moment, you may not think about the impact that decision may have on the divorce as a whole.  You will have no divorce strategy because you never had a divorce goal.

Of course, figuring out what matters the most to you in your divorce while your head is spinning and you’re an emotional wreck isn’t always easy. You’re so terrified and confused that you have trouble knowing what you want for dinner, let alone deciding on what’s really important to you long term. That’s why getting your emotions under control first is so important.

One way or another though, you’ve got to decide what matters to you if you want to have any hope of getting it.

  1. Think About Logistics.

When you’re facing divorce it’s easy to get so focused on what is going to happen to you after your divorce that you forget to think about what’s going to happen to you during your divorce. Unfortunately, getting a divorce can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Because of that, you need to spend some time thinking about the logistics of your life during your divorce.

You’ll need to consider where you’re going to live, and where your kids will live. You’ve got to think about where your spouse will live during your divorce.  You’ve also got to think about who is going to pay for what. There are a ton of small, mundane details of life that you and your spouse have got to either figure out or fight about before you’re anywhere near the end of your divorce.

Either way, the more you can get the small details of your life under control during divorce, the more mental and emotional strength you will have to deal with the bigger issues you’re facing. 

  1. Start Collecting Your Financial Information.

The amount of paperwork you need to compile to get through your divorce is often measured in feet rather than inches. If you keep your records electronically, your pile may not look quite so high and you’ll be a lot better off.   The sooner you can start collecting and organizing that paperwork, the smoother your divorce process will go.

You also want to start collecting your financial information sooner rather than later.  Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for important paperwork to disappear during a divorce. Whether one spouse is trying to hide information, or just make his/her spouse’s life more difficult, doesn’t really matter. The end result is that collecting paperwork once a divorce is filed is often a much longer, rougher process.

The smartest thing you can do when you know you want a divorce is to gather your financial information and start putting it in order.

  1. Plan When and How You Will Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce.

One of the most difficult discussions you will ever have in your life is telling your spouse that you want a divorce. It’s also one of the most important discussions you will ever have. Why? Because the way you break the news that you want a divorce to your spouse will dramatically affect how your divorce process goes from that point forward.

If the first time your spouse learns that you want a divorce is when s/he is served with divorce papers, you are setting yourself up for a fight. The same thing is true if you tell your spouse that you want a divorce in any way that is angry, callous, cold, or insensitive.

How you treat your spouse from the beginning will set the tone for how your divorce moves forward.

  1. Begin Putting Together Your Team.

If you want to give yourself the best chance of getting through your divorce without completely destroying yourself, you need to put together a proper team. That team will be there to help you and to support you all the way through your divorce.

What is a “divorce team”?   Divorce lawyers, therapists (for you and your children), financial professionals and divorce coaches. While all of those people are important, your team should also include your family and close friends. It should only include people who you have no doubt are on your side. For that reason, your in-laws usually don’t make good team members, even if they love you. Blood is thicker than water.

No matter who is on your team, or how large or small it is, there is one thing you need to always remember: No one should go through a divorce alone.

Your First Steps

Once you know you want a divorce, the most important thing you can do is to get yourself moving forward. But, acting rashly, or doing things when you don’t know what you’re doing is a mistake.

Taking the wrong first steps in divorce will end up making your divorce more contentious, expensive and drawn out. But, doing nothing is not an option either.

Follow these first 7 steps one by one, one step at a time.  Click here to download my FREE ebook on My 50 Tip’s for Divorce Your Lawyer May Not Tell You!