- Speak with a financial advisor
- Change your will
- Take care of your mental health
- Take care of your physical health
- Enjoy your freedom
Congratulations! You’ve made it through your divorce. You may feel elated or relievedOr depressed or scared. And you may feel a combination of those emotions and many more. However you feel, it’s normal. There is no one way to feel after a divorce. Remember too, moving forward may not be a straight line. For many, the line is more of a zig-zag. That’s okay. As the saying goes, take it one day at a time. Here are some things to consider on your journey.
Speak with a Financial Advisor
If you haven’t already done so, you might want to speak with a financial advisor to help you make decisions about your financial future. For example, do you want to stay in your current home? If so, can you afford it with your current income and/or support? You also want to consider what to do with savings, investment and retirement accounts now that you’re on your own. Remember to focus on the present as well as the future. If you get child or spousal support, make a plan for when that support ends. Will you continue to stay in your family home then, or do you want to downsize? What about paying for college for your children? How will you and your ex-spouse handle that? A financial planner can help you map out a plan to take you from the day after your divorce through retirement.
Keep Your Lawyer Up to Date
Make sure your lawyer is on top of any financial arrangements that should be happening after the divorce, including support, division of assets and any other payouts. That means you need to let your lawyer know if you haven’t received payments in full and on schedule. Also make sure you understand exactly what you are entitled to. For example, you may be getting a portion of your ex-spouse’s bonus for a period of time, so it needs to be clear to you what payments or asset distributions you should be receiving and when.
Hopefully, before the divorce was finalized, you got a good understanding of what situations you should be handling on your own, and when you should get your lawyer or the court involved again. If you’re not receiving spousal or child support per the terms of your divorce or if there are problems with your co-parenting plan and they can’t be resolved with an email or phone call to your ex, get your attorney involved. Maybe your ex-spouse isn’t picking up the children on time or is always changing plans at the last minute. We all need to be flexible, but there may come a point where you need the court to step back in. If your ex-spouse wants to move and take the children, that’s definitely a time to call your lawyer.
You may also need to bring your lawyer back in if your or your ex’s financial circumstances change, such as either one of you losing a job or getting a raise. Any change that can affect support you’re receiving or paying should be discussed with your lawyer.
Update Your Will
If you haven’t already done it, it’s a good time to update your will. If you have children and are the primary caregiver, will your children automatically go to your ex-spouse if you die? If not, designate a guardian. Likewise, designate an executor of your will and someone to handle any trusts for children. Take the time to speak to a family member or close friend about your end-of-life-wishes and make a living will.
Continue Speaking with your Therapist
If you’re still having emotional issues connected to the divorce, continue speaking with your therapist and/or close friends. Try to let go of the anger or despair and focus on all that your future now holds. Holding on to anger will only hurt you. If you have children, it will hurt them too, and you want to show them how to move forward after a traumatic event. Despite your anguish, it is of the utmost importance that you not vent to your children and put them in the middle between you and your ex. You don’t want to be one of those women who is still angry 20 years after her divorce. This is the time to really focus on your mental health.
Focus on your Physical Health
It’s also the time to focus on your physical health. As women, we’re always taking care of everyone else, often neglecting ourselves. You’ve just gone through a difficult time where your basic needs may have been put aside. It’s time to make sure you take care of yourself: schedule a physical. Make sure you’re up to date with your vaccines. If you’re 40 and above, get your annual mammogram and talk with your doctor about when you should start getting a routine colonoscopy and then get it.
Enjoy Your New Freedom
Enjoy your new freedom and focus on the positives. Divorce can be an incredibly liberating experience if you let it. Once you’re through the crisis, it’s time to consider making changes. If you’ve always wanted to decorate your home in mid-century modern but your ex-spouse preferred the country farmhouse look, well, now you can trade your chunky distressed wood dining room table for something sleek in teak.
Think About Who You Are
Starting again can be scary — but it can also be fun. Take time to think about who you are and who you want to be, what your life is like and what you want your life to be. If you’re not sure, get out there and try new things. Join a book club, take up fly-fishing, renew that gym membership, sign up for a class. Did you always want to try salsa dancing but your spouse wasn’t game? Now’s the time. The sky’s the limit. Maybe you want to take up skydiving. Okay, that might be a little drastic. But you get the point: Get out there and begin to build your life as an independent woman.
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This article was written with input from Susan Weider, a lawyer who practiced family law in New Hampshire and Vermont.