When your “I do” becomes an “I don’t,” you will be facing a number of decisions that can have a profound effect on your life -- and the lives of your children if you have them -- for years to come. Use this 5-step roadmap to help you navigate your way through your divorce so you can end your journey with a better life:
1. Know what you want, need, and don’t want.
If life is a river, a divorce can feel like going over rocky rapids in a beer cooler. Some people just want to float along the top like a leaf, letting the current take them wherever it wants. This is not a good way to handle a divorce. You need to be clear about what you want, what you need, and what you don’t want. If it helps, make a list with those three columns and then make yourself honestly assess what you should put in each column. It also helps to know what your spouse’s wants/needs/don’t wants list looks like, to get important insight into how to negotiate better.
2. Know that now it’s business.
When you got married, you entered into a contract and when you get divorced, it’s about dissolving that contract. There are laws that govern the dissolution of marriage, including the division of debts and assets, and assigning responsibility for child custody and support, spousal support, etc. Even though there may be a lot of emotions attached to the dissolution of your marriage contract, it is important for you to navigate the business aspects of this process with your understandable emotions in check.
3. Know your financials.
Even before you file for divorce, it's best to know your entire financial picture very well. Having this knowledge enables you to make good financial decisions during your divorce negotiations. It is not uncommon for one spouse to do most of the financial work in a marriage. If it’s that way in your marriage and you are not the one holding the purse strings, educate yourself quickly about your assets, debts, income, and budget. Seek out a financial consultant if you need help.
4. Create your support team.
Your friends and family can be a source of emotional support, but when it comes to getting what you want and need from your divorce negotiations, you need a professional team to help you. You will need an attorney that specializes in family law. You will probably need a financial consultant. You may even need a therapist. These three can help you navigate the most important aspects of divorce: legal, financial, and emotional. They can help you keep on track so you don’t waste time, money, and unnecessary emotion on fighting for something that is unattainable.
5. Keep your future in mind.
While it is always better to remain on good terms with your ex during a divorce, it is vitally important that you not sign a bad deal that puts your future in jeopardy. Make it a goal to keep looking forward, not back, as you negotiate your settlement terms.