What Are the Most Important Steps to Take When You Decide to Get a Divorce?
by Dawn Billings, founder RelationshipHelp.com
This is the article I did not want to write. Why? Well for two reasons truthfully.
One is because it brings up for me the most challenging time in my personal life which was getting a divorce from my husband. I was determined to divorce with such love and respect and never impact the children, but that is simply not how divorces work.
The second reason is that I have dedicated my life to doing all I can to saving marriages. But there are some marriages that simply cannot be saved, they are simply to toxic and dangerous, or they are not worth saving, they are abusive emotionally and physically.
If you find yourself at the end of your rope and feel no hope, you at least need a check list to help you navigate the rough waters ahead. This is going to be as hard as you think.
Leaving a marriage or long-term is extremely challenging no matter the circumstances. So before you actually leave, take time to sit down, get calm, take out a pen and paper (or your computer), and ask yourself some serious questions:
1. What personality tendencies am I dealing with?
Each person has unique personality tendencies that impact how they react and interact with life. We have centered personality tendencies which represent the best of us, and we have extreme color personality tendencies which show up as the worst of us. As you can imagine when a relationship is breaking apart, it is the extreme color personality tendencies that you have to be aware of. The choices and actions we take while in our extremes are destructive, damaging and devastating. They do show up in times of stress and anger. Do not be caught off guard. Carefully consider what your partner is capable of at their worst when preparing to leave.
Learn about you and your partner's personality tendencies. This will better prepare you to deal with the extreme fallout of a crumbling relationship. When you understand the colored lenses through which you and your spouse view the world, you can better predict their extreme reactions, and be better informed so that you can communicate from their perspective.
2. What do I believe my life will look like post divorce?
You will have so many mixed emotions. Terror, anxiety, confusion, but you might also feel feelings of relief imagining leaving your extremely difficult situation. You will want to take a deep dive into the pool of future possibilities and problems, especially if children are involved.
If you have fallen in love with someone else you could have fantasies that you will leaving to and for love, but divorces are NOT romantic. They create a stress that is difficult to describe and it takes all of your emotional fortitude and internal strength to see this through.
3. Where can I find the information I need?
Become an information junkie. Learn all you can from the experts you will need.
First: Consult a therapist, someone who will listen as you outwardly process through all of your thoughts and feelings. Someone who is a relationship expert and can guide you with resources you will need to succeed. OR attend a healing retreat that gives you the time for focus on and consider carefully your next important steps.
Second: Consult an attorney: Even if you and your husband view your split as amicable, you never know if things could turn ugly and you don’t want to have to scramble around to find legal representation in the middle of a crisis. Interview several lawyers so that you can choose one whose working style fits your goals. Make sure your lawyer knows your rights and the rights of your children (look for someone specialized in family law) and can suggest the best way to leave your husband.
Third: Consult Clergy or trusted friends: Talk with trusted friends who have gone through a divorce. Do not seek out just the horror stories. Also, do not forget to talk with friends who managed to stay married through the rough times in their relationship to see what advice they want to share. This will give you a much richer look at two very different perspectives about struggling marriages and both of them have great value.
4. What do I know about Finances – Mine and His (Hers)?
It is always a good idea to establish your own bank account as soon as you start thinking of leaving. Stash away an amount of money for emergencies. If you leave you will need to establish your own credit. You can arrange for your paycheck to be directly deposited into your new, separate account, or you can take money each month and deposit it without raising a fuss.
5. Are you aware of all your assets? If not, learn.
Make a list of all your assets. They can be financial as well as real estate assets. Don’t forget pensions. What about housing? Will you be staying in the family home? If not, where will you go? Can you stay with your parents? Friends? Rent your own place? Don’t just pack and leave…know where you are going to, and what fits in your new budget.
6. Do you where all of your important documents are?
Passport, will, medical records, copies of taxes filed, birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, car and house deeds, children’s school and vaccination records…everything you will need as you set up your independent life.
Scan copies to keep electronically so you can consult them even when not at home.
You probably should start by changing your will, followed by changes in the list of the beneficiaries of your life insurance policies, your IRA, etc.
Have you looked at your health insurance policies recently. Make sure coverage remains intact for you and your children.
7. You won’t want to, but it is necessary to deal with your credit cards and passwords. Change your PIN numbers and passwords on all of your cards and all of your online accounts, including
Uber, or any rider service, including taxis
Frequent Flyer accounts
If you are into social media:
8. What about your children?
Again, learn more about your children's different color personality tendencies so that you can better predict and understand how they will perceive and process the break up of their home.
Seek ways to insure that your leaving has the least negative impact possible on your children. This will be one of the most difficult pieces of getting a divorce. Children are always the innocent victims when families break up.
Do NOT ever use them as weapons against each other. Have your discussions with your potential ex away from the children, preferably when they are at the grandparents or at friends.
Do all you can to limit arguments, especially screaming matches between you and your soon to be ex. You have to think of custody, not from what you want or need, but from what your children want and need. Just because the two of you no longer feel love for one another you must respect them because your children love their mothers and fathers and should never be caught in the divorce vice script.
9. Got guns in the house? Move them to a safer place. Is your partner prone to acts of violence and aggression?
No matter how civil you both may be now, it’s always best to hedge on the side of caution. More than one crime of passion has been committed in the heat of an argument. But some people are more prone to violent acts of aggression than others. Is your partner one of them?
If you cannot get the guns out of the house, gather up all the ammunition and remove it from the premises. Remember guns are not the only weapons. People use knives, yard tools, anything they can get their hands on. If you are the least bit afraid, make sure you have someone with you to protect you as you are leaving. Safety first!
10. What are your most precious family heirlooms?
Separate and move what you believe to be precious to you to a place that is easily accessible to you. This includes jewelry, silver, china service, photos. It’s better to get these out of the house rather than have them become tools for any potential future battles. BUT also take care and respect what you know to be extremely valuable and sentimental to your partner. Don't attempt to take something they value highly just to punish them. It will only provoke them. Only in the ugliest divorce battles do these things become a problem, but only you can judge whether you believe your divorce will be incredibly ugly or not.
By the way, your wedding ring is yours to keep. Your partner may have paid for it, but it was a gift to you so you are the rightful owner, and they cannot insist on getting it back.
11. Who can I count on to be there to support me?
As I alluded to above, even if leaving your husband is your decision, you will need support and at times, protection. It can be in the form of a therapist, clergy, family, or your friends.
A therapist is always a good idea as this will give you a dedicated moment where you can air all of your emotions in a safe place.
12. What do I need to do to take care of ME and my children?
This is a stressful time. Be sure to set aside a few moments each day just to sit quietly, take a walk in nature, stretch or do some yoga or pilates, and look within.
Start envisioning a better future for yourself, and keep that in the forefront of your mind so that it will help you when the going gets rough.
Dawn Billings is the founder of RealtionshipHelp.com a website dedicated to providing resources to help strengthen and heal relationships. Dawn is the creator of the comprehensive ONLINE relationship programs called Relationship Help At Home, and is the Executive Director of the Relationship Help Resort in Arizona where she hosts private couple's retreats and marriage intensives to help people restore the love and connection in their marriages.
Dawn is also the author and architect of the Primary Colors Relationship Personality Tests and Insight Tools and the inventor of the patented parenting tool for toddlers called CAPABLES.