It’s been a long road, and you are now in this place of upheaval. You and your spouse have decided to end the relationship, or that decision was forced upon you. Amidst the myriad of emotions you are facing, you are wondering what to do next. It’s a scary proposition. Life as you know it has ended and you are embarking on a very scary next chapter. And before you can get to the peace, you have to get through the storm they call a divorce. What do you do now? Where do you start? Will you get through this?
Divorce is hard! There are so many questions. There is so much stress. It is exhausting and draining – emotionally, physically, mentally and financially. You are concerned for your children and what will happen to them. You are worried about your financial future. Your spouse may even be scaring you into thinking that they are about to take everything away from you. What an isolating feeling! What should you do?
First and foremost, get yourself some help. Do not try to get through it alone. Surround yourself with friends and family that are supportive. You will need a shoulder to cry on. You will need help simply getting on with your day to day life so that you can endure the legal side of things. If you have insurance through work, find out if there is an Employee Assistance Program. If there is, take advantage of it. Find out what services they offer, and make use of them. Help is just a phone call away.
While you are attending to your emotional and mental health, check in with your children. Answer their questions, let them know that you love them and that the divorce is not their fault. Let them know that you and your spouse will do everything you can to help them through this change. Make it easy for them to ask you questions and to be open about how they are feeling. You are all mourning your marriage and life as it was and are concerned about what this means for life moving forward.
Speak to the Professionals…
It is so important that you obtain legal advice early on. You need to know what your rights and obligations are. But you also need to make sure you find the professional with the right fit for you. Don’t go with the first lawyer you speak with. Speak to a few lawyers and make sure that their approach is right for you. Make sure that they have your best interests at heart. Make sure that their strategy is right for you – don’t make the mistake of coming out of the gate fighting. If there is any way you can go through the divorce even reasonably amicably, do it! It will make everything easier (and cheaper) in the long run!
Why should you speak with a mediator? Trying mediation first, before considering any kind of legal action, is always a better option. Mediation is a much more positive approach to divorce. The mediator helps the two of you engage in calm, positive dialogue in order to help you negotiate the issues and identify unique solutions that are designed to fit your specific family and address your needs. The mediator is equipped with legal information, skills to help you through difficult conversations, and will be able to guide you through the process in a way that minimizes conflict and promotes goodwill. This is such a good approach to divorce. Not only does it foster co-operation during such a difficult time, but it will end up costing a small fraction of what it could cost you if you end up in court.
Mediation is an amazing investment in your future. By controlling and reducing the conflict early on, you will see that you are able to get through the divorce faster, with less anger and bitterness, which will ultimately be the best thing for your children because there is less negativity between their parents and therefore less negativity in the family dynamic. It is a healthier, happier approach to divorce. And just think about the tens of thousands of dollars you will save, by resolving amicably instead of in court. Not to mention, mediation is so much faster than going through the court system, where it could drag on for years.
As with choosing a lawyer, make sure you speak with the mediator about their approach, strategy and priorities. Make sure that they are a good fit for the two of you. Once you complete your mediation, the mediator will write up a report, summarizing what was agreed to. You will then take that report to a lawyer, to have it made into a formal court document. By using a mediator, the time and money you spend on a lawyer, will be minimized – it is a much cheaper and more affordable alternative to divorce resolution.
The Financial Professional
You will need to put together financial statements and pull together financial documents for the divorce. This can be a daunting task. You can pay the lawyer to do it, you can obtain the help of a financial professional (experienced in divorce) or you can do it yourself. Each option has its pros and cons. You need to pick the option that is best for you. Some financial professionals can complete this task for you at a fraction of the cost that you may pay a legal professional. The choice is ultimately yours.
If you already have a financial planner, they may be able to pull together some or all of the information you need. In addition, you will want to speak with them about what you need to do during and after the divorce, to maintain financial security. Divorces are expensive in many ways. Your living arrangements will change. You will need to understand your financial health in order to understand what the impact will be from the divorce. What will you be able to afford and where will you be able to live? These are all great questions for a financial professional to answer for you.
As you can see, there is a lot involved when getting divorced. From taking care of the kids, to taking care of yourself, to managing conflict, to dealing with finances – there’s a lot on your plate. First and foremost, take care of yourself and manage your health. Your children need you to be healthy in order to take care of them. Don’t do it alone. Find the help you need. Do your research and make sure you get the support you need. You will get through this, one step and one day at a time. And eventually, you WILL find your peace again.
Neelam Dhall is a CPA, CA, and Accredited Family Mediator (OAFM). She is President & CEO of Simple Solutions Mediation Ltd, which offers mediation and divorce coaching services – the more affordable and less stressful approach to divorce resolution. View her profile at https://www.thedivorceangels.com/vendor/neelam-dhall/?r=30678 or her website at www.simplesolutionsmediation.ca for more information.