1. Find the best lawyer for you. One you trust completely.
Intimidating, yes, but very necessary. Your legal representation sets the tone of your divorce proceedings, and more important, it puts you in the best position to move on with your life. I had no idea where to start. I wanted to keep my divorce private, so I didn’t feel like I could ask other people for advice.
2. Meet with a financial adviser.
Another intimidating exercise. But it’s crucial to understand the implications of your settlement - present, near future, and long term. I made the mistake of assuming my lawyer had all the financial angles covered. It’s the first thing I would do over if I had the chance.
3. Connect with a divorce coach.
It may sound like I’m promoting myself. But I truly wish I’d thought to look for coach. You’ll need a confidential, objective adviser who can offer resources, encouragement and strategies for how to tackle the other items on this list.
4. See your doctor.
Why? Because it’s important for your doctor to know about the stress and emotions you’re dealing with. If you have any health issues - for example, high blood pressure, headaches, or sleeplessness - they may get worse. Finding a therapist may not be a bad idea, either.
5. Create a team.
If you have items 1 through 4, then you have a fabulous team to support you. Rely on them. You’ll feel stronger, your well-being will improve, and your children will see you behaving in a way that’s calm and under control. Friends are wonderful, but beware: they tend to fall into the circle of doom along with you, and they may unconsciously encourage you to overreact.
6. Keep all communication (especially written) with your spouse factual and free of emotion.
This is so important for your credibility. Believe me, I know firsthand how ugly and unproductive emails can get. I know how hard it is to resist giving in to your emotions. Go ahead, reply to negative or accusatory emails, but DON’T HIT SEND, wait until the next day and edit out the ugly. A divorce coach can be a real help with this one. You do need to vent - so vent to your coach, and respond rather than react.
7. Always speak positively about your spouse in front of your children.
Another hard one. At times, it felt as though I had to pull these positive comments from somewhere deep inside me, like down in my toes. But I remembered how when my parents were divorcing, I hated hearing “Your father...” Watch your kids’ eyes and body language, and you’ll be rewarded for taking the high road. If you can’t be positive, at least refrain from being negative.
8. Take care of yourself.
I can hear you saying: Are you kidding me? You want me to exercise and worry about healthy eating at a time like this? Yes, I do. You are of no use to anyone, especially yourself, if you’re sick and run down.
9. Keep a notebook or pad on your nightstand.
Nighttime is the hardest - the time when you feel the most alone. If you find yourself tossing and turning, write down your worries and understand you’ll deal with them in the morning. Nothing gets solved in the middle of the night - and you need your rest.
Get out and go for a walk. Look for beauty and peace. Give yourself the gift of appreciation for something good in your life - nature, your pets, a happy child. Remember, you will live through this.