You’ve been waiting for this moment for months. The second you get word that your divorce is finalized. You’ve been mentally preparing for this and now the moment is finally here – and you react differently than you expected. To help you navigate your next steps and the year ahead, we wanted to give you some “post-divorce advice.”
Things to do After Your Divorce is Final
1. Embrace the next chapter in your life. If you feel a little weird or a little sad even though you’ve been dreaming about divorce for some time – it’s not unusual to feel a sense of loss, or a sense of failure after divorce. Once it’s finalized, there’s no going back. There are no plans to “save the marriage.” There’s no more room for second thoughts.
If the day you receive your divorce decree in the mail, you don’t feel as cheerful as you had expected, that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with being present in the moment and honoring the end to that chapter of your life. If you need to shut off your cellphone, take a day off work, or focus on your kids, then by all means do it.
On the other hand, if you’ve never been so happy, go ahead and invite your closest friends over and have a divorce party. There isn’t a right or wrong way to acknowledge that an era has ended, just be sure to embrace the next chapter in your life. If you have yet to open your divorce decree, we recommend doing it alone, in a quiet place, but have a trusted friend or family member on call if you need them.
2. Encourage open communication with your kids. Remind your children that the divorce does not change the fact that you are still a family. Remember, the divorce is probably hard on them too, so encourage them to be open and honest with you about their feelings. Tell them it’s okay to vent their emotions, it’s okay for them to express how they feel and share their opinions, even if it’s hard to hear.
Don’t forget about your children’s school. Contact the school, speak with teachers and guidance counselors and let them know about the divorce and how your children are handling it. Pay close attention to your children’s grades, behavior and social interactions. The goal is to be sensitive to your children’s needs and watch for any signs that the divorce is affecting their studies and emotional well-being. If so, pay extra attention to your children at this time and give them loads of love and support.
3. Celebrate what you’ve achieved so far. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who said that divorce was easy, a piece of cake. If severing the financial ties were easy, we’d probably have even more divorces on the books. That said, once your divorce is final, carve out some time to pause, reflect and celebrate the fact that it’s over. You can do this alone, or you can do it with a close friend or family member. In the past six to twelve months, you’ve probably been through the wringer. You went through your share of trials to get where you are today.
If you’re like most people, ending your marriage was not a peaceful, “unconscious uncoupling” experience, even if it was amicable. Instead, it was probably a slow, painstaking process that involved a lot of ups and downs. So, take a moment or a whole evening to reflect on how far you’ve come. Consider the possibilities and the bright future ahead. Yes, your marriage and divorce taught you some painful lessons, but you’ve also grown as a result of the experience. You deserve credit, and congratulations are in order because you made it through. It’s all downhill from here.
4. Reach out to your attorney after the dust settles. A lot of people want to put the divorce behind them and out of their minds and that’s not hard to understand. But unless a divorce does not involve children or the division of marital assets, it’s usually not 100 percent over. Once you receive the divorce decree in the mail, you should schedule a follow-up meeting with your divorce lawyer. Was the retirement account divided? Was the house sold and the proceeds split? Was your name taken off your spouse’s auto loan? Is child or spousal support being paid?
Often, there are loose ends after a divorce and just because a divorce decree says that a spouse must do certain things, that does not guarantee that they will get done. Suppose your spouse agreed to pay the mortgage, but your name is staying on the loan (we do NOT recommend this). What are you going to do if your spouse fails to pay the bank? Essentially, when you have the follow-up meeting with your divorce attorney, you need to address all of the “what ifs.” You need to be proactive and on the defense in case anything was to go wrong and your former spouse fails to hold up their end of the divorce agreement.
5. Focus on your financial health. Almost all of us have room for improvement in the financial department. Whether you’re going to be paying or receiving child or spousal support, or nothing at all, you want to shift your focus to improving your financial health. You want to take control of your financial future. What does this mean? It can mean many different things, such as working towards a promotion, going back to school, freelancing, staring your own business, switching careers, or becoming more valuable at your current job. It can also mean cutting back on expenses, downsizing, or starting an IRA – but it almost always includes increasing income. So, start taking a look at your finances and how you can improve them.
No matter how bad a marriage is, divorce is usually a very difficult experience. If you’re feeling off or down, give yourself some space and realize that it will soon pass. It’s okay to feel anger, grief or a deep sense of loss. Don’t fight it. The sooner you allow yourself to grieve the loss of a failed marriage, the sooner you can move on to a brighter, more rewarding future.