Whether it came as a shock or somewhat of a relief, getting the news that your spouse wants a divorce is never easy. It can turn your life upside-down. It can seem like everything you’ve built together is going to fall apart. It can feel like the most profound rejection.
The reality is that about 50% of American marriages end in divorce. When you find out that your spouse is ready to leave, it may be too late to go into counseling or work to save the marriage. What do you do now?
First, recognize that it’s perfectly normal to feel sad and lost. It will take time to get over the shock. Meanwhile, you may be called upon to make important decisions about your property and parenting. Be aware that you are likely to be emotional when you make those decisions. How can you be wise and practical in your decision-making?
Consider getting counseling
You’ll need the support of your family and friends, and it’s useful to have a caring and knowledgeable divorce attorney. When it comes down to it, however, it’s important to have a person to lean on who can help you process your emotions. The best option is probably getting involved with a therapist right away. Consider whether your kids may need psychological support, as well.
Hire a divorce attorney right away
It can be easy to put off hiring your divorce attorney. Don’t do it. There may be strategic steps you can take now to protect your long-term interests. Your lawyer can walk you through the process of divorce, explain your legal rights and options, and help you stay on track. It’s best to work with your attorney on a plan for the divorce instead of simply responding to your divorcing spouse.
Prioritize your children
If you have kids, you’ll need to come to decisions about parental decision-making authority, parenting time, and child support. As you do so, try to remember that you’ll be co-parenting with your ex for a long time to come. You may not be married any longer once the divorce is final, but you’ll still be working together on parenting. It’s important to negotiate a parenting plan that you both can live with and which is in your kids’ best interests.
Try to be practical
As you negotiate your divorce, try to be unemotional, practical and fair. You will have many strong feelings to process but try to stick to your plan and let your lawyer protect your interests. Treat the division of property process just like you would treat winding down a shared business.
For now, take a deep breath and get started.