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You’ve been unhappy in your marriage for quite some time and, after a lot of thought, you’ve decided divorce is the only way to find peace. You may feel overwhelmed, relieved, confused, or a combination of emotions. That’s normal. To help you get a handle on what needs to happen from this point on, here are 5 steps to take after deciding you want a divorce:
Tell Your Spouse
This is the critical first step, and often the most difficult. Chances are your spouse has some inclination that something’s not right with your relationship, but he or she may still feel blindsided when you announce your decision. The best way to approach breaking the news is to avoid placing blame and reiterate that you wish to move forward toward the best possible solution for everyone.
Be prepared for your spouse to want to engage in a lengthy discussion or request a listing of your “reasons” for wanting divorce. He or she may react with shock, anger, or disbelief, and may attempt to talk you out of your decision. These are all normal reactions. Do not participate in the blame game, and do not interrupt your spouse as he or she expresses emotions. Respond as compassionately as possible to his or her reactions and do your best to keep you emotions as even as possible. Your responses at this point will begin to set the stage for whether your divorce will proceed with high conflict or not.
Hire an Attorney
Even if you anticipate you and your spouse will agree to all the various parts of your divorce – child custody, child support, who keeps the house, etc. – it is advisable to hire an attorney. Even having an attorney simply to look over your proposed divorce decree to make sure you have all your ducks in a row is helpful.
Family law attorneys have a deep knowledge of the laws surrounding divorce and custody in your state. They can answer any questions you may have and are invaluable partners during a confusing and difficult time.
Collect All Important Papers and Documents
It’s an unfortunate fact that important papers sometimes “disappear” during a divorce, whether a spouse takes them or they really do get lost as one household splits into two. Information such as Social Security cards, medical paperwork, marriage licenses, and car titles must be kept secure, as they will be necessary during the divorce process. Other information, including logins and passwords to banking accounts or other financial accounts, need to be collected. Take snapshots of all joint account balances on the date you decide to tell your spouse you want a divorce, and consider changing passwords on any accounts that belong to you alone. Keep everything in one place and consider storing it in either a safe deposit box or entrusting a family member or friend to keep the paperwork.
A side note: Also change passwords to anything you wouldn’t want your spouse to access in order to collect information on you, or that could be used to cause damage to you or your reputation during the divorce. This includes email, social media, and your computer itself. Choose passwords that do not have any easily guessed characteristics, such as pet names, children’s birthdays, or favorite sports teams.
Start Thinking about Logistics
Divorce brings about many decisions and life changes, and you need to begin thinking about them as soon as possible to help maintain as much stability as possible for you and your children. Either you or your spouse, or both of you, will need to move out of your home, so finding alternative housing is imperative. If you currently are a stay-at-home parent, you likely will need to begin thinking about finding a job or going back to school. You also will need to consider childcare for when you are at work or at school.
If you and your spouse have a completely entwined financial life, you also will need to begin thinking about splitting accounts or switching banks, and obtaining your own credit cards. The same decisions will need to be made about any loans, such as mortgages, home equity loans, and car loans. Sitting down and listing out all the financial accounts and loans you and your spouse have will be helpful down the road, as you won’t be scrambling for this information.
Keep Conversations To the Future, Not the Past
It can be very easy to slip into old patterns of bickering and blaming, especially if you and your spouse still live together. Your spouse may want to rehash old hurts, or figure out where everything went wrong. He or she may even try dragging out photo albums from family vacations in an attempt to relive the “good times.” These types of discussions are unproductive and can lead to more conflict at an already difficult time.
If your spouse, or even you, begins to slip into trying to have conversations about the past, simply say that you will be happy to have a conversation about the divorce and logistics going into the future, but you will not entertain discussions of the past. Sometimes, this can mean there’s a gap in time while your spouse processes the reality of the impending divorce and mourns the lost relationship. That’s normal, and you can continue to work on your post-divorce plan while your spouse comes to terms with what lies ahead.
Experienced Divorce Representation in Washington, D.C.
The team at Lopez Law Firm, PLLC, has years of experience with all aspects of divorce and custody in Washington, D.C. We work alongside you every step of the way, always advocating for your best interests. Contact us today for a free consultation.