Getting a divorce is never easy, but having kids in the mix makes the process more complicated and emotionally draining.
If you’re a mum going through a divorce, you’re not alone. An estimated 40 to 50% of U.S. marriages end in divorce.
But knowing others are going through the same thing doesn’t pay the bills or comfort your fears. What can help is taking specific steps toward building your own life as a single mum.
Keep reading to learn seven tips that help you prepare for divorce.
1. Time It Right
You’ve decided you want out of your marriage, but when is the right time to leave?
If you’re in an abusive situation, getting out immediately removes you and your kids from that threat.
When you’re leaving for other reasons, you may be hesitant to make the leap. You may never feel truly ready, but you may want to consider some timing issues.
The time of the year can be a factor, and this article goes into detail on why you may want to wait until after the holidays for a divorce. Getting a divorce right before holidays, birthdays, or other special occasions can cast a negative feeling over those events. Your kids may relive those feelings every year.
Your financial readiness is another factor. Having a plan to support yourself before you divorce can save you a lot of stress and financial struggle.
2. Find Quality Counsel
Divorce is often complicated, especially with custody issues. You need an experienced family law attorney advocating for you throughout the process. This is especially important if your spouse wants to fight you on the divorce or won’t agree to anything.
Your lawyer helps you understand the divorce process and ensures everything is done correctly. That person fights for you during the various court proceedings to ensure you have a favourable outcome.
Research potential lawyers by looking at reviews and contacting references. Interview the attorney first, and ask lots of questions. Trust your feelings about the lawyer to ensure you find someone who’s a good match for you.
3. Make a Plan
You’re used to the routines of your current lifestyle, but that’s all about to change with the divorce. You need a solid plan for your future, so you can take actionable steps toward those goals.
Start with a to-do list related to the divorce. Include all the tasks you need to complete related to the divorce and establishing your new life.
Make plans for your living arrangements once the divorce is final. The judge has a say in what happens with your family home, but you may decide you want to move out instead of keeping the home. If you can’t afford your own place, you might make arrangements to stay with a friend or family member temporarily.
If you don’t currently have a job, decide if that’s something you want to pursue. Working even part-time can give you more financial independence.
You can’t control everything that happens during the divorce. Instead of stressing about those things, focus on having a solid plan for the things that are within your control.
4. Calculate Your Financial Needs
Your financial situation is likely the biggest change coming with the divorce. You no longer have your spouse’s income to support you.
If you’re currently a stay-at-home mum, you may need to find a job or another source of income to support yourself.
Spousal and child support may be awarded, especially if you don’t currently work. Calculations for those amounts vary by state. Child support usually depends on the number of overnights each parent has with the kids and the salary of each spouse.
If you have the kids the majority of the time and don’t have a job, your child support will likely be higher than it would with 50/50 shared custody with both parents employed.
You may not know these amounts right away, but you still need to look at your financial situation to plan for the future.
Create a budget for your expenses as a single mum. Look for ways to cut your expenses to make your budget more feasible.
Instead of staying in the family home, you might need to sell it and rent an apartment or a small home for now. Perhaps you can trade your expensive car for a cheaper car or buy a used car outright. Refinancing debt is also an option for cutting costs.
5. Stay Organized
The divorce process involves lots of dates and deadlines that you need to follow. Missing a court date or a paperwork deadline could work against you and result in an unfavourable outcome.
Keep a calendar of all divorce dates. Check with your lawyer to make sure you have the dates and times correct.
If you’re expecting a difficult divorce, write down any details on your calendar that could be used as evidence. This might include visitation dates, appointments related to your kids, and violations of any court orders.
Save all documents related to your divorce. Place them in a binder for easy access. You may want to scan the documents to keep a virtual file in case anything happens to the originals.
6. Tend to Emotional Needs
As a mum going through a divorce, you have your own emotions and those of your kids to handle. It can be difficult to support your kids while you’re feeling sad, angry, or lonely.
Create a new routine as quickly as possible to help you and your kids through the transition. Make sure you’re taking care of your basic needs by eating regular meals and getting sleep. Work in exercise to enjoy mental health benefits, including reduced stress and depression.
Let your kids talk about the divorce and how they’re feeling. If they don’t open up, look at their behaviour. Acting out can be a sign that they’re struggling with the divorce.
Look into counselling for you and your kids. You can do individual or family counselling to work through the emotions. Check with your insurance to see if you have mental health benefits to cover the costs.
7. Ask for Help
It’s tempting to hide from everyone and suffer through your divorce alone. Asking for help can be challenging, especially if you’re used to taking care of yourself. But you’ll need supportive people around you through the divorce.
Talking to friends, family members, or a counsellor can give you perspective on the situation. It’s difficult to see the situation objectively when you’re in the middle of it.
Finding a group of other divorced mums, in your community or online, can feel comforting. You can also get advice from those women.
Getting a Divorce
No one plans to get a divorce when they say I do, but it’s a common situation for many mums. Having a strategic plan helps you work through getting a divorce.
Visit our wellbeing section for additional support and ideas for thriving through a divorce.