10 Critical Tips BEFORE You Ask For The Divorce

Art credit: Cate Graham

If you are reading this then I assume you are where I was. There will come a day when you realize that you are heading for divorce. For me, I was certain that I wanted to break up about one month before I told my ex. Keeping this to myself was difficult for many reasons especially because this was new territory and I was facing the unknown. I didn’t have anyone in my life that had been down this road to confide in. Looking back, I wish I had someone who had walked my walk and could offer me some advice to avoid mistakes (which were many). In hindsight, many of the things you do NOT consider (whether tangible or emotional) can very well mean the difference between living and surviving. Today I am happy to share some things I wish I had known about BEFORE I told my ex I wanted a divorce:

Here are my top 10 Tips to consider BEFORE you tell him you want out:

  1. Make sure at the end of the day you can look into the mirror and say to yourself that you did everything you could to stay married. You took your vows with all of the hopes and dreams your mid-twenties old self had. As time went on, you fell out of love again and again but tried pushing through. When you came to the sobering realization that you were just no longer able to stay in the marriage it was a harsh reality. But you continually question yourself…. “Is this not as bad as I believe it to be? Is the grass really greener over THERE (there being not “here”)? “Am I going to wake up one day years from now and regret for the rest of my life that I left my marriage and broke apart our family?” My therapist said something powerful with me 1 year before I asked for the divorce. “KT, let’s work on you for a full year so we make sure this decision is the right one. Let’s uncover every rock and dive into your heart. The decision to leave your marriage will affect everyone you know. If you can do the time this requires you will always know that you did all that you could to make things right.” Even though a whole year felt like an eternity, I believed in my therapist and knew that it was a commitment I needed to take on. I wanted to make sure that no matter what color the green was on the other side, it was a color I could live with. So please…do the time. Make the decision to leave after you do the work.
  2. Keep a journal. Whether you are living with doubt, despair, verbal abuse, boredom, jealousy, rage, loneliness or pity, it is so important to document your feelings at the time the feelings come up. You will one day read back your own words and it will reaffirm your decision to leave. Trust me…. you will doubt yourself at least one time on the divorce road. We all do.
  3. Confide in a few select people. My parents were the first to know, followed by an out of town friend. I kept my deck of cards close to my heart because I knew my decision needed to be my own and I didn’t want to have to explain or defend my choice to anyone. Most importantly, at first you will want to control who hears the news and when. Telling too many people can easily mean the difference between your kids finding out at school or a play date before you had the heart to out yourself. That to me would be heartless.
  4. Make copies of your financials. I hope you know all you need to know about your marital assets.  Where is the money? Do you own stocks? Bonds? IRAs? How much is in your bank account(s)? How much debt do you have? I hope you know the answers because unfortunately, I did not. To this day, one of my biggest regrets is that I did not know what our financials were and it hurt me in my divorce.
  5. Stash a little cash. Ok, I am not saying steal from your husband but having a “kitty” is smart.  There will come a day when you might need a little cash. A few weeks before I told my ex I wanted a divorce I started buying Visa gift cards when I checked out at the market. I put them to the side (I suggest asking a close friend or family member to hold them) and used them at a time when I needed them. I don’t care if you sell your old clothes or kid’s toys on Ebay for some extra cash but do it. You will be glad you did.
  6. Speak to a divorce attorney. After a friend mentioned he used a good attorney in his divorce, I asked for her contact information “for a friend”. I met with her initially to review my options and knew in our meeting I would hire her. I would never suggest someone hire someone without a sit down meeting. There are so many things that you may have not considered that will come up in the first meeting. My lawyer helped me make a short term and long term plan which helped guide me in the long, emotional journey I would take.
  7. Change your passwords. There will come a time down the road where things may become contentious. He may want to read your emails, your text messages, review your browser history…. and you might not have anything to hide but that’s unimportant. Something that is meaningless to you may have meaning to the one you are leaving. Maybe an ex boyfriend contacted you over IM years back and you kept it for no reason but he found it and thinks you had an affair. Maybe he sees that venting email you sent to your BFF about how tired you are on the demands of motherhood and how you find yourself drinking too much wine lately…. Do you want something like that to be used against you in court? Because guess what? It can happen! While you may have a difficult time explaining why you changed these passwords, it’s worth keeping your privacy protected.
  8. Consider your spouse’s personality. This is a BIG ONE! Had I known there were divorce lawyers who specialized in spouses with personality disorders I would have done more research and probably would have chosen someone else. I lived with a narcissist and found out too late that I gave up too much (custody/money) simply for the sake of wanting to be settled. This may not resonate with you, and I hope it doesn’t, but take heed…. you want whoever is representing you to know how to best handle your case and your ex. Your future depends on it.
  9. Don’t even think about mediation. I could write pages on this one. Mediation is for people who have simple law suits. By simple I mean, NOT A DIVORCE! This was probably the BIGGEST mistake I made. I entered into mediation because it was what he asked of me and because of the fear that things would turn ugly. When you mediate, you still need a lawyer but mediation, when it works, can offer great benefits- it’s more “civil”, less expensive, done in a casual environment and not a court room. Each party expresses their feelings and opinions openly and the mediators’ role is to help each party reach an agreement. Well, when the person across the table is an ego-manic narcissist, you can believe that the lies, manipulation tactics and nasty behavior will come out time and again. There was zero respect in that room- for me and for the mediator who very obviously disliked my ex from the get-go. Was it the foul language he spat at me or was it because she saw him for what he truly is, a bully?! Don’t do it. Just don’t do it. In the end I gave up too much custody, spent thousands of dollars I will never get back on our meetings that went in circles. I regret terribly that I was foolish enough to engage in mediation in the first place.
  10. Have a therapist on board for your children. Once you have shared the news with your children, no matter what their ages are, their world is going to be thrown upside down for all of you. I worked with a wonderful woman who my kids adored and I believe seeing her from the start helped in so many ways.

I hope my “tip list” is helpful for others that are walking the walk. The long, bumpy, winding road ahead is certainly one that takes time, patience and self love. With the right support around, you can and will get through this. Keep the faith!

EDITORS NOTE: The Incredible piece of Art above has been brought to you by one of our writer’s daughters: Cate Graham.

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