Separation and Divorce: The First Seven Steps

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May 28, 2013

We wait our entire lives to find “the one” – and at some point most of us find it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out. Many factors can contribute to the decision to separate and it is one of the most gut-wrenching decisions, especially when kids are involved.  Will they be okay? Am I being selfish? Have I tried hard enough? Will I regret this?  There are so many questions and, ultimately, only time will provide those answers.

Once the choice has been made, one major question seems to be more important than any – where to I begin?  You know what you want, you’ve gone over your reasons but now you have to figure out how to get from where you are right now … to where you want to be.

Here’s a great place to start:

Get Copies of Important Documents

For some things, including credit card statements and other bills, this is as easy as making a photocopy.  For other things, such as birth certificates for your children, you may have to request (and pay for) an official copy.  The sooner you get your paperwork in order, the better. Being organized will pay off in the long run.


Talk to your spouse and let him know you are unhappy and that you plan to move forward with separating. Unless this is a highly unique situation, he will already have an idea that things aren’t going well.  If you have children, you should discuss how to tell them about the upcoming changes to your family.

Separate Your Bank Accounts and Address Finances

Most couples have joint accounts and it is a process to separate out the insurance, savings and a mortgage but it’s a good idea to split apart your checking accounts and income as soon as you know your marriage is ending.  One of the most important reasons for this is that you will be able to quickly determine your personal budget so you can start planning.  Have all other accounts frozen until decisions are made about how to best divide those assets.

Make Changes to Your Insurance

Contact your health and life insurance companies and update the beneficiaries on your account.  Contact your auto insurance agency and have them modify your policy so that you are only paying your own premium.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

If you’re really unhappy and need to leave a relationship, the material things (unless they have real significance) just won’t matter as much.  You will be willing to give up that memory foam mattress and the flat screen TV if it means that this whole process is going to be easier. If you get hung up on all the little details, you’ll lose sight of the big picture. This part of your life is about rebuilding – and that may include replacing your favorite towels. You will likely find that, in a year’s time, you will barely be able to remember the things that you once thought was so important.

Assemble Your Team

You will need legal representation if you plan to move forward with filing for a divorce. Take your time finding the right lawyer and choose one who has notable experience. If you feel like you (or your children) will need it, consider finding a therapist to help you through the issues and emotions you may experience as you accept the breakdown of your marriage.

Take Care of Yourself

The beginning of this process is going to be stressful.  Keeping that in mind, make a conscious effort to do things to take your mind off of everything once in a while. Join a gym. See movies.  Reconnect with friends (or find new ones!).  It might be tempting to just sit there staring at a wall in shock and disbelief but you got to this point for a reason.  Be kind to yourself (and your spouse) and focus on the life you want to have instead of the one you are leaving behind.

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