When it comes to divorce, things are never easy. That having been said, there are things that you can do, or can avoid doing, to make the transition as, safe, easy and smooth as possible. When you are directly in the middle of a high stress and very emotional situation, it is very easy to forget things, do things irrationally or simply not know what to do. Especially if you have never been through a divorce. I have compiled this list to try and help you think of things that you might not have thought of otherwise. Please keep in mind that this list may not cover every eventuality and may not be relevant to every situation. Hopefully, however, it helps you on the path to a happier, healthier life.
Know Your Legal Rights
One of the areas where this is important is regarding your home:
If you are planning on staying in your current home make sure that all of your bases are covered. Make sure that you have legal right to do so and figure out what steps you need to take if your partner refuses to leave.
If you don’t plan on staying, make sure you have a plan for removing and storing any furniture or other items that you want to keep and that you can legally do so. You don’t want to be caught off guard with legal actions from your spouse when the time comes. The same can be said for your children. Make sure if you plan to retain custody of your children, that you have a plan to do so. Again, you don’t want to get caught off guard and do something that you are not legally allowed to do. This can quickly take a situation from bad to worse. There are resources that can help you make sure that you do things safely and legally. This will also ensure that you are one step ahead of your spouse and that you do not end up behind the 8 ball.
Tell close family or friends of your intentions
Make sure that the people you tell, are people that you can trust, and that you know will not go to your spouse with this information. This can help ensure that you have help quickly if needed and can help keep stories straight if there are discrepancies. They may also be able to help you think of things that need to be taken care of. You will already have a lot on your plate, and it’s possible to forget things that you normally wouldn’t. Keeping your friends and family informed will also give you a better sense of comfort, support and safety.
Have an exit strategy
In the event that the news isn’t taken well, it is best to have another place that you can go immediately. Whether it be with family, friends, your new residence or a shelter, you need a safe place that you can go quickly if needed. You can also request something called a civil stand by from a police officer. This would be best in the case of a very abusive or volatile relationship. It is also smart to keep this part of your plan secret in case your spouse is a danger to you or your children’s safety. You may also just choose to leave quietly with just a note or message to your spouse. But know ahead of time which way you will do it.
Have a good support system set up
Making a change like this is incredibly stressful. Especially in cases of abusive or contentious relationships. This support system can include friends, family members, and therapists. Another hugely important support to have in place would be legal counsel. If at all possible, retain an attorney. Although it may not always be feasible to do this, if you can, it will eliminate a lot of stress. This will help ensure that you do things legally as stated above, and they can help you have legal protections in place in case your spouse decides to fight you on anything including retention of the home or custody of the child, and if any threats to your safety are made. There are attorneys that work pro-bono or on a sliding scale based on income, but they can be difficult to find, so plan ahead and start looking early on. That having been said, do a lot of research on any potential attorney’s record and history. Getting a bad attorney can make things far worse than having no counsel at all and can quickly drain you of any financial resources that you may have
Start quietly saving some money if possible
If you have a job it is incredibly important to have some money stored away because it is likely that you will have a lot of new expenses arise, including down payments for a home or apartment and a retainer for an attorney. You will also need to make sure, if you are able to get an apartment, that you will be able to afford essentials like food, furniture, cleaning and hygiene supplies. Try and open a secret bank account or have a safe spot to store cash. If you are worried about your mail being seen by your spouse, get a P.O. Box or have the mail sent to a friend’s house or your new residence. If you have a very low income, it is also a good idea to know about any local food banks in the area where you will be moving. Also make sure that you know the process to get help with food stamps or low-income housing so that you can get those things in place quickly. In certain circumstances, they can help you begin those processes before you actually leave your spouse
Don’t jump the gun or do anything rash
This is something that needs to be well-thought-out and done logically. You don’t want to make this kind of a move in the middle of a highly emotional moment. When you make decisions emotionally instead of logically, you can tend to forget important things, and in doing so may make the situation worse. You don’t want to dig yourself into a deep hole that you need to crawl out of. That just adds to your already high level of stress
Every situation is different. Not all of these suggestions will apply to every situation and also may not cover every eventuality. Hopefully, however, these steps will give you a good, safe start on the road to freedom