I was reading Kathleen Miller’s book, “Fair Share Divorce for Women” and she makes a perfect analogy about divorce. “Going through the legal process of getting a divorce is like stepping on an escalator. The escalator doesn’t stop. Once you’re on, you are going to get off – whether under your own power or by being thrown off by the unrelenting process of the legal system. Ready or not, you will be divorced.”
Once the divorce process begins, you don’t have much time. You need to think about the rest of your life and realize it will NOT be the same. Assume that your standard of living is going to drop. The reality is that for the majority of women, it does. If your divorce is contentious and you are unsure of what your financial situation is going to look like, don’t let this stop you from moving forward. Always plan for the worst-case scenario. Assume that you are going to have minimal income and minimal assistance and go from there. Don’t feel the need to decide on your permanent landing place. It’s OK to plan a temporary situation for a year or more while you get your feet under you. In fact, this is probably the wisest course of action. No matter what you think your life is going to look like post-divorce, I can almost guarantee you that a year from now, it won’t be what you thought it would. Give yourself time to adjust before making long-term commitments to real estate or major upheavals in your life.
The most important area you need to get a grip on is your finances. If you don’t have a budget, now’s the time to make one! There are tons of free budget programs online available to you. If you are out of practice handling finances, GET ON IT!!! If you bury your head in the sand and let the escalator keep moving without being properly prepared and informed, you’re setting yourself up for a very difficult landing at the end of the ride. Work with a financial advisor to be sure that you understand what your settlement is likely to look like and what options you might have. An advisor that specializes in divorce by being a CDFA is your best bet to be sure you get the most help.
Be realistic. If you’ve been out of the workforce for awhile caring for children, you’re going to need some schooling to update your skills. Start meeting with advisors at your local community college or university to see what options might be available to you. Can you get loans? Do you have the funds to make it work? Do you have any extended family that may be willing to help you out? Now is the time to think outside the box. Check into local resources available to women in transition. You’ll be amazed what’s out there. In Phoenix, you MUST contact the Fresh Start Foundation for women! Tons of nearly free resources!
Keep on walking! The escalator is moving! Don’t get behind. If your attorney or advisor asks for documents, get them to them in a timely manner. Create a filing system to keep track of your documents. Make a formal To-Do list and stay on top of it. These steps will ensure that when the escalator reaches the end, you’ll step off confidently into your new life. Fail to be prepared and you’re far more likely to feel like you’re picking gravel out of your wounds from being dragged through the dirt. The power is yours and your future is in your hands.
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