By Erin Levine
It’s over. Officially. But, now what?
As a divorce lawyer for the last 12+ years, I can tell you that – as crazy as it sounds – sometimes one of the most difficult parts of divorce is the end. After enduring so many months of negotiation, paperwork, deadlines, heartache and perhaps even frustration or anger; when the divorce judgment is finally granted, it can feel all at once like an incredible burden lifted – but also like a thick cloud of fog settling in. So, now what? Where do you go from here?
One of the most popular resources on my website, HelloDivorce.com, is a pre-leaving checklist. It’s a comprehensive list of to-dos and documents to get in order that helps someone planning to begin the divorce process do so thoughtfully and strategically, at an emotionally difficult time. But I realized that it could be just as useful to offer a post-separation checklist that could help those at the end of the divorce process put their best foot forward as they start their next chapter.
Checklist For Your New Beginning
- Make sure the legal stuff is squared away
- Reassess your finances
- Do something for you
- Update your records
- Review (or finalize) your co-parenting plan
- Prep a stash of feel-good quotes
- Bookmark this
- Divorce Party
So, what now? Well in short, you’ve got a little more ‘house cleaning’ stuff to take care of, and then it’s time to take a seriously huge breath and pause — you did it (!)
1. Make sure the legal stuff is squared away
After your judgment is finalized, if there are orders to divide or equalize retirement accounts then you have another step. Ensure that your Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is prepared and implemented. Most people incorrectly believe that when the Judgment is signed by the judge they are done. While the divorce is final, there is one more step that (usually) needs to be taken to ensure each party receives their respective share of retirement accounts. If you don’t handle this now, you will have to address sometime in the future if you want to receive pension income or take 401k or IRA withdrawals!
2. Reassess your finances
My colleague, Jennifer Taylor, a CPA and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, makes a point to remind clients that during a divorce, cash, assets and records that have been around for years sometimes start magically disappearing out of fear and panic of the property division process. Now that you’re at the close of your divorce, you should know exactly where you stand with your ex financially, so it’s a good time to reassess your finances and plan your budget for at least the next year. Jennifer shares more tips in her 10-Step Quick Guide for Tackling Divorce Financial Issues on HelloDivorce.com, including a helpful template you can download and use to compare your pre- and post-divorce expenses.
3. Do something for you
I cannot stress the importance of self-care during and after divorce enough. My clients who make time for themselves – at least one hour a week – tell me they feel more at peace, more grounded, and experience more clarity throughout the divorce process. Checking out from the demands of your day-to-day life to do something just for you will help you mentally and physically. Not sure where to start? My friend Annie Wright, of Annie Wright Psychotherapy, compiled a list of 101 Self-Care ideas. And if you can’t find a good idea there, you might try working through this self-care worksheet that she and I created, which will help you commit to a time and activity. (Because, let’s face it: too often, if it doesn’t get scheduled, it won’t get done.)
4. Update your records
Will you be changing your name post-divorce? (See our guide to restoring your maiden name for help.) If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to update auto, home and insurance policies to remove your ex’s name or update your own. Same for your will, medical insurance, credit cards, driver’s license, and emergency contact info at work.
5. Review (or finalize) your co-parenting plan
If you and your ex have kids, it’s important to set out on the right foot from the beginning when it comes to implementing your co-parenting plan. This blog post I wrote has tips on how to plan, communicate and co-parent your child(ren) by age. Or check out these five co-parenting hacks.
6. Prep a stash of feel-good quotes
Some days you’ll need them more than others, but having a go-to list of inspiring, affirming quotes will help refocus you on the positive when you need a pick-me-up. Here are a few of my favorite uplifting quotes to help you get started.
7. Bookmark this
Our team at Hello Divorce has compiled a terrific list of resources for life after separation. From co-parenting resources to advice on dating after divorce to travel with kids as a single parent to redecorating, this list will quickly become your new go-to.
8. Divorce Party
We recently came across an article about the divorce journey and how in our society we don’t pull together to support those people we love and celebrated when they married. Time to change that feeling of ‘aloneness’ and pull in the people who you most love and cherish. Maybe you want to go hog wild and stay out until your kiddos wake up. Or, maybe it just means that you spend an evening out with friends that inspire or make you laugh. Either way, you’ve been through a lot and deserve an evening celebrating the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new (better) version of yourself.
More than any tip on my post-separation checklist, I want you to remember: you got this. Take things day by day, and every day will get easier. And every day, you’ll grow a little bit more into a new, even more amazing version of you. I promise.
About the Author
Erin Levine is a Certified Family Law Specialist and the owner and managing attorney of Levine Family Law Group, based in Oakland, CA. She is the founder and CEO of Hello Divorce, a platform that helps users divorce on their terms, offering curated articles and resources, DIY videos, instructional form templates, flat-fee legal services and mediation. Learn more or register for a free Hello Divorce starter membership at www.HelloDivorce.com. For advice, inspiration and tips to help you navigate your divorce, follow Erin on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.