1. Don't freak out
It might be tempting to overreact if your spouse tells you they want a divorce. Maybe you'll feel like crying, yelling, or even breaking things. But try to stay calm, at least on the surface. Losing your cool won't do anyone any good and will only make an already difficult situation more challenging. Most importantly - if a confrontation is getting ugly, leave. Its better to leave and spend a night away than to be arrested for an accusation of domestic violence.
2. Do take some time for yourself
Even if you don't want a divorce, it's important to respect your spouse's wishes and give them some space. This is likely a difficult time for them as well, so try not to take it personally. If possible, take some time for yourself—go for a walk, talk to a friend, or just spend some time alone with your thoughts. You might need some time to process what's happening and that's OK. Just make sure not to make any rash decisions during this time.
3. Do get organized
One of the first things you'll need to do if you're getting divorced is get organized—literally. Gather up all important documents like tax returns, bank statements, wills, and property ownership papers and put them in one place. This will be helpful later on down the line when you start working out the details of the divorce settlement.
4. Do take care of yourself—mentally and physically
Undergoing a divorce can be stressful, both mentally and physically. So it's important to take care of yourself during this time. Make sure to eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. If you're having difficulty coping with the stress of the situation, don't hesitate to reach out to a therapist or counselor—they can help you get through this tough time.
5. Do reach out to friends and family members
It can be difficult going through a divorce without any support, but fortunately, there are people who love you and want to help. Reach out to close friends or family members who can offer an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on—you might be surprised at how helpful they can be during this tough time in your life. BUT, they may give you legal advice. Remember, the legal advice you listen to should come from your lawyer, who went to law school, not your cousin who got divorced 10 years ago in another state.
6. Do remember that this isn't the end
Even though it might feel like it right now, getting divorced doesn't mean that your life is over. Yes, things will be different from how they were before, but that doesn't mean that they can't still be good—or even great! It might take some time to adjust to your new life, but eventually things will fall into place and you'll be able find happiness again.
7. Do start researching and consulting with lawyers.
You will need a lawyer in your corner to help you make sure you are making the right decisions for you about the terms of your divorce. You will need to explore how much you will need to retain the lawyer, what information they will need and what to do next.
8. Don’t start discussing the details, such as parenting and dividing stuff, until you are able to do so without fighting
A discussion that is full of emotion will never go well. All it will do is make you angrier, sadder or unwilling to compromise later. Once you have had a space to breathe and adjust, consider discussing the terms with your soon-to-be-ex one at a time. For example, you could discuss the bank accounts and who is getting what. Or you could discuss cars and car insurance. Its OK to take several tries at it, and to not be able to get through everything in one or two discussions.
While no one ever wants their marriage to end in divorce, sometimes it's inevitable. If you find yourself in this situation, try not to freak out and remember that it isn't the end of the world—even though it might feel like it right now. Take some time for yourself, get organized, and reach out to friends and family members for support. Most importantly: take care of yourself both mentally and physically during this difficult time in your life. If you can keep working with your soon-to-be-ex, or have reached agreements, I would love to help you through an uncontested divorce. If your spouse has already handed you paperwork drafted by an attorney, I can also help you review the terms. Call or reach out to my office to schedule a time with me.