On the other side of divorce, some might say, is when the real work starts. You’re at a fresh starting point, one that allows you to define much of what happens next in your life.
It’s not uncommon for people to flounder under this newfound freedom, uncertain how to approach their new circumstances and unclear about what they want from life moving forward. By allowing yourself time to adjust, while caring for your needs in the meanwhile, your life after divorce can be happy and fruitful.
1. Make no rules about what’s next.
Let’s be real — you won’t turn into a whole new person the moment the ink dries on your divorce decree. However, your life started changing ever since you separated from your spouse. It’s normal to have new ambitions and hopes and to be nervous.
With your divorce case over, take time to settle into the “new normal” and explore your options about what’s next for your living situation, love life and more. Obviously, you had hopes of a lifelong love when you got married, and things didn’t turn out how you expected. Now you have a responsibility and an opportunity to reimagine your life’s path.
As you allow yourself time to figure out what’s next, remember that there are no rules. OK, it’s probably not a realistic plan to ditch all your responsibilities and live in a Tuscan villa, but you also aren’t required to follow any kind of societal template. Despite other people’s expectations of you or even what you expect of yourself, there’s no “wrong” way to be after a divorce.
Remarriage is a possibility, and it’s increasingly common in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, this trend may be linked to increased life expectancy. As people live longer, some have more time and desire to find a new mate.
Among all adults who are presently married, 23% have been married before…
…marking a dramatic increase from 1960, when only 13% of married adults had previously been married…
…and from 1980, when 17% had been.
Perhaps you’ll decide to stay single, and if so, you can throw out all those outdated notions about unmarried life being isolated and unhappy. According to Psychology Today, new research shows single people become happier with their lives as time goes on, and tend to be less lonely in their everyday lives than those with a spouse.
2. Find the right help to move forward.
While you don’t need to make rules for yourself, some direction can help you understand what you want for your life now that your marriage has ended. If you’re not already engaged in therapy, the post-divorce period offers the perfect time to get help to process your emotions.
Even for those who cope well, divorce introduces some strong feelings of anger, sadness, shame and grief. Talk therapy provides a neutral and supportive environment for you to process feelings that may be difficult to share with family members or even friends.
Therapy can help you with several emotional aspects of life after divorce:
Grieving the relationship: Saying goodbye to your marriage is an important step in moving on, regardless of how much you wanted the divorce or how happy you are to be out of the relationship. Therapy can help you uncover deep-seated emotions and let go of resentments.
Coping with new alone time: Suddenly having more time to yourself can feel disconcerting and lonely, especially if your children now spend days at a time with your ex-spouse. In therapy, you can explore new ways to frame your alone time and practice relaxation techniques to help keep worries in check.
Understanding how to help your children: You don’t get a guidebook for how to care for children during divorce and its aftermath, and even experienced parents can feel helpless in such a sensitive situation. Kids dealing with their parents’ divorce definitely benefit from therapy, while you as their parent can engage in joint or solo sessions to learn the best ways to facilitate their healing.
Many employer-sponsored medical insurance plans cover mental health services. Some offer an Employee Assistance Plan that provides you a certain number of no- or low-cost counseling sessions, a benefit that could be perfect to access during this time.
3. Make peace with your new financial life.
Regardless of who managed the finances in your marriage, divorce changes the way you balance your books. Your bills are now your sole responsibility, and you may be looking for a new place to live or a different car to drive.
According to your divorce decree, you could be paying or receiving spousal support or child support. These extra streams of expense or income need to be managed, to avoid sending late payments or to ensure you’re getting paid timely what is due to you.
People getting divorced also face the task of separating financially from their ex-spouse. The longer you allow these old ties to linger, the greater your chances for suffering financial confusion or, worse, victimization.
Especially if your ex-spouse committed dissipation during divorce proceedings, and misappropriated funds, you must pay close attention to severing your personal finances from them.
Financial accounts and documents that need updating after divorce include:
- Mortgage and vehicle loans
- Checking and savings accounts
- Credit cards
- Estate planning documents including wills and powers of attorney
- Retirement accounts
- Investment accounts
- Life insurance beneficiaries
After a divorce is also a critical time to check in with your credit, and continue to monitor it. To an extent, your personal financial rating will determine the lifestyle you’ll be able to support moving forward, including what type of apartment you can rent, the house you can buy and car you can lease.
If your spouse took actions that damaged your credit, or circumstances caused you to make decisions that negatively affected it, you may need time to rebuild. Ignoring the financial pains and changes of divorce keeps you from moving on.
On the other hand, your financial situation may have improved during the divorce. Resist the urge to see this shift as a windfall; it’s a legal settlement to be handled with care. As your life after divorce continues to evolve, you may need to rely on that extra income in the future.
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This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.