Need answers to the frequently asked questions about divorce? Looking for divorce advice for women?
Divorce attorneys, divorce settlement, child support, divorce proceedings, marital assets, child custody, financial documents, divorce mediation, and family law, can all be overwhelming for a woman going through a divorce. But, it doesn’t have to be and that is where divorce advice can help.
If you are a woman considering your own divorce from your husband, you may feel overwhelmed as to where you should even start. You may feel uncertain about your future or scared about how you will support yourself without the support of your spouse. Even things like health insurance can be overwhelming during a divorce. (But there are ways to save on car insurance for women.)
You may be worried about how your children may take the news. I’m a divorce lawyer, and I know from experience that this is all normal. However, with the right preparation and the right people helping you, you can help protect yourself as you embark on this enormous transition.
Before you begin the divorce process, here’s the best divorce advice for women.
The Truth About Getting Divorced
Here’s what to expect when going through a divorce.
A. You Need to Plan
First, you should know that divorce requires a lot of planning. Divorce financial advice will be important. You also have to think about timing, and what life will look like post-separation.
If you have children, you must consider how best to guide them through this massive change. If you’re moving out, you need to plan for that.
B. You Need to Prepare Emotionally
Second, you have to prepare yourself for the emotional fallout you will feel from a divorce. There will be days you are angry. On other days you will feel sad from the grief of the loss of your marriage.
- Some days you’ll feel like you have no energy. You’ll be distracted at work.
- You’ll ruminate a lot on what-ifs and wonder how things could have turned out differently.
- You’ll feel scared about the future, or maybe even in denial about what is coming next.
These feelings are all normal, and they will last for a while.
The better you are able to realize this, the more you will be able to give yourself grace as you experience them. And no matter how intense your emotions are please remember that you will not always feel this way.
C. Your Divorce Will Be Different
Finally, you should expect your divorce to be unique to you. It is a mistake to think that your divorce will be the same as your best friend’s divorce, or resemble the hundreds of divorce articles you read online. The divorce process and outcomes look very different for different people.
Divorce is state-specific, and oftentimes even region specific within a state. If you live in Virginia, your divorce will look nothing like a California or Hawaii divorce. And even if you live in the same place as someone else who got a divorce, chances are your situation is different.
Differences in finances, needs of children, health, and education of the people involved can lead to very different outcomes. So stop Googling and stop listening to your cousin’s friend. The best advice will come from experts who assess your personal situation.
Divorce Preparation Checklist
If you’re wondering what you can do now to prepare for your divorce, here is a divorce preparation checklist to get you started:
#1. Gather Documents
Before you move out or file for divorce, make sure you get all the important documents you need. This means that you should get your original birth certificate, social security card, passport, car title, and diplomas. You should also gather these documents for your children.
Grab all your personal financial account statements, including brokerage statements, insurance documents, loan statements, and bank statements. Take pictures of account statements belonging to your spouse, or write down the names of financial institutions where your spouse has accounts so that down the road your lawyer can make sure to get all the documentation relevant to the finances for your spouse.
#2. Know Your Numbers
Divorce is not just a physical separation, it’s also a financial separation. Create a list of your monthly expenses so you know how much money you need each month to make ends meet.
Check your credit report. Even if you think you know what your score is, I’ve had clients who have forgotten about a balance on a credit card or were surprised that they were on a loan that primarily benefited their spouse. Know what accounts you have personally and jointly. Make a list of where your money is being held, and what debts you have.
#3. Talk to the Experts
You should find a good therapist, a certified financial planner with divorce experience, and a lawyer, before you and your spouse separate. Think of them as your support group. Each expert plays a different role in guiding you through your divorce, but all are equally important.
A skilled therapist can teach you coping skills as you navigate the strong emotions that go with a divorce. A financial planner can educate you about what you need to be financially stable once you and your spouse have your own households.
A lawyer will guide you through the actual divorce, advising you on how a judge may view certain actions, filing appropriate documentation, and preparing you for court and/or mediation.
#4. Plan for the Future
Divorce should not be a spur-of-the-moment decision. Before you separate you need to have a plan for where you will live, what daily life will look like for your children, and how you will afford everything you and your children need.
A good lawyer can help you come up with the questions you should be asking when making your plan, and then from there, you can do your homework, which may involve looking for places to rent in your school district, or seeing if you can shift your work hours so that you can pick up the kids from school.
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How to Secretly Plan for Divorce
If you’re planning to leave an abusive or controlling spouse, in a domestic violence situation, or someone with an explosive temper, then you’ll probably want to do most of your planning for the divorce in secret.
Here are Some Tips for How to Secretly Plan:
#1. Gather Documents When You’re Alone
When it comes time for you to gather the documents you need, and take pictures of account statements, do this when your spouse is at work or out with friends. That way you can take your time and you don’t have to answer questions from your spouse about what you are doing.
#2. Make Sure Your Electronic Information is Secure
Once you start talking to experts, you may start receiving emails from your lawyer or financial planner. Make sure that your email isn’t accessible on a shared device or computer. Make sure that new emails don’t pop up on the lock screen of your phone.
Change your password in case your spouse knows it. Change the security questions in case your spouse tries to hack into your account (make up a new maiden name for your mother). Many email services and financial institutions offer two-factor authentication and that’s a great extra security measure.
If you have evidence, like pictures of bruises or screenshots that suggest your spouse is engaging in adultery, back up those photos somewhere other than your phone. You might even want to email or text those pictures to a trusted friend. As a lawyer, I have had so many cases where a spouse saw an email he should not have, or a spouse deleted crucial evidence that was saved to a shared iCloud account.
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#3. Consider How You Will Pay Your Experts
If you are going to a therapist, lawyer, or financial planner, then you might not want to pay for these services from a shared bank account or shared credit card that your spouse monitors. Use an account that is not visible to your spouse or pay in cash for consultations.
Who Suffers the Most in Divorce?
The people who suffer the most in divorce are those who do not get the emotional help they need to navigate the difficult emotions that divorce brings up. It is normal to go through different stages of grief, such as deep sadness and extreme anger. What is not normal is getting stuck on these emotions or becoming so wrapped up in certain thought patterns that you just cannot let them go.
These are the people who alienate friends and family by continuing to tell stories no one wants to hear about how horrible their spouse was. These people become embittered and their anger becomes their life’s purpose. They may try to punish the other side rather than cooperate with the divorce process. These people inevitably become frustrated that their feelings are not being sufficiently validated by the court system or others in their lives.
People who look to divorce court to have their wrongs righted or to have a judge punish the other side will inevitably be disappointed. All their ploys to delay or make the divorce nastier only serves to cost more in attorney’s fees and may alienate adult children and mutual friends who watch from the sidelines.
To avoid this unnecessary suffering during a divorce, you should find a good therapist. Find a therapist who does not simply sit there and reflect on your feelings, but actively works with you to move towards a concrete goal of moving past these feelings and being in a healthier spot. Research has also shown that mindfulness training and daily meditation practice can also be extremely effective at helping people let go of strong feelings like sadness and anger.
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The Best Divorce Advice for Women
How Do Women Protect Themselves in Divorce?
#1. Financial Literacy
If you’re not already financially literate, start becoming more familiar with your finances. Start by creating a monthly budget and compare that to the money that comes in each month. Know how much money you have in bank accounts, and in retirement. Know how much you owe in total on all of your various debts.
#2. Electronic Security
Make sure your electronic information is secure. Change your email password. Back up important photos in a place that your spouse cannot access.
#3. Separate Funds
Consider setting up your own bank account. If you are working, you might want to divert your paycheck to this account. If you have joint savings, you might want to set aside half of the savings in your own account so that your spouse does not take all of the money.
#4. Stay Off Social Media
Don’t post anything about the divorce or your spouse on social media. Apart from this being a turnoff for many people, these posts can be used against you later in court. And as much as possible, try not to compare yourself to others on social media. Remember, people only share the best versions of themselves on social media and often don’t post what’s really going on.
#5. Don’t Agree Without Consulting a Lawyer
Don’t agree to anything, whether it’s signing an agreement or just dividing up money, without seeking the advice of your lawyer. Often these decisions are irreversible later, so it’s better to wait and seek the advice of a trusted attorney than it is to agree to something you will later regret.
#6. Gain Independence
Become independent from your spouse. If your spouse always changed the oil on your car, then shop around until you find a mechanic you trust, and use the mechanic to service your car instead.
#7. Find a Lawyer You Trust
Most importantly, women need to find a lawyer they trust and they feel they can be open with to guide them through this process. All the planning in the world is not enough unless you have an expert in the field to make sure you’re getting the best possible outcome.
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Best Divorce Advice for Women Who are Mothers:
Don’t put your children in the middle between you and your spouse. Your children love both of you and divorce can be hard on children. Often children blame themselves for their parents’ problems. Therefore, it’s important to not make them feel like they have to choose sides.
Don’t ask your children who they want to live with. Don’t ask your children to report back to you about what they did with dad, or what’s going on at dad’s house. Don’t send messages to your ex through your children.
And most importantly, don’t confide in your children about your frustrations about your spouse or the reasons for the divorce. Children are not emotionally ready for processing adult concerns.
As much as possible, try to be on the same page with your ex about the kids. If you two can come up with a schedule without involving the children, that is ideal, because then children don’t feel like they have to choose who they want to live with. If you two can sit down together with the children and both tell them about the divorce, that can be reassuring to children.
For Your Kids Going Through Divorce
Keep as much consistency for your children as possible. If you can keep your kids in the same school, that is easier on kids since there will already be a lot of change in your their lives without also trying to navigate new teachers and new friends.
If you and your spouse have the same rules for the children at both houses, that can keep children from testing boundaries or being unclear about what is expected of them. And no matter how angry you and your spouse may be, it’s important to keep an open line of communication about the children.
However, for some of my clients, their spouses are so angry and hurt that they just cannot talk to them about the children. So if that’s what’s going on in your life right now, don’t think that you are failing your children.
Children are resilient, and if your spouse is not able to be civil right now, then you can make up for that by being the rock for your children. And who knows? In the future, when the hurt of the divorce is not so fresh, you may be able to co-parent much more effectively with your ex.
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Best Divorce Advice for Women Who are Stay-at-Home Moms:
For stay-at-home moms, divorce can feel like an especially vulnerable time. If your purpose has always been taking care of the children, having a judge divide parenting time between you and your ex can threaten your very identity. You may have not had time to develop interests and connections outside of the home if you’ve always cared for the children. And of course, separating brings lots of financial uncertainty.
About Returning to The Workforce
Some stay-at-home moms may want to reenter the workforce or they may be told by a judge that they need to reenter the workforce after a divorce. To say this can be daunting is an understatement. Staying home to take care of children is enormously rewarding for some people, but it also means missing out on crucial years of job experience and gaining connections. Skills moms had before their children were born may no longer be relevant. References may have retired or moved away.
While it may be possible to return to school, attending intense programs like medical or law school might not be possible while caring for children. Even those with professional degrees and certifications certainly need financial support while they begin to ramp back up their careers.
If my clients want to reenter the workforce, I encourage them to think about what they want to do and whether that path will lead to financial independence. This is preferable to just getting the first job they find that might not have room for advancement.
If You Decide To Stay Home
For some of my clients, going back to work is not an option. For stay-at-home moms who are getting older or have health problems, reentering the workforce is not realistic. For mothers of children with extraordinary needs, appointments and caregiving responsibilities get in the way of going to work.
For these women it’s even more important to make sure that they get sufficient spousal support to cover monthly costs, and that they get enough retirement money to be able to support themselves later in life.
Finally, you may want to discuss with your lawyer whether you can ask that your ex be required to keep you as the beneficiary for any life insurance policies so that you and your children will be financially secure should anything happen to your ex.
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The Benefits of Being Divorced
While the process of getting a divorce can be stressful and emotionally draining, I have seen many of my clients, especially women, come out on the other side happier and so glad that they took the leap.
Chances are that if you’re reading this article, then you’re living in a pretty unhappy marriage. Just being separated is often an immediate immense relief to my clients as they suddenly become free of the extreme tension and daily fights that they were having with their spouse.
Once you are separated, you will have time and space to pursue interests and friendships that you might have been able to do when you were with your spouse. It may take some time to develop new interests or get back into hobbies you had years ago, but the payoff will be rewarding. You will find that you are living your life more authentically without making compromises for your spouse.
Without the distractions that come from a toxic relationship, you will also find that you’re also able to be more present for what you value, like your children and your career.
Remember These Tips When Divorcing
Women divorce every day. And the simple best divorce advice for women is if you are considering divorce, then make sure that you are gathering the documentation you need now, that you’re planning for the future, and that you are consulting the right experts.
While divorce can be stressful and scary, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
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As a divorce lawyer, I have guided many women through a divorce, and I do what I do, not because divorce is easy, but because I have seen so many women come out on the other side happier and glad that they found the courage to leave a relationship that made them so unhappy.Considering getting divorced? Want to know how to protect yourself? Click here for the best divorce advice for women, from a divorce attorney. #Divorce #Marriage #Relationships #FamilyLaw #DivorceAdvice
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More About Guest Contributor
Nanda Davis is a Roanoke, Va.-based attorney who opened her own firm – Davis Law Practice – in 2014, specializing in divorce, custody, and child protective services matters. A mother of two boys, Davis graduated from the University of Virginia and attended George Mason School of Law, where she graduated magna cum laude.
Last Updated on July 31, 2023