3 Things I Would Have Done Differently If I'd Seen My Divorce Coming

I was a stay-at-home mom for six years before my sudden separation left me scrambling to pick up the pieces with a 5- and 1-year-old. I felt like I had been thrown into the middle of the ocean, desperately trying to keep afloat while telling my children that everything was going to be OK. But nothing was OK — I had no plan, and I was drowning.

So there I was with two little children, zero income, and a support system that would sadly also deteriorate, revealing other harsh truths that would add insult to injury.

As much as I wanted to go back in time and pinpoint exactly where my marriage fell apart, the truth was that we were far beyond that. The only thing left to do was swim forward and hope that all of us would survive… and be better for it in the future.

The hardest part was that my ex-husband and I had very different ideas for how to handle this catastrophe, which only complicated things further. As a result, the next few years (yes, years) would be literal hell as I navigated a process that I was not even close to being prepared for.

In the end, I did survive what were almost certainly some of the worst moments of my life. So, whenever I get asked for divorce advice, I always share three vital tips. And because I’m no attorney or therapist, I checked in with certified divorce and mindset coach Jennifer Perri for a deeper dive into what to do when you think you may be headed for divorce.

1. Create a safe and smart exit plan.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but when the sh*t hits the fan, you will need a plan to keep you and your children safe.

Have a safe place to go in the event that you have to leave your home.

The place you choose should be somewhere that you can safely go at a moment’s notice. “Your safety and the safety of your children need to be a top priority, especially when navigating divorce. A rollercoaster of emotions will be at play, and you need to ensure that any immediate threats are addressed,” says Perri, who also advises keeping emergency numbers on hand.

Build a strong support system with people who truly care about your family‘s well-being.

Because divorce almost always brings out the ugly side in people, avoid relying solely on friends and family. If financially possible, make sure that your support network includes babysitters and mental health professionals. You’ll need lots of time-outs from the stress that comes with divorce, and so will the kids, so having trusted people to turn to who can support your family’s needs is crucial.

Get your finances in order.

“When it comes to your family’s financial picture, it’s important to gather as much information as possible. Try to put your hands on statements, bank logins, tax returns, and anything else that touches your financial life,” says Perri. When it comes time to divvying up assets and calculating support, having a clear picture of the finances is imperative. If you don’t currently earn an income, it’s also a smart idea to start working on becoming financially independent and building savings to support yourself and your children during and after the divorce process.

2. An attorney isn’t always your only option.

Research mediation services.

If you think there’s a chance that you and your ex can work things out amicably, try going the mediation route instead of rushing to hire an attorney whose fees can quickly deplete your financial reserves. Mediators help both parties discuss the issues and come to a resolution out of court. “If the divorce involves significant assets, children, or potential conflict, investing in a reputable attorney specializing in divorce and family law is advisable,” says Perri.

3. Refocus and rebuild.

Try to find time to rediscover yourself.

Divorce can turn your entire life upside down and leave you feeling completely lost. So, don’t forget to invest in yourself and your children’s dreams. Doing so could be as simple (yet powerful) as making a vision board that speaks to your goals and desires and helps keep you motivated to reach them, or taking walks in nature where you can drown out the noise and focus on your feelings.

Find a pro to help you refocus and rebuild.

If possible, reach out to a coach specializing in transformation and empowerment to help you turn a difficult situation into an opportunity to find your inner strengths, talents, and desires.

“Embrace this challenging time as an opportunity for personal growth and reinvention. What does it look like when you envision your life living as your ‘best self’? Who are you in your most fulfilled, happiest state? Holding onto this vision and using it as your north star can help you focus forward on the next chapter. This is a chance to redefine your life on your own terms. And remember, your current situation isn’t your final destination — the best is yet to come,” says Perri.

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