The day you dreaded is here: the divorce papers were served and your marriage is officially over. Here’s what to do next.
“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.” ~ Jennifer Weiner, Fly Away Home.
Ouch, that’s cold! And I think she’s wrong.
People do die of broken hearts – and a huge piece of you dies when you’re served divorced papers. It’s an unbelievable, confusing, shocking experience. Even if you’ve been separated for years, divorce papers are devastating.
If you’re struggling to cope with the divorce, read He’s History, You’re Not: Surviving Divorce After 40. You need to start thinking differently, and stop feeling like your life is over because the papers have been served.
5 Things to Do After the Divorce Papers Are Served
Accept that your marriage is over
Maybe you pretended the divorce wouldn’t actually happen when he moved out, when he started talking about custody and alimony and child support payments. You put off seeing a divorce lawyer because it made things too “final.” You kept hoping he’d change his mind or come to his senses, or that you’d wake up and it’d all be a bad dream. But now that the divorce papers have been served, you need to accept that your marriage is over.
Take someone’s advice
What have your mom, sister, best friend, brother, or therapist been telling you? Maybe they’ve been urging you to talk to a mediator, real estate agent, lawyer, or financial planner. Maybe they told you to see a counselor, or move to a different province or state. Maybe they think you should sue for full custody, or sell the house. What bit of advice have you been scared to take? What have you most dreaded doing? Now that the divorce papers have been served, maybe it’s time to take that step.
Look after your finances – protect yourself
Do you have enough money to support yourself and your children, now that the papers are served? Will divorce create financial hardship, or do you have enough to live on? Divorce is one of the primary causes of poverty among women and children in North American (and around the world, no doubt). If you don’t know how you’ll support yourself, you need to start taking care of your finances immediately.
To learn more about money after divorce, read Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security Benefits After We Divorce?
Expect to lose friends or family members
Divorce is hard on everyone, even friends and family members. Sometimes they take sides, and you’ll be crushed if they don’t side with you. It’ll be easier to cope with the loss if you expect to lose loved ones after – or even before – you’re served divorce papers. Divorce scares people, and creates allegiance that you’d never expect. It fires up feelings that are surprisingly strong, and can break relationships that you thought would last a lifetime.
Allow yourself to grieve your own way
“Divorce, perhaps the greatest loss a persona will ever experience besides the death of a loved one, has its own unique set of grief triggers,” writes Susan Pease Gadoua in Stronger Day by Day: Reflections for Healing and Rebuilding After Divorce. “This is primarily due to the fact that the person from whom you are parting does not go away completely.”
When your spouse told you he wanted a divorce, you were shocked, confused, and disbelieving. Now that the divorce papers are here, you’re faced with a fresh tidal wave of grief. The trick to healthy grieving is to allow yourself to mourn your divorce your own way (Crying? Writing? Screaming? Working? Traveling? Getting a new house? Seeing a counselor? Dating? Throwing yourself into motherhood?) . But, you can’t let yourself be swallowed up by grief.
Mourn, but challenge yourself to move forward in your life. What does this mean to you? Now that the divorce papers have been served, it’s time to start taking steps towards your own answers.