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Blindsided by Divorce? Steps to Take Now

It may have began like any other day, until your world as you thought you knew it is shaken to its very core. Your spouse wants a divorce. He’s unhappy and wants out, and he decides to deliver this news to you as you’re heading out to take the kids to school. She had an affair and informs you via text on your way to a meeting. You didn’t see it coming. You thought everything was fine, right? You may have just chosen not to really see it, whatever it was. You could be feeling total shock, venomous outrage, complete devastation or all of those feelings within a 5-minute period. You may also feel relieved in a way. If you really let yourself think about it, you probably knew something was wrong.

Even though you may be falling to pieces (while the rest of the world seemingly goes about its business), there are actions we encourage you to take so that you can gain control over the situation when your spouse tells you he or she wants a divorce. Please don’t think these steps don’t apply to you, because your spouse feels “so guilty” and wouldn’t do anything else to you. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. It happens more than you would think, especially if there is a new love interest involved. Protect yourself, and remember that knowledge is power. Here’s how to start when your spouse tells you he or she wants a divorce:

  1. Call upon your support network – Who are the one or two trusted friends who will really be there for you when things are tough? The girlfriend who will not only show up with wine and Haagen Dazs at any hour of the night but will drag your butt to yoga class, watch your kids and help you march through the tasks ahead. The buddy who gets you out to watch a game or play a round of golf and listens to you vent, but who will make sure you tackle the action items on your to-do list and approaches your situation with a balanced approach. Keep in mind that the person who just bashes your ex won’t be most helpful here, as good as it may feel to do at points!
  2. Open a checking account – Open a checking account immediately with your name only. If you are working, immediately have your paychecks deposited into the new account. Transfer some funds from your current checking to the new one. Be sure to leave enough to cover any automatic payments and money for your spouse as well. Remember, your spouse could withdraw every penny right now from any joint accounts if he or she wanted to! You need to make sure you have some money to live, but don’t withdraw more than a reasonable sum or it could come back to haunt you.
  3. Gather important documents – You’ll want to have all key documents in a safe place. This includes statements for credit cards, bank and investment accounts, passports (especially for your kids), marriage certificates, birth certificates, social security statements, etc. You may want to store some electronically, such as a USB drive or on a service such as Drop Box. A Safe Deposit Box would be a good option for passports.
  4. Talk with a therapist – If you already have a therapist, call him or her now! Otherwise, now is a great time to start seeing one. A therapist can help you manage the intense emotions you are feeling so you can function through the process a little more clearly.
  5. Consult a lawyer – An initial consultation with a lawyer will give you guidance on your next steps and show you what to expect based on the laws of your state in terms of temporary orders you may need, child custody and a financial settlement.
  6. Tell your kids – You’ll need to tell your kids about the divorce. Hopefully both parents can deliver this message together. Ideally, both parents will stay in the same house for a week or two after telling the kids to help make they feel more secure, however this isn’t always possible.
  7. Take precautions for your kids – Tell your children’s teachers and principal. Schools often have support groups for children of divorce, and the school counselor can make special efforts to reach out. The principal can help you with guarding against any issues of potential kidnapping from the other spouse. Unfortunately, this does happen, so it is better to be safe than sorry.

This is an incredibly difficult time for anyone, and we know the last thing you want to think about is running to the bank and opening a new checking account. However, it’s so important to protect your money, legal rights and children in the midst of all of these big changes. Sign up now for your Untangle The Knot subscription to gain instant access to the complete In Case of Emergency Guide for much more information on what actions you should take now and how to complete them. Untangle The Knot offers many more resources to help you through this, including guides to finding a therapist and lawyer, scripts for how to tell the kids about divorce. With your free trial, you’ll also have access to a free consultation with our divorce coach to get you on the right path and help with going through a divorce. You are not alone. Let us help you through your journey.


5 Types of Unhappy Marriages – Which One is You?

If you are living in an unhappy marriage, you are not alone. Millions of people are right there with you. Everything may look picture perfect on the outside, but the story is very different behind closed doors. It could be only one of you who wants out, or it may be both of you. Nobody is moving forward for any number of reasons, but most probably come down to fear. It could be fear of the effect of divorce on the children, hurting your spouse, what your parents will think, what your friends will think, money, your sense of security, your feelings of responsibility, your identity, and the list goes on. It’s completely understandable, although I’d challenge you to question how much weight you want to give the opinions of others in your quest for your personal happiness and fulfillment.

The last chapters of an unhappy marriage can look many different ways, but the descriptions below covers most. Does one of them describe you?

  1. Living in Limbo – You’re unhappy and have been for a long time, for months or even years. Something is keeping you stuck. Maybe you are waiting for an event to making leaving okay, to keep you from being the bad guy. This is a time to dig deep and do some self-exploration to figure out what is preventing you from making the decision.
  2. Living in Mutual Misery – You’re both openly unhappy. There is little to no emotional or physical intimacy. You may fight often and the “D” word is thrown around. You may not fight much at all anymore because you just don’t care. It’s an unhappy and non-functioning relationship, but it’s so hard to know when to divorce. If you are staying together for the kids, chances are good that you are doing more harm than good by staying together in this situation.
  3. You are Blindsided – You thought everything was fine. Then, BAM! Your world was shattered. He is unhappy and wants out. She had an affair. Something happened that just shook your world to its core. Now you are trying to figure out what to do next.
  4. It Wasn’t Your Decision – You may have openly discussed problems with your spouse, or maybe just knew something was wrong. Regardless, yesterday you were married and today you are starting on the path to divorce. You could be shocked, hurt and angry that you didn’t say it first as to not be the one who was left, or you could even be feeling a bit of relief.
  5. You Decided – You’ve made the decision to divorce. You may or may not have broken the news to your spouse yet. You want to cause as little pain as possible for everyone and have an amicable parting. Doing this the best way possible for the kids is of the utmost importance.

Untangle The Knot does not advocate for divorce. We have a sincere desire for people to choose a happy and fulfilling life, inside or outside of their marriage. We believe people are best served by trying to improve their marriages before opting for divorce. However, sometimes divorce is the right choice. Check out our new Contemplating Divorce section on Untangle The Knot. This is completely free content to guide you through some things to think about while making this incredibly difficult decision. If one of the previous categories described you, sign up for access to Untangle The Knot to receive information on specific steps you can take to move forward and get unstuck. Just one single step forward may open the door to the life you want to life.

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6 Tips to Start Preparing For Divorce

January is known as Divorce Month because more divorces are filed in this month than any other time in the year. If you think you may be going through divorce this year, you are likely overwhelmed and confused, not to mention emotionally distraught. It’s just not as simple as Hollywood makes it sound, where high-powered couples “consciously uncouple” left and right. It can be so hard to know what to do to prepare for divorce, but we have six tips to get you started:

  1. Make the Decision – It’s easy to stay in an unhappy marriage for months and even years. This makes complete sense because the idea of divorce is difficult emotionally, financially and logistically. But these aren’t reasons to stay in a bad marriage. Sometimes an event happens that makes the decision for you, but more often there is nothing specific guiding you in when to divorce, which is why people stay in limbo so long. Determine what you need to make the decision–therapy, understanding your finances, etc.–and begin taking the steps to get there.
  2. Put Your Children First – You need to consciously decide early on that you will put the best interests of your children first. This should be the lens through which your decisions are made. The effect of divorce on children can potentially be negative, but experts agree that it can be largely avoided through shielding your children from arguing, age-appropriate open communication and using an authoritative parenting style, to name a few. If you both commit to putting your children first, they will get through this transition more easily and the potential for long-term negative impacts will be lessened.
  3. Consult with a Lawyer – Untangle The Knot recommends this for everyone. Divorce laws vary by state and can be filled with nuances that can impact your particular situation. A lawyer will help you understand how the state laws impact your finances, support payments and parenting items. A lawyer will also help guide you on how to start a divorce, the process and alert you to potential issues. You don’t need to use a lawyer through the divorce process, but understanding your divorce from a legal point of view up front is very important!
  4. Know Your Numbers – You need to get a grip on your financial situation. It is critically important when you are considering divorce. You’ll need to know your current finances and how much money you’ll have on a monthly basis after divorce. Granted, spousal and child maintenance won’t be known yet, but it’s important to have a solid idea of where you stand without that.
  5. Start Planning – Begin thinking about other big decisions you’ll need to make. Based upon your post-divorce financial picture, will you or your spouse need to start working? How will this affect child care? Will one of you stay in the house? You will need to answer a myriad of questions, which can be absolutely overwhelming. We recommend that you look at your post-divorce financial situation first and determine what changes need to occur based upon that.
  6. Develop Your Support Network – You will need people you can count on through this journey. This could include close friends, family, a therapist, a support group, spiritual or religious leaders or organizations. Not everyone may understand or agree with your divorce, which may show you that people you thought would be in your corner are actually not. That will happen. Cross them off the support list and only include those who really have your best interests at heart.

As you start to gain more clarity around one item, you’ll be able to move to the next and knock that out as well. Little by little, your picture will become clear and you’ll know what you need to do. Sign up now for instant access to additional information about these topics and much more. We have 100+ pages of helpful information to guide you through making the decision to divorce or actually going through a divorce. This can be a lot to process. Take a breath and just go one step at a time. You aren’t alone. Let us guide you through your divorce journey.

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New Year, New You: 5 Wellness Tips for Coping with Divorce

As you welcome the new year, it’s also a time to reflect upon the past year. If you’re on this site, most likely a lot of your thoughts center on the state of your relationship–the good, the bad, the ugly. You could be thinking about when to divorce or going through it, but now it’s time to look toward the future. Your New Year’s resolutions and goals may involve some very hefty, life-changing decisions. The term “New Year, New You” brings on an entirely different meaning; life as you know it may be evolving into something brand new. But while you’re dealing with all this “stuff”, don’t forget to remember the most important thing: taking care of yourself.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, maybe eating an occasional vegetable or two and moving your body, you are making it that much more difficult to tackle the big decisions in your future. It is so easy for your physical health to decline when the stress level increases, but this is a time of building strength–inner strength and physical strength. As you think about your resolutions and goals for 2015, be sure to include some that will help you stay on track physically to help you in coping with divorce. Here are five ideas:

  1. Sign up for an exercise class–this is a great way to get motivated about exercise in a group setting.
  2. If you’re already working out regularly, challenge yourself. Sign up for an adventure race, 5K, 10K, half-marathon or more.
  3. Cut back on fast food. It’s expensive and adds inches to your waistline.
  4. Get technical. Invest in one of the many fitness trackers available. Many will track your steps, sleeping habits and heart rate–all of these will help you stay motivated and on top of your fitness goals.
  5. Drink up. Water, that is. Try to get eight glasses of water a day. Keep a water bottle with you at all times.

Take a moment to get inspired by these ideas, and brainstorm additional ways you can truly take care of yourself physically during a time when you need to be your strongest. Many more tips and additional helpful information about the importance of physical health during this pivotal time in your life is available with your Untangle The Knot subscription — learn more!

Gretchen Ferraro, UTK Editor and Wellness Expert