How to Calm Your Divorce Overwhelm in 6 Steps
I've been in the divorce industry for nearly two decades. I've worked as a lawyer, law firm owner, and now a legal tech entrepreneur who launched Hello Divorce, the first of its kind "divorce with benefits" online platform offering on-demand legal help and wellness support.
I love what I do. Some might call me a proponent of divorce. I'm not. But I do believe, as my friend and colleague Gabrielle Hartley wrote in her book: "Some people are better apart."
For those who have chosen to end their marriages, know that while a rough road lies ahead, it's not forever. With resources, access to information, quality (and affordable) legal help, a lot of self-love, and (for some), spiritual guidance, we can turn a break-up into a breakthrough: a happier, healthier version of ourselves and a thoughtful reorganization of family.
The definition of the word "relationship" has been phrased as the quality or condition of connection. After struggle and heartbreak, if that connection is not met with an equal exchange of energy and a solid foundation of give and take, the right choice is often a break-up.
But divorce is no easy feat. Not only is it emotionally challenging, but the divorce system itself is wrought with procedural and legal complexities that can feel so very overwhelming.
For years, I answered my clients' questions and worked to allay their fears about the divorce process. Calming divorce overwhelm is a big part of why I launched Hello Divorce. To help you push past the stress, gain control, and embrace joy again, I've selected a few of the most frequently asked questions I receive to answer here.
1. Where do I start?
Start with you.
As much as most of us would prefer to climb under a rock and hide until we emerge joyful and independent, it doesn't serve you to go it alone. Reach out to your support system, or build a new one. It could be as simple as joining a Facebook group for divorcing people or an online support group through a site like Meetup. Psychology Today also has a helpful searchable database for divorce support groups around the country.
Look around – really look – and you'll clearly see that people actually like giving. People like to be helpful, and in fact, research suggests that helping others increases happiness and overall well-being. So, if you are concerned that your friends or family won't know what to say or do, send them to this article, or remind them that "stoking the fire" doesn't do any good.
If you get stuck and don't know to whom or where to turn, flip the situation. Imagine yourself as a friend to someone else going through a divorce. What advice or love would you bestow on them?
2. But then what? How do I "do" divorce?
Once we hear or say the word divorce (and finally mean it this time), relief often follows. I'm talking about the relief of finally saying it – of finally making that decision, of no longer pretending to be that "happy" couple. The relief may be there for you, or it may not. Regardless, anxiety and overwhelm can still creep in.
- Take this process step by step. As much as we may want to speed things up, this process is a marathon, not a sprint. Rarely does anything happen overnight. In most states, even the most contentious divorces that go to court take weeks before the first hearing.
- Educate yourself about the divorce process and how it works in your state. This will help you manage your expectations about the process and raise your level of comfort with the process itself. Our plans start at only $99 and break down the complex process into three manageable steps. You can also print out our free divorce digital guide, packed full of checklists, worksheets and tips to help you succeed every step of the way.
- Consider your options. If your divorce is uncontested or mildly uncontested, you may choose to work through the paperwork on your own, without representation (or limited legal help, if needed). Mediators are a great option for couples who want to set the terms of their divorce without court intervention. And you already know that a lawyer could be hired to help you through the process. Just remember: interview them before you commit. Make sure you are comfortable with the person because you'll be opening every aspect of your life to them as you work through the process.
3. Will I have to go to court?
Here's my legal answer: it depends.
If you and your spouse have chosen to DIY your divorce or work with a mediator – and you can generally come to an agreement – you may be able to keep things out of court. However, if you can't come to an agreement or have an especially complex case involving children or multiple properties, you could find yourself in court.
If that happens, don't panic. Prepare. Check out my resource What To Expect in Divorce Court for tips on everything from parking to what to expect during your court appearance. And get tips here for how you (and those accompanying you) should dress for court.
Depending on your situation, going to court and appearing before a judge who is impartial and who will decide on your case or issue through the lens of the law rather than emotion could actually be a good thing.
4. How much will I have to pay in child support or spousal support?
The answer to this question also depends. It depends on your income, your ex's income, who has primary custody, and other factors as well. You can also learn whether bonus income would affect the support you pay and what your options are for long-term spousal support. I recommend reading our resource on talking to your spouse about child or spousal support.
5. Is there a divorce fast track? How can I speed things up?
If you're getting divorced in California and you've been married less than five years and meet eight other criteria, you may qualify for a summary dissolution, which is typically a much faster process than divorce. (Keep in mind that you'll still need to abide by the six-month waiting period after the date your petition for divorce is served.)
But the more realistic answer to the above question is maybe. The length of time it takes to finalize a divorce can vary depending on your circumstances. It can also largely depend on how quickly your ex moves on their pieces of the process. Uncontested divorces, where you and your spouse are able to agree on all the terms of your divorce outside of court, are almost always faster.
Still, there are things that you can do to expedite things on your end. Be informed, organized, and truthful to keep your side of the process moving. (See 10 Tips to Make Your Divorce Easier and Less Costly. )
6. When my divorce is final, then what?
Breathe. Celebrate. Reflect. Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to mark the end of this chapter and the beginning of the next.
Then, double-check your legal loose ends. Has your Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) been prepared and implemented? If not, take care of this to make sure you get your respective share of your retirement account down the road. Will you be changing your name? Update your auto and home insurance policies, driver's license, credit cards, and even your emergency contact info at work.
Review our full list of Post-Divorce To-Dos.
This is also the perfect time to reassess your finances. Once your divorce is final, you should know exactly where you stand financially. Meet with a financial professional to make sure you're on the right track to be where you want to be financially in the near future and over the long term.
This is a lot, I know. But the more you know about the divorce process, the less overwhelmed you'll feel.
If you take anything away from this article, let it be these three actions: stay informed, stay organized, and lean on your support network. You don't have to do this alone.
We're here for you when you need us at Hello Divorce, and you're likely to find that more people in your own life will also want to support you during this process. Let them. Because someday, they might just need you to do the same for them.