#1 – Keep your important papers where you can reach them.Even though your divorce is final, it is very important that you keep all of the paperwork around your divorce close by. To that end, it is essential that you create a filing system that will work for you to manage that paperwork. Keep your final divorce agreement, a name change document and any other documents that you have related to your divorce in a place where they won’t get lost and where you can get to them easily. Your divorce might be final but there are plenty of times over the next few years that you might need that paperwork. You might need them if you are applying for a mortgage or filing your taxes or changing your credit card account information. And if you don’t have the info close by you could be in trouble. I have been divorced for 6 years but still find that I need my paperwork. This Christmas I bought my airplane tickets through Expedia and, by mistake, the tickets were purchased in my married name. I discovered this the night before we travelled and, in order to change the name on the ticket, I had to provide the official name change documentation. Thank goodness I had it in my file drawer so that I could send it to the airline. It still took me 5 hours on hold with the airlines to get the name changed but get it changed I did!!!! So keep all of the paperwork related to your divorce in one place, a place you won’t forget and have easy access to.
#2 – Get a thorough understanding of your finances.Every divorce leads to some sort of financial upheaval and making sure you have a clear understanding of what your finances look like is key part of how to organize your life after divorce. So, first off, review all financial documentation that you have – bank accounts, mortgage accounts, credit card accounts, brokerage accounts, trusts, IRAs, etc. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of your assets, both liquid and fixed. Next, pull together an accounting of your expenses – your mortgage, your car payments, your tuition payments, your grocery expenses, your kids’ after school costs, etc. Whatever it is that you spend money on. Once you have all of your assets and expenses pulled together then it’s time to make a financial plan for your future. How much money you can spend monthly, what you can put away for savings, what things might need to get adjusted to fit the new financial situation? If your financial documents are all Greek to you, as they were to me, then spend the money and hire a good financial manager who can help you figure out what your money situation is. A thorough understanding of your financial picture will set you up for future success.
#3 – Identify what kind of help you are going to need.When I got divorced one of the biggest losses for me was that I no longer had someone living with me who knew how to work power tools, trouble shoot computers and manage our taxes. For 20 years I had relied on my husband to fix things around the house, to deal with the computer (and other technology) when things went awry and to manage the taxes each year. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons that I didn’t want a divorce was because I didn’t want to deal with doing those things. Suddenly I was alone and I had to figure out how to deal with things that I had no idea how to manage. So what did I do? I learned how to use some tools on my own – basic tools so that I could do simple things around the house. But. more importantly, I found a handyman who I could rely on to come help me if I needed help. Someone who could do all the little things that my husband used to do that I couldn’t do on my own. As for technology, I learned that you could Google almost anything and find a You Tube video that would explain how to fix things. I also found a guy in town willing to help me if I couldn’t figure it out on my own. And finally, for what worried me most, taxes, I hired a tax guy. Every year, in January, he sends me a worksheet of things that I need to pull together so that he can do my taxes for me in April. I gather everything together and send them to him and he does my taxes for me. It costs me some money but it is totally worth it for my piece of mind, knowing that my taxes are done and done properly. So take an inventory of what you will need to do around your house and figure out what you can do to get those things done. You can either set out to learn how to do them yourself or hire someone to do them for you. Either way, make a plan so you aren’t caught off guard by a broken pipe or a disabled modem.
#4 – Make a calendar.If you have kids, making a calendar is an essential part of how to organize your life after divorce. Many divorces result in some sort of shared custody agreement. And with that kind of agreement there are nights, weekends and holidays to work around. Many people don’t want to take a good look at calendars because the prospect of sharing the kids is just too painful to face. As a result, the visitation agreement might not get clearly followed which could create a mess for everyone, especially the kids. Perhaps your ex doesn’t remember that it’s his day to pick up the kids and they are left standing by the side of the road for an hour. Perhaps you return the kids late without calling and he gets royally pissed off. Perhaps both families have assumptions about Christmas morning that don’t get addressed because nobody created a calendar. Once your divorce is final, make a calendar, one that you share with your ex, that includes who is going to be where when. Make sure that you both agree on the schedule and both commit to keeping it. Dealing with exes and kids can be incredibly difficult but if there are no misunderstandings around schedule that will go a long way towards preventing some of the pain.
#5 – Create a support system.This final piece of how to get organized after divorce is a key piece. When we are married we tend to focus on our nuclear family. No matter how unhappy we are, in general it’s mom and dad and the kids. Chores are divided, activities are attended, meals are eaten and discussions are had. Now that you are divorced, you will find that that other person who was usually in bed with you in the morning and at the dinner table at night will be gone. It will be just you and the kids or, even worse, just you. Making sure that you have a support system is a key part of surviving a divorce. Do you have friends and family who you can rely on? Do you have a therapist or life coach who understands you and can help you manage your emotions? Are you involved in activities with people you enjoy being with? Is work someplace where you can feel good about yourself and confident in your abilities? If the answer to any or all of the questions above is NO then it’s time to get out there and find yourself a support system. Getting started with this second act of your life will be very hard and doing it alone will make it almost impossible. So pick up the phone and call some friends or family, make sure you see your therapist regularly, get out of the house and try new things and do things everyday that make you feel good about yourself.
Trying to figure out how to organize your life after divorce is a really smart idea. Good for you for doing it!Those of us who find ourselves newly divorced have entered new, untrodden territory – territory we have no idea how to manage. And, when you are in a situation you don’t know how to manage, getting organized is a great first step to getting it all under control. So make sure that you know where all of your divorce paperwork is at all times, get your finances in order, figure out where to get help managing the details of your life, make sure you have a calendar and that you use it well and get a support system in place to help you when times get rough. Being divorced doesn’t have to be the end of the world. In fact, I am here to tell you that 6 years later I am so much happier with myself and my place in the world than I was when I was married. I do look back at me 6 years ago and wished that I knew how to better navigate that first year after my divorce. If I knew more I might have skipped over some of the growing pains that I experienced out in the new world on my own. So get yourself organized. Spend the time and money necessary to get it done so that you can go forwards, living your best life, knowing that you have it all (well, most of it at least) under control. You can do this. I promise.
If you have read this far you must really be struggling with your divorce.
Let me help you, NOW, so that you can start moving forward with your life!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.