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First steps for divorce: six must-do’s for a savvy separation

My biggest pain point at the start of the divorce journey (besides the prospect of not being able to see my babies every day, and grappling with the harsh reality of charting the course ahead solo) was how to get started with the process of separation. In fact, I had absolutely no idea what should’ve been my first steps for divorce until I met with a lawyer a few weeks after we split.

I arrived at my newly appointed lawyer’s office with an empty notepad, a pen, and my purse stuffed in the side pocket of a baby bag (all the while cradling my 4-month-old who was lost in dreams). A cocktail of fear and vulnerability consumed me. I was 110% underprepared and had never felt so vulnerable.

I sank down into the depths of a big leather armchair across from my lawyer and proceeded to be schooled on what was going to happen from here on in. The panic set in as I learned more and more about the things I needed to do, or rather, the things I should have done already.

I started on the back foot with the admin process and felt like I never caught up. I was completely overwhelmed, extremely emotional, fearful, and of course stressed that I’d left myself wide open for possible financial ruin.

If only someone had told me the essential must-do first steps for divorce right back in week one!

You, my friend, won’t have to make the same mistakes or learn the hard way. Here’s the guide I wished someone had given me on day one of my separation.

This is just the first steps for divorce; for protecting yourself, your children and your money. Think of it like a personal insurance policy to help you go in the right direction more quickly, and less painfully.

This guide applies even if your situation is amicable. It is not a complete list of everything that you’ll need to do throughout your separation or divorce. It’s not a friend with a bottle of wine on your doorstep (those are important). It’s not a time machine to take you back to happier times (important, but not quite as doable as the wine). And it’s NOT a way to get revenge on your ex, deceive them, or cause more drama – it’s just a good place to start in week one. And, did I mention, the information you gather here will be extremely helpful in your first meeting with a legal professional or mediator.

Firstly, here’s what to do in the first 24-hours:

Tell someone and I don’t mean update your Facebook status!
Think about telling your parents, a best friend, colleague or even the police: someone that will help you to feel supported, safe and loved. Things are real now and your only choice is to move forwards. Today, you need to breathe deep. You’ve got this.

Turn off iCloud sharing on all of the devices
Love it or hate it, you can’t argue: technology enhances and improves our lives in so many amazing ways. But in the wrong hands technology can be used as a tool to control and monitor. From today onwards you don’t need your spouse or ex checking up on your emails, messages or calendar. Stay smart.

Jot down those important details swirling around in your head
The “D” word – documenting – is an extremely daunting-but-vital part of the separation and divorce process.  I cover this in more details below. But for today, all you need to do is jot down any important details that spring to mind, and make notes about any incidents that involve you or your children (and stick to the facts).

Stress will impact your ability to remember the finer details – and soon there will be so many things to remember that it’ll become difficult to recall correctly.  Get things on the record while they’re fresh in your mind.

Once you’ve managed to take a breath, you feel as safe and supported as you can be, there are some important steps that you should take.

Next, six essential steps to help protect yourself, your children & your money:

1. Seek advice
I know the first week, especially, is extremely tough as you deal with an onslaught of new emotions. You can be too quick to make decisions (and the wrong ones at that). And your actions can be driven by fear or revenge, or one of the other five hundred emotions you are feeling!

As soon as possible get some professional advice on your situation. You may not be in a position to appoint a lawyer in this first week or even want to – but, you should talk with someone about the legal ramifications of ending your marriage or de facto relationship.

Think about contacting a relationship support line, government support agency (both usually free calls) or a legal firm.

2. Take a vacay from social media
Period. Ah-huh… that’s right. Period. NO posting cryptic memes.

3. Communication caution
What you say, write or do could come back to bite you if your split gets messy (or even if it doesn’t). Careful with SMS, emails, social media and all your conversations (on the phone or in person).

Don’t sign or promise anything to your ex while you are in a heightened state of shock, denial or rage etc. Let your ex know that you need a few days to digest what is going on before you make any firm commitments (and use that opportunity to seek legal advice).

Also, be careful with whom you speak to. Your friends may end up choosing sides (and quite possibly not yours!).

4. Revamp your digital security
Firstly, change the PIN on your email account(s). While you’re at it, set up a new email account to be used for correspondence from lawyers etc. Then go for gold: PINS, usernames and password for everything and anything – banks, investment houses, superannuation, apple ID etc.

Keep all records in a single document and in a secure place. And, check who has their fingerprint registered to be able to unlock your phone.

5. Prioritise your children

Telling the children:
If your situation is amicable, suggest to your ex that you make an agreement about when and where you will tell the children about what’s going on.

My suggestion is that you first do some research or seek advice on the best way to do this as it varies a great deal by age group. Check out Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way by M Gary Neuman.

And, never discuss your relationship issues in front of the children (even while you are on the phone).

Sorting out a temporary visitation schedule:
If your split means that one parent is moving out, you may wish to draw up an interim parenting plan with your ex as to visitation arrangements for the children.

Ensure that both parties recognise that it is an interim plan until formal arrangements have been made. You should always seek legal advice before any agreements are drawn up or signed.

Removing yourself from the picture (i.e. you leaving the family home without the children) is not recommended as this could potentially impact future custody arrangements. Always, seek legal advice about children’s issues as soon as possible.

And, of course, if you have any concerns about your safety or that of your children be sure to seek support, remove yourself and the children from danger and contact authorities immediately.

Inform the children’s school:
It’s a good idea (in any case), especially if you have concerns, to inform your child’s school (extra-curricular co-ordinators etc) that you are going through a separation.

Ask that they inform you immediately of any odd behaviour by the child or other parent.

Ensure that teachers and carers are aware of which parent is to collect the child from school on which days.

6. Close off your joint accounts
Consider closing your joint account. Talk to your bank to establish your own account with your own pool of money, and make sure the other joint account holder can’t access it.

Check that your pay is going into this new account.

If you don’t close the joint account ask about a dual signature requirement for withdrawal.

Time to take a breath, my friend! I know, there’s a lot to take in here.

You’re doing brilliantly. Really, you are. And if you’d like a freebie, I’ve wrapped these first steps, a simple checklist and 30-day journal up into one special package for you. I wish I’d known on day one. And guess what? It’s FREE.

All you need to do is click here, enter your details and soon enough a treasure trove of advice will land in your inbox.

If you’re ready to dive right on in, and if you’re looking to make the journey a little easier, I’ve poured my heart and soul into writing a book, “Top Secret Hacks for a Savvy Separation”. It’s like having a warm hug and expert advice all rolled into one, just a click away. You don’t have to go through this alone. Click right here to find the compassionate guidance you deserve. This book will save you thousands throughout the legal process, AND save your precious time and your sanity! ????????

Remember, each day is a step forward. Surround yourself with self-love and compassion. Just breathe. You’re not alone.

xx Annie

The First 10 Steps Every Woman Must Take On Her Separation Journey To Help Secure The Best Possible Outcome

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Stay one step ahead and use these steps to protect your rights, your money and your children. 

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I'm Annie
Founder of Hello Mojo

Hey there! I’m An Author, App Creator, Editor-In-Chief, Coach, Educator, Mother and Your New Number One Fan!

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