Look. I know I’m not the only one out here who’s divorced or who has been a single parent. And if it hasn’t happened, I hate to break it to you, sunshine, statistics say it’s bound to happen to about half of us so you’ve got a 50/50 chance of going up to bat.

What I hate about divorce, though, is not the divorce itself—not anymore, anyway. What I hate about divorce is the giant societal stigma surrounding it; as if going through a divorce weren’t enough, you’re now strapped with the obligatory ex-bashing sad ex-wife/husband syndrome.

So what do you do if you find yourself suddenly in the throes of divorce?

Express yourself

I spoke about this topic a few weeks back on Charlotte Today and discussed the importance of feeling your feelings and letting your kids know you have feelings, if you’re a parent. The importance of this is that they, too, will have feelings and need to know that they are free to express them; your responsibility in this is to express your feelings mindfully and maturely so as not to confuse your children but allowing them to know that you are a safe place for their emotions.

Parent or not, express yourself to your loved ones.

Seek help

There is no shame in admitting you can’t do it alone. I couldn’t have done it alone. I know tons of other divorced parents who didn’t do it alone. Find a support group or a therapist specializing in divorce. I showed up to my therapist’s door less than a week after all my sh*t hit the fan and I still meet with her—because divorce doesn’t go away! It gets easier, but it’s always there, so you need to find someone to help you sort things out who is also always there.

Seek legal assistance

This might but the ugliest and most tumultuous part of it all. Not only do you have to feel your feelings and find a way to appropriately express them, now you have to file official paperwork about them.

It can feel raw, exposing and maddening but Robin Lalley, Family Law Attorney at Sodoma Law York , says, “There is no exact time frame for seeking legal assistance, but like most things, the sooner the better is a good, general approach. Whether you want to take action or move forward immediately, knowing what your separation will entail and what issues need to be addressed gives you knowledge and insight into the process and lets you think ahead instead of being late to the game and playing catch-up.”

Get organized

Lalley says, “First, don’t feel like you have to get everything in order or every piece of information in order to start the process. An attorney can help you figure out what you need to know and what you need to be thinking about. But generally, you need to be thinking and gathering information about your finances (for both you and your spouse), property and how it will be divided up, and your children and what a custody arrangement may look like. …It’s a good idea to make a list of points or questions to ask the attorney so you make sure you cover what is important to you.”

If you’re a parent: Get a co-parenting agreement

According to Lalley, a co-parenting agreement is, “an agreement that is formally drafted, contains contract language, and is signed and notarized (as most co-parenting agreements are) are going to be legally binding when drafted correctly … A co-parenting agreement will spell out the rights and obligations of each parent when it comes to their children. 

“Some are more in-depth than others, but generally there will be a regular parenting schedule of when each parent will be with the children, a holiday and summer schedule, and provisions for what each parent should or should not do with respect to the children and each other. It’s meant to set ground rules that apply in most situations, and then also tailor the agreement to the specifics of your family and situation.”

To draft this outside of court in front of a judge and in the comfort of a lawyer’s office is much less stressful than traipsing to the courthouse every time a decision needs to be made.

Make this as easy on yourself as possible. Divorce is a “hard row to hoe,” as they say, so be proactive and don’t be afraid to ask for help; everyone could use somebody in their corner.

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