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More Practical Tips for Women Facing Divorce

torn divorce decree and cash, with broken wedding ring

If you are facing divorce, you are also facing the reality that now, you and only you are in charge of your life. This realization can be both exciting and frightening all at the same time.  It is important to develop strategies for living your life effectively as a single woman/head of household.

Here are some tips for you:

1. Be prepared.  Be pro-active.  For example, develop a master list of people, companies and resources you can turn to when the need arises. This can be as simple as getting your friends to help you collect names and telephone numbers of reliable handymen, repairmen, painters, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, tax preparers, attorneys, etc..  Try to have more than one name under each specialty area.  Make sure no one gets on your list unless you know someone who is familiar with and likes their work. Post the list where you can easily find it when problems arise.

2. Develop an interest in and curiosity about those things you may not have paid attention to previously. Learn everything you can about whatever new responsibilities you have.  For example, if you ex-spouse did the leg work and negotiations for getting new cars, start learning about buying cars, long before you need one.  Ask other people how they approach it. You can even use this topic as an icebreaker at parties. Consumer Reports can be a helpful resource.  Remember, “Knowledge is power”.  Now that you are in charge, you want all the power you can get.

3. Learn about being assertive.  Simply put, assertiveness is standing up for your rights.  Google “assertiveness” and you will find many examples of assertiveness techniques and assertiveness training. Familiarize yourself with the basics.  Determine how to strengthen your own particular skills. Then, practice. Know what you want.  Say what you want.  Repeat your preferences calmly and firmly.  Women who have not previously practiced being assertive may over-correct and become surprisingly aggressive. So, be careful.  Your goal is to speak up effectively and advocate for yourself.

4. Stop expecting or assuming that others will take care of you.  Ask more questions. For example, when you call an attorney to set up an initial consultation about your divorce situation.  Ask up front how long the consultation is and if there is a fee.  If there is a fee, you want to know exactly how much you will be charged.  Many women forget to ask, assuming this initial encounter is always free.  Not necessarily true.  Also, if you have what is described as a “free consultation”, be sure to check as to whether the time spent during that time will be added as a charge once you have paid a retainer should you hire that attorney.

5. Plan and budget carefully. Get all the facts. Typically, divorced women and their children have a lower standard of living than they did when they were married.  This is a sad reality.  You may have a belief that you are entitled to maintain the same standard of living you had during your marriage.  The law may even state that this is your right.  Your attorney may focus on this. That is all well and good. However, with all that being said, it important to get all the facts.  For example, did you know that the recipient of alimony gets to pay the taxes on that money?  If you are entitled to alimony, remember that in the end, even if the amount you receive seems comparable to what you lived on, you will have fewer after tax dollars than you used to have. Always talk to an accountant about tax implications of any settlement you consider.

It takes time for most women going through a divorce to wrap their minds around the fact that they and only they are in charge. Yes, it can be a strain.  The reality is that divorce challenges us to grow and to become more independent.  We find ourselves learning to ask more questions and get better at standing up for ourselves.  It can be very hard.  However, in the end, we usually discover that we have changed for the better.  We can become quite proud of the impressive self-sufficient women are.

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