Divorce? 7 Things To Do First

Here's what you need to know

Continuously reviewing past mistakes might destroy both of you.

Continuously reviewing past mistakes might destroy both of you.

If you or your partner are considering divorce, then you already know that this is one of the most stressful times in your relationship, possibly in your life. Your ability to communicate effectively, to work well together, might be at an all-time low.

If it gives you any comfort, it’s the same for everyone. People were asked about their divorce experiences in a 2004 study published in AARP The Magazine (The Divorce Experience:  A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond, Xenia P. Montenegro). You won’t be surprised to learn that 86% (nearly of them) said that their divorce was caused by their partner, not them. This is valuable information. You might be blaming your partner, but remember, it’s just as likely that your partner is blaming you. No wonder you aren’t getting anywhere good!

As the study shows, focusing on the reasons for divorce, on your anger, on blaming or finding fault with your partner, are all very normal reactions. But if you get stuck there, you'll have a really hard time trying to settle your differences and move on. I promise you that things will go better if you try to change your focus as you work your way through the process.

Here are 7 tips to help you set the stage for success:

Try to keep a lid on the emotions. You can’t control your partner, you know that, so focus on what you can control: how you react to your partner. Increasing the volume will probably not help you be heard. You might be biting your tongue a lot, but it will pay off for you. And you can find a better place to vent those emotions that don’t involve your partner.

Keep the status quo on financial matters. Now is not the time to start playing money games, closing accounts, transferring funds out, making major purchases (on your partner’s credit card!), or putting the house on the market.

If you must change the financial status quo, mention it to your partner in advance. In many cases, the two of you will be able to agree. If not, then the fewer surprises, the better.


Try to remember that you once loved and respected your partner enough to marry, and in some cases, to have children with.


Be careful discussing your family issues around friends, relatives and strangers. You need their support and you might want their advice. Your supporters will be eager to talk with you about your situation and to offer their opinions (whether you ask for them or not!). Sometimes they think the best way to show their support is to join you on the blaming and bashing bandwagon. If this happens, it’s very important for you to encourage the people in your support system to help you stay positive and focused on the future. Only rely on trusted professionals for advice – professionals who are giving you options and are willing to discuss the rationale behind them, and the pros and cons of each.

You know this one already.   If every conversation with your partner collapses into finger-pointing and a review of past mistakes, it’s not going to help either one of you move forward. You’ve got to stop this cycle – otherwise, it will destroy both of you. If you find yourself falling into this trap, try something different, even if it means ending the conversation for a while and resolving to do better next time.

Put an end to the blame game. It's getting you nowhere.

Put an end to the blame game. It's getting you nowhere.

Do not hesitate to get the help you need to remain healthy and informed during this process. You might find it helpful to talk with a counselor, to join a support group, or to consult with a lawyer to better understand your legal options. When things get really stressful, you should remember to take some time for yourself – a few minutes, a few hours or a few days. Head out to the gym, hit the golf course, get a massage or a quick mani/pedi, play with your dog! Whatever works for you.

Finally, try to remember that you once loved and respected your partner enough to marry, and in some cases, to have children with. You have experienced some joy in your life with this person, even if it was only a fleeting moment that seems so long ago. You can rely on those moments to remind you that your partner has (or at least had) very good qualities and has not always been a source of aggravation.

Authored by Cynthia L. Patton, Esq. This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should always consult with an attorney for specific legal advice.