Divorce can be overwhelming. You’re likely starting over, moving, rebuilding your life and possibly restarting your career. All at the same time. Yes, it’s a lot to handle.
To make it a little less intimidating, I’ve put together a list of important things to do after your divorce to get you back on the road to an awesome new life. There’s a lot to do after a divorce and a lot on this list. Don’t get overwhelmed, choose one a week to work on and work your way through the list.
So get organized, make a plan, work through this list and be on your way to a bright, shiny new life.
1. Request all your files from your attorney. Now that your case is final, get all your paperwork back from your case. File away any bank or tax records or other paperwork you need to keep in your regular files. Then…
2. File all your final divorce paperwork away where you can’t see it. Once you have it, file it away where you can’t see it. Just seeing the box of divorce paperwork can bring up emotions. Keep it out of sight until you decide you can safely shred the contents.) Unsure of what to keep? Here’s a great list I’ve found on what divorce documents you need to keep.
3. Put a copy of your final divorce decree in a safety deposit box and scan/save a copy to Dropbox. You’ll need copies of the finalized divorce decree to get new health insurance or other benefits. Make sure you have both a hard copy and an electronic backup. I use dropbox, but you could also save it on Google docs, icloud, sugarsync or other cloud based storage sites. (Don’t just keep a copy on your hard drive.)
4. Find your marriage license. Keep a copy of that with your divorce decree. If you plan on changing your name back to your maiden name, you might need the marriage license to establish the name change. Here’s a link on how to change your name after a divorce in California.
5. Get a new email address. You’ll want to begin creating a new online life for yourself, if your old email has your old last name or you shared the email with other family members, get a new gmail email account.
6. Change your name on your driver’s license. Change your name (and your address if you’ve moved), so your driver’s license is current.
7. Change the name on your social security card. Here’s a link to the social security administration’s website to get a new social security card.
8. Update your wardrobe. You don’t have to spend a lot of money but do update your wardrobe to reflect your new life. You might be dating! New clothes mean that you can use the old excuse “I don’t have anything to wear!” You’ll have something to wear, so you’ll have to go. If money is tight, try the sale rack at Target and The Gap, they always have something on sale, and their merchandise turns over so regularly. Try local consignment shops and online consignment sites. Here’s a list of sites to buy preowned clothing. Or host a clothing swap with friends. Everyone brings items of clothing that they don’t wear and everyone gets something “new”. (Plus how fun does it sounds to laugh with friends and try on clothes and accessories.)
9. Take and display photos of you in your new life. Taking photos means that this moment is important enough to record and mark. So take photos of your life NOW and display them around your home. It’s an instant reminder for yourself that you matter and your life does too.
10. Change your hairstyle. Ever heard cliche that if you change your hairstyle you must have a big life change coming on? Changing your hairstyle can be a simple but powerful symbol that you are different. It will be the first thing people notice when they see you, and the first thing YOU notice when you look in the mirror. As we age, our face, coloring and features change so you might be up for a refresh anyway. Here are some guides to help out: Hairstyles for different face shapes.
11. Get a passport if you don’t have one. Here’s the link to the US government site for a passport application. So you’ve never traveled outside the U.S., so what? You never will travel abroad without a passport. Just by getting a valid passport, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of traveling to new places.
12. Start keeping a journal. How do you know how far you’ve come if you don’t meausure it? A journal can be a wonderful way to be able to look back and see through your own writing and notes the gains you’ve made. Use a cheap notebook you bought at the grocery store, borrow one from your child, or buy a stylish Kate Spade leopard print journal.
13. Make a Life List. I like the sound of a “life list” much better than a “bucket list.” Don’t think too much but jot down a list of places you want to go, new hobbies to try, movies you want to see, experiences you want to do. Keep this document on your phone and on your laptop so you can see it quickly. Change it often so it reflects where you are now.
14. If you are reentering the workforce, hire a career coach, or join a career reentry program specifically for women returning to work after taking time off. Optbackin has resources, job boards, and a six-week group program led by a career coach, mentors and peer to peer support for guidance and accountability. Check out Career Contessa for online advice. Their site helps you find coaches and specialists to craft your Linkedin profile, update your resume, and offer one to one career coaching. Irelaunch, has information on returning internships, volunteer opportunities to hone your skills, small group and online coaching.
15. Change your will. You can draft an inexpensive will online at Legal Zoom.
16. Get a new bank account. If you’ve got an existing joint bank account with your former spouse, make sure to close that account and open a new account for yourself. It’s time to start building your own financial presence. And speaking of that….
17. Start your own credit profile now as a single person. If you don’t have much of a credit history, get cracking, you’ll need to develop your own financial history. And WealthySingleMommy.com is a great divorce, finance and life blog to follow. Emma’s got great info on landing back on your feet.
18. Find a good therapist. Try an online therapist! Therapy was truly a life saver during the toughest parts of my divorce. I still want to work on some issues from this difficult life transition so I’m still in therapy, BUT I’m now using Talkspace. It’s an online therapy app that I’m finding is extremely effective, reasonably priced and easy to use. I communicate with my therapist via an app and leave texts or recorded messages. We also do video sessions once a month. I’ve found it to be a wonderful way to do therapy.
19. Reach out to an old friend. Even just a simple “Hi” on Facebook can help you build your support system of friends. You’re going to need those relationships now more than ever!
20. Whiten your teeth. I’ve had my teeth whitened in the dentist’s office and have used Crest Whitestrips. I love Crest Whitestrips almost as much. They whiten quickly, don’t cause pain and don’t cost a ton either.
21. Start working out. Try walking once a day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes outside. Walking reduces depression and lifts mood. Or try an exercise on demand app for your phone. I really enjoy the workouts on http://www.aaptiv.com/Aaptiv. They have treadmill, bike, yoga joggin, and strength training workouts led by trainers.
22. Find Facebook support groups for women going through a divorce. Are you a part of the Round and Round Rosie Facebook page? You’ll find support and positive thoughts from lots of women who are going through a divorce too.
23. Create your personal mantra to help you get through the tough times. A mantra, or your personal statement or slogan, can help comfort you and get you through tough times. A dear friend gave me a simple stone etched with the words “It is what it is.” Knowing I was armed with a mantra helped me feel more centered. So memorize a phrase that will help you when things go sideways. Maybe yours is “I am powerful.” “I will survive.” “Just do it.” Spend some time thinking of what would help you.
24. Ask someone to be your lifeline/divorce buddy. Create a lifeline for yourself. A person that you can call in an emergency, someone who will talk to you when you’re feeling really low. It can be a family member, recently divorced friend, or your best friend. Whoever it is, it’s comforting to know that you’ve been honest with a close friend and they will respond to your call or text.
25. Change passwords to all your online accounts. Does your ex know your old logins and passwords? If not, he can probably guess them anyway. Why not play it safe and change all your online passwords? Keep track of them in a small notebook you have at home, or here’s an article on password management apps that can do that for you and make your passwords safer.
26. Create an online dating profile. If you’re now single, you might want to start dating. It might actually be good for you and, surprise, it might actually be FUN. If you are going to get online, then take the time, be strategic, and set up a profile that will actually get you the results and attention you want. Here are some tips on creating an effective online dating profile. (Not sure if you’re ready to start dating? Here’s a post on how to tell if you are ready to start dating.
27. Let friends know you are officially back on the market. Friends and family might not ask, but it’s a good idea to let people know you are single again and looking to date. One of the best ways to meet someone who is “prescreened” is to meet through friends.
28. Go on one trip alone. It’s terrifying and exhilarating. Find a group activity that you’ve never tried. A friend went surfing in Costa Rica! Push yourself, step outside your comfort zone, do volunteer work, go hiking in Costa Rica with Road Scholar, take a road biking trip, explore an exotic locale like Morocco, Ethiopia, or India with the New York Times. Walk across the Amalfi coast, the Dalmatian coast in Croatia, the Cotswolds. Study Spanish in a picturesque colonial Mexican town. When you’re newly divorced is a time to try something new, so open yourself to adventures you might not have even considered.
29. Plan one event to look forward to each month. Divorce can be SO overwhelming, have one thing in your calendar that excites you. Something that makes you smile when you see it written in your calendar. It can be as small as a manicure, a glass of wine with a friend. Or a concert, a movie night. Whatever gives you a spark of positivity. You can find discount event tickets at Goldstar. Find local events at evenbrite.com, local clubs to join and other events at meetup.com.
30. Forgive your ex. No, I’m not crazy for suggesting this. “Forgiveness is the key to healing deep emotional wounds,” suggests noted psychologist and forgiveness expert, Robert Enright. He outlines eight steps that can help you forgive and heal the wounds so you can move on with your own life.
31. Forgive yourself. I left this last task for a reason. Why? Because forgiving yourself might be the toughest job. Can you show yourself the same compassion you might show someone else? Can you forgive yourself for the death of your divorce or your part in it? Here’s an article I wrote on forgiving yourself after divorce, and one from Mind Body Green on how to forgive yourself for your past.
Here’s an infographic with each task broken down by day, if you do one each day. You’ll be back on your way to your new life in one month.
I hope you work your way through this list of important things to do after your divorce. It’s a thorough checklist to help you move on with your life.